【書】 “West vs. Rest”, as he wishes to write

Ferguson dreamed too big. He overreached himself in setting out what the Western dominance rests on, and botched it halfway. Sidetracking has been a problem since Chapter two, protracting the unrelated content more and more drably, and turning his effort early on sour. If any advice be given for future readers, it is to skip Chapters 3, 4 and 6, which, disorderly as they are, bear no more credit than a handful of Wikipedia entries. A layout of Scramble for Africa with few passing mentions of medical breakthroughs fails to remind me that the topic is medicine. Likewise, the chapter on South America is off-topic, and then we have preaching? What has been set out for explanation is, at best, misidentified.

Separating the chaff leaves us a timeline of how the West conquered Eurasia: ocean expeditions, the Enlightenment, and consumerism. First, Ming China gave up their chance by banning such seafaring journey to ascendancy. Second, the Ottoman Empire chose to ignore accurate artillery and printing for more than two centuries. Third, the Soviet Union took away people’s jeans and coke but could not take away their ideas. Theses turns of events marked the opt-outs of these individual parts of the world. Allowing South Africa and Africa which he failed to account for, the whole outline still misses a crucial point — why did the West comprise the countries that we know of? If Ferguson wanted to argue by the method of elimination, that is ruling out those who left early in the party, at least tell us which countries had done what to remain! Apparently not all European countries or latecomers share, or had shared these six factors. The corollary is therefore a failure, strikingly ignominious given his scholarship.

Ferguson gave his best in the preface and the conclusion, where he cited generously, argued concisely, and stayed focused. The pole had been set too high, too ambitious that, once he tipped over, the pole fell down and bounced up in a periodic motion pretty similar to how he dabbled his main arguments. He either did not have enough evidence, or he did not have an argument at all. Three good chapters prove that he knew what he was writing. So, it is simply a mystery how the other three chapters had passed the editorial review.

By the way, it is a bad taste calling the factors “killer apps”. It is not going to click with teenagers, much less the zoomers.

Title: Civilisation: The West and the Rest

Author: Niall Ferguson (conservative historian)

Year: 2011

Rating: 🏰🏰🏰 out of five

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