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The flower that didn't bloom: why did the industrial revolution happen in Europe and not in China?

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  • Jens Kaalhauge Nielsen

Abstract

This paper throws light on the question: why did the industrial revolution happen in the West and not in China? The key to an understanding of the development of China's civilization lies in the way China historically has been characterized by a peculiar 'freeze' of the cultural-political axis of societal differentiation. It's most direct manifestation was that of a monolith state. This had implications for the cognitive matrix of society, where a modern scientific system never developed, while at the same time China's rich sources of inventions were often poorly institutionalized. These flaws were also manifest in the weakness of Chinese civil society. Historically, this development can be traced back to the Shang dynasty yet these processes reached a crystallizing moment in the Qin dynasty. In the case of Europe, two seed-bed societies, the Greek and the Germanic tribes, played the key roles in safeguarding Europe's trajectory. One essential prerequisite in this process is the lack of cultural and political hegemony characterizing Europe's history. By this token, the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of a system of fragmented Germanic kingdoms in the initial years of the Middle Ages were fundamental prerequisites for Europe's road toward an industrial revolution.

Suggested Citation

  • Jens Kaalhauge Nielsen, 2010. "The flower that didn't bloom: why did the industrial revolution happen in Europe and not in China?," Journal of Chinese Economic and Business Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(1), pages 23-44.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jocebs:v:8:y:2010:i:1:p:23-44 DOI: 10.1080/14765280903488330
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