Civilization – The West and the Rest

7 July 2016

In this ambitious and polemical introduction, Niall Ferguson launches an assault in the contentious debate about the rise of the West. His opinion being that the “West is better than the Rest”. He defines his idea of civilization as being about architectural establishments as well as its inhabitants. He states that he views both characteristics as being equally important in the definition of civilization. His ideas mainly revolve around the need for a high standard of living and a great quality of life in order for a “successful” civilization to emerge. He makes the point to say that a civilization cannot be great unless both of those needs are met.

Ferguson presents the argument that the Western superiority and the fortuitous weakness of the West’s rivals led to the conquest and colonization of the rest of the world. He makes comparisons between “Oriental civilizations” and the West, showing contrasts between the two. He mentions that the West’s accomplishments led to the Western civilization becoming a template for the way the rest of the world aspired to organize itself – stating that it’s becoming a kind of universal standard.

Civilization – The West and the Rest Essay Example

The introduction dove into the reasons for Western Europe after the fifteenth century trumping the outwardly superior empires of the Orient and Ferguson provides several examples as to why this was. Some of those contributing factors being financial intermediaries and good government. Though he stated that a civilization needed a great standard of living and quality of life, he contradicts himself by saying that the key lies with institutions.

His central thesis is that the distinguishing factors that set the West apart from the Rest were the unprecedented network of institutions and corresponding ideas and conduct. His main arguments were outlined in six parts: competition, science, property rights, medicine, the consumer society and the work ethic. He argues that the West was superior in all aspects.

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