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Political Competition, Innovation and Growth in the History of Asian Civilizations

Edited by Peter Bernholz and Roland Vaubel

Do political decentralisation and inter state competition favour innovation and growth? There has long been a lively debate surrounding this question, going back to David Hume and Immanuel Kant. This book is a new attempt to test its veracity. The existing literature tends to assume that the beneficial effects of inter state competition have been confined to European history. By contrast, China, India and the Islamic Middle East are regarded as inherently imperial and overcentralised. However, these civilisations have not always been unified politically. In their history, there have been long spells of decentralised rule or inter state competition. The same is true for Japan. If the Hume–Kant hypothesis is correct, it should also apply to those periods. This volume analyses the qualitative and quantitative evidence.
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Chapter 3: Creative clusters, political fragmentation and cultural heterogeneity: an investigative journey through civilizations East and West

Dean Keith Simonton


Dean Keith Simonton Although historians often question the existence of any ‘laws of history’ (Norling 1970), it is certain that at least some historical generalizations have withstood considerable empirical scrutiny (Simonton 1990, 1994). Among these well-established regularities is the fact that creative genius is not randomly distributed over the history of any given civilization. On the contrary, illustrious creators tend to fall into temporal clusters separated by periods of relative sterility – Golden Ages and perhaps lesser Silver Ages punctuated by Dark Ages. For instance, Velleius Paterculus, a Roman historian, made the following observation over two millennia ago: For who can marvel sufficiently that the most distinguished minds in each branch of human achievement have happened to adopt the same form of effort, and to have fallen within the same narrow space of time . . . A single epoch, and that only of a few years’ duration, gave lustre to tragedy through the three men of divine inspiration, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes . . . The great philosophers, too, received their inspiration from the lips of Socrates . . . how long did they flourish after the death of Plato and Aristotle? What distinction was there in oratory before Isocrates, or after the time of his disciples and in turn of their pupils? So crowded were they into a brief epoch that there were no two worthy of mention who could not have seen each other. (Kroeber 1944: 17) Several investigators have tried to document this phenomenon in specific creative domains or world civilizations. For instance, Schneider (1937) demonstrated...

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