Chapter 7: The Ultimate Significance of East Asian Development
I had always thought of Europe and America as being, so to speak, the only properly-furnished rooms in a house whose other sections were either ruined or unfinished. Now it was graphically demonstrated that in a different wing, at the end of a maze of dark halls, there had always been another brightly-lit room with furnishings as comfortable as ours. It was hard to have to admit that these furnishings were perhaps in a more consistent taste and had certainly been kept in good condition for a much longer time. (Graham Peck, Through China’s Wall, 1945) ORIGINS OF GROWTH IN EUROPE AND ASIA The great economic event of the past generation, the rise of East Asia, directs attention to the fact that economic growth has had more than one beginning. Economic growth was for a long time thought to have had a unique origin, stylized as an abrupt industrial breakthrough in eighteenth-century Britain. This is still the dominant opinion and it remains easier to repeat it than to get sceptical views into print. Nevertheless, the uniqueness, abruptness and industrial complexion of this start to growth are no longer asserted by every authority. Mokyr even urges in a major book published in 1990 that the crucial changes in the eighteenth century did not amount to a macro-economic event at all but instead to a cluster of technological breakthroughs that turned out to be pregnant for the future.1 Furthermore, the language now employed by some defenders of the unique industrial revolution or...
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