The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die Hardcover – Jun 13 2013
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“[Ferguson’s] intellectual virtuosity is refreshing. The Great Degeneration won't be popular in the Obama White House or other centers of power. Jeremiah wasn't popular with the elders of Judea either. They tossed him in jail for his sedition. They had reason later to be sorry.” —The Wall Street Journal
"An informative and enjoyable read." —Financial Times
About the Author
NIALL FERGUSON is one of the world’s most renowned historians. He is the author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash Nexus, Empire, Colossus, The War of the World, The Ascent of Money, High Financier, and Civilization. He is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a senior research fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, and a senior research fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is also a regular contributor to Newsweek and Bloomberg television.See all Product Description
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Over the past half-millennium the West has built up a substantial lead over other parts of the world when it comes to both economic power and material standard of living. Now, however, this lead is slipping away. Indeed, developing nations led by such powers as China and India are quickly closing the gap, as they are experiencing impressive economic growth, while the West is stagnating. Many argue that this is the natural result of globalization (and the fact that major corporations are taking advantage of cheaper labor in developing nations). For Harvard historian and writer Niall Ferguson, however, there is something deeper going on here. For Ferguson, the closing of the gap between the West and the Rest has less to do with the rise of the Rest, as the decline of the West.
Specifically, Ferguson argues that it is the West's political, economic, legal and social institutions that have allowed it to gain the upper hand over the past 500 years or so, and that now these institutions are beginning to deteriorate (just as other nations increasingly copy what made the West successful in the first place). The result: Western stagnation, and the catching up of everyone else.
Ferguson identifies 4 primary institutions that account for the West's success over the past half-millennium: 1. Democracy; 2. Capitalism; 3. The Rule of Law; and 4. Civil Society. Each of these, the author argues, has eroded in the recent past.Read more ›
Ferguson lists four pillars of western society. These social supports, have eroded in the last generation. The first one is democracy, second capitalism, third the rule of law, and the forth is civil society. Ferguson then expands, on these four aspects of western society. He explains how they worked well in the past. Then Ferguson outlines, how theses social networks have deteriorated in recent times.
Ferguson also examines the current debt problem. He identifies some critical debt threshold numbers, that have been surpassed. When debt levels exceed 90 per cent of GDP, this tends to be a drag on economic growth. These debt levels establish an unfair burden, onto the children and grandchildren of the next generation. However, Ferguson does not discuss the possibility of a sovereign debt default. This is a very real possibility, which the current generation does not seem to contemplate.
This was a short book and a very fast read. My only complaint, is that a lot more material was required. I realize this topic could involve volumes of information and endless discussion. A writer has to draw the line somewhere. However, 145 pages was not enough.
Most recent customer reviews
Great analysis by Ferguson, I cannot recommend it enough.Published 5 months ago by François Lemoine
A clearly written, very interesting, but sobering book. I've given away some copies as presents.Published 13 months ago by Mary-Anne
Having heard so much overblown praise of Ferguson’s giant intellect, reading “The Great Degeneration” was a huge disappointment. Read morePublished on Feb. 3 2014 by Rebecca Last
Representative government, the free market, the rule of law, and civil society I would agree are all hallmarks of Western Civilization, as Ferguson contends in The Great... Read morePublished on Oct. 1 2013 by wajac
This idea of four «blackbox» to explain the present time is a good one. They are : democracy, economy, rule of law and civil and uncivil societies. Read morePublished on Aug. 15 2013 by S. Mercier
The author did produce some books worth reading in the past, but not the case this time with this book. Read morePublished on Aug. 14 2013 by Kevin Yu, Toronto
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