The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress

Paperback | April 1, 1992

byJoel Mokyr

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In a world of supercomputers, genetic engineering, and fiber optics, technological creativity is ever more the key to economic success. But why are some nations more creative than others, and why do some highly innovative societies--such as ancient China, or Britain in the industrialrevolution--pass into stagnation? Beginning with a fascinating, concise history of technological progress, Mokyr sets the background for his analysis by tracing the major inventions and innovations that have transformed society since ancient Greece and Rome. What emerges from this survey is often surprising: the classicalworld, for instance, was largely barren of new technology, the relatively backward society of medieval Europe bristled with inventions, and the period between the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution was one of slow and unspectacular progress in technology, despite the tumultuous developmentsassociated with the Voyages of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution. What were the causes of technological creativity? Mokyr distinguishes between the relationship of inventors and their physical environment--which determined their willingness to challenge nature--and the social environment, which determined the openness to new ideas. He discusses a long listof such factors, showing how they interact to help or hinder a nation's creativity, and then illustrates them by a number of detailed comparative studies, examining the differences between Europe and China, between classical antiquity and medieval Europe, and between Britain and the rest of Europeduring the industrial revolution. He examines such aspects as the role of the state (the Chinese gave up a millennium-wide lead in shipping to the Europeans, for example, when an Emperor banned large ocean-going vessels), the impact of science, as well as religion, politics, and even nutrition. Hequestions the importance of such commonly-cited factors as the spill-over benefits of war, the abundance of natural resources, life expectancy, and labor costs. Today, an ever greater number of industrial economies are competing in the global market, locked in a struggle that revolves around technological ingenuity. The Lever of Riches, with its keen analysis derived from a sweeping survey of creativity throughout history, offers telling insightsinto the question of how Western economies can maintain, and developing nations can unlock, their creative potential.

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From Our Editors

Why are some nations more creative than others? What are the causes of technological creativity? Beginning with a fascinating, concise history of technological progress, Mokyr presents a sweeping survey of creativity throughout history, offering insight into the question of how Western economies can unlock and maintain their creative p...

From the Publisher

In a world of supercomputers, genetic engineering, and fiber optics, technological creativity is ever more the key to economic success. But why are some nations more creative than others, and why do some highly innovative societies--such as ancient China, or Britain in the industrialrevolution--pass into stagnation? Beginni...

Joel Mokyr is Professor of Economics and History at Northwestern University, and is the author of Why Ireland Starved, The Economics of the Industrial Revolution, and other books in economic history.

other books by Joel Mokyr

The Invention of Enterprise: Entrepreneurship from Ancient Mesopotamia to Modern Times
The Invention of Enterprise: Entrepreneurship from Anci...

Kobo ebook|Feb 26 2012

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 5.31 × 7.99 × 0.75 inPublished:April 1, 1992Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195074777

ISBN - 13:9780195074772

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From Our Editors

Why are some nations more creative than others? What are the causes of technological creativity? Beginning with a fascinating, concise history of technological progress, Mokyr presents a sweeping survey of creativity throughout history, offering insight into the question of how Western economies can unlock and maintain their creative potential

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"Raise[s] some very insightful questions."--Informationweek