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The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor [Anglais] [Broché]

David S. Landes
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Descriptions du produit

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations Now in paperback: The acclaimed, bestselling exploration of one of the most contentious and hotly debated questions of our time: Why do some nations achieve economic success while others remain mired in poverty? Featured on C-Span. Full description

Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 658 pages
  • Editeur : W. W. Norton & Company (17 mai 1999)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0393318885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393318883
  • Dimensions du produit: 23,6 x 15,3 x 2,9 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 32.664 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 riches et pauvres 2 janvier 2011
Format:Broché
Je ne connais pas un meilleur livre pour savoir d'où on vient économiquement et pourquoi.
L'auteur fait preuve d'une érudition époustouflante, mais toujours mise au service d'un discours hautement pédagogique.
Ruez-vous sur la lecture de Landes !
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 David Landes at his Best!!! 22 mai 2003
Format:Broché
Studying the history of economic development for over 50 years, David Landes has aquired superior knowledge in this field and the book demonstrates this in a most impressive fashion. Strongly opinionated and not at all filled with empty political correctness, Landes sets out to explain why some countries are well off - and others are not. This book is very comprehensive, very readable and highly stimulating.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 étoiles sur 5  202 commentaires
106 internautes sur 114 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Essential Reading for Students of Economics and Public Policy 28 décembre 2005
Par Allen B. Hundley - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
As Amazon readers may note this is a controversial book, generating more than 140 reviews since it was first published in 1998. The continuing interest is due at least in part to its promotion by some political conservatives as an answer to books like Guns, Gems, and Steel by Jared Diamond. Indeed the very relevance of this book to contemporary policy-making is the fuel that maintains the flames of a healthy debate between those on the Left and Right. Landes' arguments are forceful and convincing as far as they go and his book is essential reading for every student of world history and economics. Whether his model takes us ultimately in the direction we as a civilization really want to follow is a more subtle and profound question.

First, let's refute some false charges against Landes. He is not a racist, or an apologist for capitalist exploitation, or an ethno-centrist. He fully acknowledges the influence that geography and natural resources have on a nation's development potential and his critique of European colonialism is devastating. He completely rejects the theory of comparative advantage and long sections of the book are devoted to describing the exploitation of women and children in the early industrial periods of England and Japan.

Landes is equally critical of forces that restrict or deny freedom of thought, showing clearly how they held back nations that should have played a more dominant role in world economics. In the case of European development the single most important villain was the Catholic Church but authoritarian and totalitarian regimes of all stripes come in for condemnation.

In a nutshell Landes argues that cultural values like honesty, thrift, initiative, respect for property rights, and openness to new ideas are the key determinants of whether nations succeed or fail economically. We've heard this argument before and Landes explicitly acknowledges his debt to Max Weber, the nineteenth century sociologist who popularized the idea of the `Protestant ethic' as a historical force.

China is a major test case for Landes. Despite an impressive lead in technology, from gunpowder to printing, during the early years of European expansion, China failed to take advantage of that lead and came under European domination. The problem was not a lack of technical ability on the part of the Chinese but the fact that the nation was controlled by an imperial court that had no interest in using practical knowledge. The people at the top had everything they needed and saw no reason to allow local entrepreneurs to develop a free market economy. Such an economy might create local power centers which could challenge central authority so all such efforts were quashed before they could begin.

The centralized totalitarian rule of Chairman Mao in the twentieth century can be viewed as just a modern manifestation of this continuing characteristic of Chinese civilization. When, after Mao's death, the communists changed course and decided that capitalism was not so bad after all, the result has been the fastest growing economy in the world, fueled by foreign investors who had enough confidence that they would see a return on their investment. All of which seems to prove Landes' argument that initiative, openness to new economic (but not political) ideas, etc. bring wealth to a society just about every time.

At least for some in the society. The problem for emerging economic giants like China and India is that only one in five, chiefly city dwellers, enjoy the fruits of their society's newfound prosperity. As to how to solve this problem of equitable distribution or the problem of workers who lose their jobs to cheaper labor markets overseas Landes admits he has no answers.

Thus, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations is a splendid analysis of world economic development up until the beginning of the 21st century but it does not address the really profound problems now emerging. In particular it says nothing about the coming revolution on the horizon brought about by genetic engineering, robotics, and nanotechnology. Nor does it address the equally important issue of global economic fragility due to extreme interdependence and complexity. For these the key books are The Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph Tainter, arguably the most important book of the 20th century; Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail by Jared Diamond; and, if one is up to a darker but nonetheless carefully reasoned analysis, The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler.

Society is far more fragile than most Americans realize. This reviewer, having lived and worked in places like Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, El Salvador and many others, knows from first hand experience that the civilization we take for granted is a frightfully thin veneer. Once shattered it cannot be easily restored. Nor should we be lulled into the false belief that it could never happen here. We have only to look at our government's grossly incompetent response to a catastrophe affecting just a handful of states (Hurricane Katrina) to realize the impossibility of an effective response to a catastrophe national in scope.

Which is why The Wealth and Power of Nations and the others cited above are so important. Heaven forbid that an economic or natural catastrophe should thrust upon us global political and economic disintegration but an honest analysis must admit the possibility. Should that happen we may hope that the wisdom and insights contained in books like these will guide those who survive toward a new, wiser, more responsible, and more gentle civilization.
195 internautes sur 219 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The Big Question 8 mars 2003
Par Omer Belsky - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
You and I are part of a fortunate minority. We are literate, we have access to phones and to the Internet, we are likely (save some unexpected disease or misfortune) to live to an old age. We are almost certainly belonging to what is known as 'The First World', or to small rich minorities within the rest of the world. Most people in this world do not have those privileges - we live in islands of fortune within an ocean of poverty. And professor Landes tries to understand why. He tries to find out what is special about Western civilization (and Japan) - why Japan and the West got rich while the rest of the world lagged behind, and most of it still does.
It is by the nature of such a book to be controversial, and Landes doesn't pull his punches; his approach is neoclassicist, although hardly a dogmatic one. He is rough on Postmodernists, Saidian Anti-Orientalists, French and Japanese protectionists, Spanish Roman Catholics, and many others. Among the reviews you'll read here, Landes irritates Catholics, third world enthusiasts, anti-Western intellectuals, extreme right wind Capitalists, anti-Japanese, and so on, and so on.
So, you've got controversy. But what is Landes actually saying? Well, in brief, Landes book focuses on three major reasons for Wealth/Poverty: Geography, Infrastructure, and Culture.
The discussion of Geography, early in the book, is at best half hearted. Some of the points seem valid - but you're always inclined to say 'On the other hand'. Are there really fewer diseases in Europe then in Africa? maybe, but transportation is easier. The black death annihilated a third of the European population in the 13th century. Does Heat makes labour harder and less efficient? I guess the builders of the Pyramids haven't heard Landes's thesis - or maybe hardships can be overcomming with whipping.
The best parts of the book deal with Infrastructure. In these, Landes has three main themes: Freedom, Capitalism and Science (Or, if you wish, Anarchy, Greed and Heresy).
Freedom allows people to do things. Landes portrayal of the centrally planned economies of ancient China, where the Emperor ruled everything, is powerful, and it seems to play a large role in the lack of initiative in China, despite the great achievements.
Capitalism, most noticeably in the form of Greed and Competition, drives people forward. Again, Landes comparison between the Chinese and the European Sea quests are enlightening. Europeans went in small ships, eager to outdo the competition and to come back making a fortune. The Chinese went with huge Ships, symbols of the empire rather than instruments of trade. They were unprofitable, victims of the ruler's whim, and, without a strong faction of interested merchants, had no chance of continuing throughout. Also interesting is that Europeans went looking for India and spices, while China was self-sufficient.
Science - Chinese science was much more sophisticated than European science back in the year 1,000. The Indians have invented the zero. But nowhere except in Europe did science work methodically, nowhere else was it progressive. Newton is famous of saying that he stood on the shoulder of giants - discoveries in China and the rest of the world were rarely followed up - gunpowder was discovered in China much before it was in Europe, but the Chinese never used it for weapons. In Europe, it became part of the war methods almost immediately. Landes discussions of clocks and glasses are particularly telling.
The Third Element - Culture - is the one with which I have the most trouble. Landes repeatedly attacks economists for discounting culture (for example in the last chapter, page 517 in my edition). He claims that they disregard it because it can't be quantified. Wrong. The reason Economists distrust culture is because it is such a 'one size fits all' argument. Japanese responds to the west was everything the Chinese should have done but didn't. ... Culture. Arab nations are stuck well behind everyone else, despite the great advantage they have in the shape of oil. ... Culture. Asians manage to pull themselves along, while most of the third worlders can't. ... Well, culture, again.
I'm not saying that Culture plays no part. Obviously it does. But it becomes an obstacle to understanding, and Landes can support it only with anecdotal evidence (a lovely and touching story of a Japanese woman), and unanswered question (Is Islam a cause for the suppression of women? maybe).
Despite this problem, this is a fascinating book. Yes, it is a little too pro-Western. The problem is really more one of emphasis than one of facts - in my view, Landes is pretty close the mark usually, but he much underestimates the responsibility of the West for African poverty. Something's are left relatively unexplained - the current fast rise of China, which might undertake the point Landes made about the vitality of Freedom
But ultimately, as Landes acknowledges, no one book can solve the question of poverty and wealth. The answer is necessarily multi-faceted. 'The Wealth and Poverty of Nations' (neat name, also) is a well-written and intelligent treatment of the question.
145 internautes sur 165 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Interesting, even memorable, but probably misleading 31 janvier 2001
Par Peter J. Adams - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
The object of this book is to survey and explain the fast or slow economic development of different parts of the world from about 1500 to the present. Landes mainly takes a regional perspective looking at Europe, Asia, Middle East, Latin America, and so on with some refinement to the national scale (e.g. China vs. Japan, Britain vs. Spain).
Landes strongly advocates the point of view that cultural values (work ethic, thriftiness, attitudes toward change, technology, women) are primary determinants of economic success or failure. Although many, including myself, find this thesis lacking and controversial, there is still an abundance of interesting and useful information in this book.
On the plus side, Landes offers a wealth of fascinating anecdotes, introductory information on the history of technology that was new to me, a clear and definite argument, and above all gives the reader some sense of the importance of culture in the economic realm. Although I personally feel that Landes overstates the importance of culture, the points he makes do have some validity and are generally under appreciated. Moreover, the author is remarkably fair minded for someone advocating a controversial thesis.
Don't be fooled by the reviewers that make fun of the author for suggesting that eating with chopsticks has given Asians manual dexterity that is advantageous to their high-tech manufacturing sector. In fairness to the author, this statement is a single sentence in a 500 page book and he immediately admits that most of his colleagues smirk when they hear it.
On the minus side, the author verges on severe cultural stereotypes a few too many times. The Asians are all thrifty and hard working while the Latins have been brain washed by the Catholic church. Landes more or less ignores several non-cultural challenges that poor countries face: unfair pressure from wealthy countries to open their markets, scarcity of capital & technology, a brain drain that leaves the best and brightest in the developed world. Finally, a remarkable failure is that Landes doesn't examine the idea that cultural values may be largely determined by the material & economic conditions of a country.
The book's writing style is casual and conversational, but sometimes unclear and confusing. Many times I was not sure exactly what the author meant and wished he had written a complete sentence instead of a short and vague phrase.
The bottom line is that the book is a worthy read. While not fully convincing, I found myself having a new appreciation for the importance of cultural values in the economic realm.
65 internautes sur 73 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Superb historical overview, but it doesn't quite deliver... 22 juillet 2001
Par Hilde Bygdevoll - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
"The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why some are so rich and some are so poor" is a reflective, interesting, and a well-written book. The author possesses an amazing knowledge, both historical and geographical. While he is an academic and therefore at times goes into unnecessary detail or support of his arguments, he serves us the occasional entertaining anecdote, which makes this book both readable and funny.
To explain why the economic development in the world (from about 1500 to the present) has happened at different paces and with different degrees of success is not an easy task to undertake. To do so successfully is even harder.
Landes strongly advocates the point of view that cultural values, such as technology, thriftiness, work ethic, and women, are the primary factors of economic success or failure. I truly enjoyed reading the authors observations on the various cultures and their economic successes and failures (a little minus here is Landes tendency to lean on the cultural stereotype just a few too many times). I now have a better understanding for the importance of cultural values in the economic area. Why the UK fell behind the rest of Europe, or why China by deliberately choosing to isolate the country, lost their economical/technological jump-start on Europe. I also have a greater awareness of the effects of religion; that there can be little doubt that the religious-based repression/bias towards women will continue to slow the economic development and success of the societies in which this still occur.
There is an abundance of interesting and useful information in this book, and I did learn a lot of new facts from this book. Nevertheless, I am not sure that I am left with a better understanding of the key factors that drive economic success. I can't help feeling that I worked my way through the five hundred pages waiting for the "little extra" - that never came. So even if Landis handles the facts and analysis very well, I still miss is the one, grand theory that explains it all.
Bottom line, "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why some are so rich and some are so poor" is a superb historical overview, but it doesn't quite deliver what it promises - the one theory that wraps up everything, and offers some insights to the question that we all ask ourselves: "Why some are so rich and some are so poor".
26 internautes sur 28 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A Bitter Pill 6 octobre 2006
Par Ronald C. Sawyer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
This is one of the most ill tempered and unfashionable books that I have read in a long time. Perhaps it could have only been written by a scholar in the waning days of his career (Landes has gone emeritus at Harvard). A young scholar could never get away with Landes's crankiness and his targeting of sacred cows. The book is so politically incorrect that it defies belief. Landes challenges nearly every tenet widely held among scholars about the principal motors of history in the past millenium. Moreover, this book is hopelessly Euro-Centric, a crime punishable by instant career termination among the untenured ranks of professors.

Landes might be easy enough to dismiss and forget. But should we? Can a man with Landes credentials be so easily written off? And must history only be conceived of on a small scale?

The answers to both questions are, I believe, no. Landes credentials are impeccable. His Unbound Prometheus is a central text in the history of technology and one that I used in my own classroom for years. And his Revolution in Time is the most important book ever written about clocks, timekeeping, and the implacable rhythms of modernity. Years ago, when I had a question about a timepiece circa 1600 that I found described in archival sources, whom did I write to but David Landes?

Likewise, Landes efforts to tell the big picture should never be proscribed. On the contrary, I believe that such efforts should be the noblest goal of the historian. The stream of meaningless monographs that no one reads issuing from American universities is already too broad and needs to be counterbalanced with at least a trickle of "universal histories." Landes follows a long tradition, which includes such historians as Arnold Toynbee, and more recently William McNeill (whom he acknowledges in his preface), and Alfred Crosby (whom he references).

If Landes's thesis can be stated simply, it is this: the defining feature of the modern world is the creation of wealth--so much wealth that the present is completely different from the past. How did this happen, and why did it happen where it did? And why did it not happen elsewhere? Landes's analysis has direct relevance to today's world because the results of the differential economic developments are manifested in growing relative inequalities in contemporary societies, where the gap between the richest (Switzerland) and poorest (Mozambique) nations in terms of wealth creation, is 400 to 1 (p.20). For Landes, as for the majority of ordinary people in the world, the central issue of existence is how much wealth society creates or allows its members to create for themselves and how such wealth is distributed. Landes encapsulates the salient injustice of the twenty-first century: "The world is divided roughly into three kinds of nations: those that spend lots of money to keep their weight down; those whose people eat to live; and those whose people don't know where the next meal is coming from." (p.xix).

What caused this historical divergence among nations? Like most good historians Landes is multi-causal in his explanations. He accepts geographical and biological factors as significant in the overall equation. But, principally, historian of technology that he is, he suggests that the invention, development, and organization of technology in the West (He takes issue with those who think its non-Western roots are very important) is the most crucial cause of wealth creation. In other words it was the Industrial Revolution.

Why the West? (And specifically, Why northern Europe?) His explanation here can only be called Weberian and indeed he quotes Max Weber in this book. The West invented and especially sustained technology because of a conjunction of cultural characteristics that it possessed or developed. In fact, the great abundance of some contemporary nations is only chimerical unless undergirded by similar cultural traits. While the West was first in creating modern industry and enjoying its fruits, some countries in other parts of the world have likewise developed the kind of mentality that can successfully produce and maintain wealth. Others, however, which are currently rich, will soon be poor again for lack of sustaining structures. According to Landes, the prosperity of the Mid-Eastern Sheikdoms will collapse along with their overinflated economies and lifestyles once their oil is gone. Finally, he suggests that the majority of nations have never seriously entered this wealth creation derby at all.

In his analysis Landes is always the moralist rather than the true social scientist. He ends his book on a moral note, writing "that the most successful cures for poverty come from within' (p.523)" "You want high productivity? Then you should live to work and get happiness as a by-product. (p.523) This will seem nothing but pap to most of the poor around the world. The rhetoric of self-help always seems empty to those on the edge of starvation.

Neither will Landes's explanations find much support among his peers. More theoretically elegant explanations reign in the rarified atmosphere of academia. Landes refers to and rejects all such theories: core and periphery theories of Wallerstein, colonial and imperial economic oppression theories favored by Marxists and scholars of many persuasions, and the dependentista theory elaborated by Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who subsequently abandoned it as it moved towards the pinnacle of his political career, the presidency of Brazil. (p.510-11) Landes believes such theories only distort history. The bad guys in his own narrative are not, for example, British imperialists, who after all treated the inhabitants of India no worse than the preceding oppressors, the Moghuls. (p. 161) Nor are the bad guys American imperialists, who with a kind of feckless naivete now march unchallenged throughout (and over?) the world, but who at least have always been maker and doers. For Landes, the pantheon of bad guys would more likely include the Spanish, who squandered the riches of an empire on pomp and pretension. (p.169). He quotes the Dominican Republic's Juan Bosch to good effect (p.310):

We [Santo Domingo] became an economy of the West, not the most developed models of Europe, but of the Spanish model. Spain transmitted to us everything it had: its language, its architecture, its religion, its dress and its food, its military tradition and its judicial and civil institutions; wheat, livestock, sugar-cane, even our dogs and chickens. But we couldn't receive from Spain Western methods of production and distribution, techniques, capital, and the ideas of European society, because Spain didn't have them. We knew the evangelical but not the works of Erasmus. Composicion Social Dominicana

There is much to praise and perhaps an equal amount to criticize in Landes. His frankness is refreshing but sometimes nearly insufferable. He never seeks to explain away historical phenomena by secondary elaboration or slight of hand, but faces them head on. He has no patience at all for privilege, injustice, and tyranny, and never shrinks from calling a spade a spade. He believes humans to be active forces in their own destinies, not simply pawns in someone else's chess game. He is a strong advocate of women's rights and, indeed, believes that gender equality is essential to the development of wealthy and healthy democratic societies. For him, a nation cannot really thrive when half of its members is disadvantaged.

But Landes ethnocentricity is constantly irksome. His theme of the West First, West First seems arrogant to say the least. He is an absolutist, a triumphalist, and a moralist in an age of scholarly relativists. He is decidedly old fashioned and overly righteous when he treats the science vs. religion theme without nuance, mostly adhering to the discredited "warfare metaphor" employed by Andrew Dickson White more than a century ago. And like White, Landes at times appears anti-Catholic. And his brief mention of magic as nothing but superstition allies him with historians of science who wrote two generations ago. Landes history is too linear and too progressivist. Moreover, Landes has not an iota of anthropological sensibility and therefore misses entire dimensions of other times and places. All is seen through the veil of America at the end of the twentieth century.

This book is bound to annoy readers around the globe. It is a hard pill to swallow, but maybe we should all take our medicine.
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