- Gebundene Ausgabe: 455 Seiten
- Verlag: ISI Books (17. März 2014)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 1610170857
- ISBN-13: 978-1610170857
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 15,2 x 3,8 x 22,9 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: Schreiben Sie die erste Bewertung
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 93.701 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 17. März 2014
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Praise for Rodney Stark Stark has a vigorous prose style and a gift for clear explanation. The pace is swift, and the narrative thrilling. "New York Times" Fun to read, full of anecdote and incident . . . Mr. Stark is especially adept at challenging received ideas. "Wall Street Journal" Stark proves himself once again as a historical myth-buster. CBN.com Rodney Stark turns what we know about history on its head. "Relevant Magazine" Stimulating and provocative... Deftly researched. "Publishers Weekly" Fresh, blunt, and highly persuasive. "Newsweek" Gripping, with tales of courage and desperation, outsized characters, and fate of cultures hanging in the balance. . . Masterful . . . Sets the record straight. "National Catholic Register" Wonderfully readable prose and politically incorrect conclusions. "World Magazine" [Stark s] works are an encouraging corrective to the anti-Western history routinely taught in our schools. "New Oxford Review" Compelling reading, adding depth and coherence to the often nebulous hyperbole of historical hypotheses. Highly recommended. "Library Journal""
Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende
Rodney Stark is the award-winning author of The Victory of Reason, The Rise of Christianity, God's Battalions, and many other books. He serves as Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University, USA. Before earning his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, USA, Stark was a staff writer for several major publications.
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In light of this, Stark offers his book as a sturdy (indeed, contrarian!) defense of the currently-maligned West. Doing so, he challenges many of the voguish views of the academy, arguing that the fall of the Roman Empire was in fact beneficial, that the “Dark Ages” never happened, that the Crusades are defensible, that global warming in earlier eras was a blessing, that the “Scientific Revolution” clearly began in the Medieval period rather than the 17th century, that the Protestant Reformers replaced a repressive Catholic system with equally repressive Protestant systems, and that Europe’s colonies impoverished rather than enriched their sponsors. Still more: he argues that non-Western societies such as the Chinese and Islamic, Mayan and Indic, failed to become “modern” because of intrinsic factors making such a transition impossible. To Stark, the West’s distinctiveness resides in its ideas, and contrary to many historians (operating within a generally materialistic—whether Darwinian or Marxist—philosophical perspective) he thinks economic developments do not fully explain why cultures and civilizations rise and fall.
Glancing at the world of Classical Beginnings (500 BC-AD 500), he finds: “At the dawn of history most people [whether in China or India or Mesopotamia or Egypt] lived lives of misery and exploitation in tyrannical empires that covered huge areas” (#151). Subject to arbitrary and frequently despotic rulers, forced to work within a command economy, deprived of secure title to property, the masses of mankind loved poorly. Consequently, “in 1900 Chinese peasants were using essentially the same tools and techniques that had been using for more than three thousand years. The same was true in Egypt” (#228). But then, “In the midst of all this misery and repression a ‘miracle’ of progress and freedom took place in Greece among people who lived not in an empire but in hundreds of small, independent city-states. It was here that the formation of Western civilization began” (#158).
Despite the persistence of slavery, the Greeks tasted and celebrated (in both games and politics) the luxury of freedom. Thriving as individuals, they flourished in such areas as: warfare; democracy; economics; literary; the arts; technology; speculative philosophy and formal logic. Importantly (as Herodotus noted in explaining the differences between Egypt and Greece), “the ancient Greeks took the single most significant step toward the rise of Western science when they proposed that the universe is orderly and governed by underlying principles that the human mind could discern through observation and reason” (#473). This was possible because—as Anaxagoras and Plato saw—there is a Mind (Nous) underlying the physical cosmos—a monotheistic perspective that undergirds the West’s triumphs.
Anticipating and complementing developments in Greece, Jewish theologians also proclaimed a “rational God” who was eternal, immutable, conscious and revealed to us through both creation and scripture. Due to Alexander’s conquests and the subsequent Roman occupation of their land, many Jews were quite cosmopolitan—two centuries before Christ Jerusalem was actually known as “Antioch-at-Jerusalem.” Early Christians such as Justin Martyr drew upon the best Greek thinkers (“Christians before Christ”) as they developed their theology. Both Christian and Greek philosophers (preeminently Plato) revered “the divine gift of reason” which “has sown the seeds of truth in all men as beings created in God’s image’” (#698). Thus, to Augustine: “‘Heaven forbid that God should hate in us that by which he made us superior to the animals. Heaven forbid that we should believe in such as way as not to accept or seek reasons, since we could not even belief if we did not possess rationals souls’” (#751). Confidence in the rationality of the Creator—as well as His providential care for creation—enabled later Christian thinkers to do significant the scientific and historical studies basic to Western Civilization.
By contrast: “Islam holds that the universe is inherently irrational—that there is no cause and effect—because everything happens as the direct result of Allah’s will at that particular time. Anything is possible. Attempts at science, then, are not only foolish but also blasphemous, in that they imply limits to Allah’s power and authority. Therefore Muslim scholars study law (what does Allah require?), not science” (#825), and Islam, for 1400 years, has demonstrably failed to develop anything comparable to the science and technology, literature and philosophy of the West. Similarly, in China, the Confucian reverence for the past encouraged an opposition to change clearly illustrated by the great Chinese admiral Zheng He, who led large fleets (involving several hundred ships) across the Indian Ocean to the coast of East Africa between 1405 and 1433 A.D. His expeditions, which could easily have led to the a Chinese of the globe, came to naught when the emperor dismantled his ships and forbade further construction of oceangoing vessels. Even the blueprints for Zheng’s ships were destroyed!
Following the fall of Rome (“the most beneficial event in the rise of Western civilization”), the West emerged from the crucible of Greek and Christian culture. In the “Not-So-Dark” Middle Ages, its genius emerged and flourished. Political decentralization encouraged creativity and competition, progress and prosperity. An “agricultural revolution” enabled Medieval Europeans to eat better and live longer—as did the favorable climate during the “Medieval Warming” era (800-1250 A.D.). “As food became abundant, the population of Europe soared from about 25 million in 950 to about 75 million in 1250” (#2737). Harnessing wind and water with sophisticated machinery (often shaped in blast furnaces) enabled them to irrigate land and grind grain and navigate seas. Germans and Scandinavians, Hungarians and Slavs were successfully converted and began contributing to the creative Christian Culture responsible for impressive monuments—Gothic cathedrals; universities at Oxford and Paris; scientific inquires and advances under the guidance of brilliant thinkers such as Nicole Oresme and Jean Buridan; and magisterial scholarly works such as Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica.
Within that Medieval incubus there emerged, Stark stresses, the “freedom and capitalism” essential for the modern world. Slavery slowly disappeared throughout Christendom. It “ended in medieval Europe only because the Church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then banned the enslavement of Christians” (#2349). Only in the Christian world was slavery eliminated! Persons were increasingly free (despite the persistence of serfdom) to work voluntarily and creatively—and to increasingly to take part in the political life of their communities. Capitalism emerged throughout Europe during the late Middle Ages, long before the Protestant Reformation. Private property, commercial activities flourishing through free markets, and capital investments rendering income all brought about an incredible economic transformation. Above all else: “If there is a single factor responsible for the rise of the West, it is freedom. Freedom to hope. Freedom to act. Freedom to invest. Freedom to enjoy the flirts of one’s dreams as well as one’s labor” (#2663). This freedom flourished in Medieval Europe and shaped the future of the West.
Dramatically evident in 1492, the West quickly expanded to control much of the globe in successive centuries. Technological developments, markedly evident in superior military equipment and trades goods, enabled relatively small groups of Europeans to conquer or colonize the Americas. They also proved decisive in numerous conflicts with Muslims, insuring their retreat from Europe. “In 1800 Europeans controlled 35 percent of the land surface of the globe. By 1878 this figure had risen to 67 percent. Then in the next two decades, Europeans seized control of nearly all of Africa, so that in 1914, on the eve of World War I, Europeans dominated 84 percent of the world’s land area” (#6604). Intellectually, the “Enlightenment” proved equally decisive. Though it did indeed prompt various heterodox notions, the Enlightenment must be understood, in accord with Alfred North Whitehead, as rooted in many of the scientific and theological insights of Medieval thinkers—most especially the rationality of God and His world. “For, as Albert Einstein once remarked, the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible: ‘A priori one should expect a chaotic world which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way . . . That is the “miracle” which is constantly being reinforced as our knowledge expands.’ And that is the ‘miracle that testifies to a creation guided by intention and rationality” (#5963).
Due to this “miracle,” we Moderns enjoy unprecedented prosperity. The standard of living has dramatically increased during the past two centuries. Enjoying “political freedom, secure property rights, high wages, cheap energy, and a highly educated population,” the West now features an unprecedented quality-of-life. Back-breaking manual labor has been largely replaced by machines. Ordinary people enjoy “consumer” goods available only to the super-wealthy in earlier centuries. Hardly the catastrophe denounced by romantics (from William Wordsworth to Al Gore), technology has greatly improved the lot of ordinary folks. And this is, quite simply, how the West won!
Take the Dark Ages, which are always portrayed as an age of utter barbarism in our textbooks, a time when society declined and all that was worthy in the ancient world vanished. Stark points out that "serious historians have known for decades that these claims are a complete fraud. Even the respectable encyclopedias...now define the Dark Ages as a myth" (p 71).
He pulls out fact after fact to prove his position. Close to Stockholm, "an elaborate industrial community known as Helgo flourished from about 250 through 700." (p 82), and archaeologists have found a "'bronze Buddha figure made in India'" (p 81) in the ruins of Helgo, revealing how wide the trade was at the time.
Not only did trade flourish, but "Within several centuries of the fall of Rome, Europeans have developed military technology that far surpassed not the the Romans' but that of every other society on earth" (p 84).
Military might was important in the era. Islam was on the rise. In 1095 "The Byzantine emperor Alexius...appealed for Western forces to defend Constantinople from the threat of Turkish invaders" (p 102). Already, the entire of North Africa, which had once been solidly Christian, had fallen to Muslim armies.
Stark asks us to "Compare Shakespeare's tragedies with those of the ancient Greeks" (p 119) For example, Oedipus is at the mercy of a blind, unfeeling fate. The ancient gods were without virtue; they were petty, vengeful, and vain.
But Christianity imbued western culture with a belief in conscience. "It created a tendency for people not to be resigned to things as they are but rather to attempt to make the situation better" (119). It also meant an absolute truth existed, and could be rationally sought.
Christianity pushed society to abolish slavery, that economic pillar of the ancient world. Even though the west had inherited a civilization from ancient Rome that was based on slavery, by the end of the eighth century Charlemagne opposed slavery, as did the pope. Within a century it was generally agreed upon Christian principle that slavery was against divine law.
Although Max Weber claimed Protestantism invented capitalism, Stark points out that, rather, "The rise of capitalism in Europe proceeded the Reformation by centuries" (p 129).
The key to western civilization was the belief in the rationality of God. During the Middle Ages, the church created universities, and paid for priests to take classes. "The first university was founded in... 1088" (p 163). "By 1200...the University of Paris...had 2,550 to 5,000 students" (p 166).
One result was science - long before the Enlightenment. "Just as...eighteenth-century philosophers invented...the 'Dark Ages' to discredit Christianity, they labeled their own era the 'Enlightenment' on grounds that religious darkness had finally been dispelled by secular humanism" (p 309).
I loved how Stark acidly noted how not even one of these 'Enlightened' men, such as Voltaire, had anything to do with science. No, the people who were "scientific stars were members of the clergy, nine of them Roman Catholics" (p 309).
You really need this book! Stark is a marvelous writer, brisk and fun to read. But it is his ideas which are important. He argues brilliantly, and persuasively, that western civilization, so maligned in our current culture, is worthy of regard.
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