IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/pra/mprapa/18291.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Britain, China, and the Irrelevance of Stage Theories

Author

Listed:
  • McCloskey, Deirdre Nansen

Abstract

Britain was first, though the classical (and many of the neoclassical) economists did not recognize that its course was beginning the factor of 16. The slow British growth in the 18th century proposed by Crafts and Harley is unbelievable, but however one assigns growth within the period 1700-1900 it is now plain that something unprecedented was happening. Only non-economists recognized it at the time. The central puzzle is why innovation did not fizzle out, as Mokyr has put it---as it had at other times and places. Productivity in cotton textiles, for example, grew at computer-industry rates, and continued to into the 20th century. But Europe’s lead was not permanent. The California School of Pomeranz and Goldstone and Allen and others have shown that China led the West in 1500, and maybe as late as 1750, then fell dramatically behind. It was the continuation of European growth in the 19th and 20th centuries that is strange and new. Explaining the Great Divergence requires focusing on non-European events in the 19th century---not some deep-seated European cultural superiority. On the other hand, Europe’s fragmented polity was an advantage, as shown in the swift uptake of the printing press. The way that non-European places like Japan or Botswana or India have been able to grow demonstrates that the stage theories popular in European thought from the 18th century to the present (for example, in modern growth theory) are mistaken. The metaphors of biological stages or human foot races are inapt, as in the business-school talk of “competitiveness” nowadays. The “rise” of non-European economies does not presage a “decline” or Europe or its offshoots, merely a borrowing of social and engineering technologies such as Europe once borrowed from elsewhere. The dignity and liberty of ordinary people stands in the middle of such “technologies.”

Suggested Citation

  • McCloskey, Deirdre Nansen, 2009. "Britain, China, and the Irrelevance of Stage Theories," MPRA Paper 18291, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:18291
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/18291/1/MPRA_paper_18291.pdf
    File Function: original version
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Knick Harley, C., 1980. "Transportation, the world wheat trade, and the Kuznets Cycle, 1850-1913," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 218-250, July.
    2. Bronk,Richard, 2009. "The Romantic Economist," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521735155, November.
    3. Coşgel, Metin M. & Miceli, Thomas J. & Rubin, Jared, 2012. "The political economy of mass printing: Legitimacy and technological change in the Ottoman Empire," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 357-371.
    4. Maxine Berg & Pat Hudson, 1994. "Growth and change: a comment on the Crafts-Harley view of the industrial revolution," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 47(1), pages 147-149, February.
    5. Temin, Peter, 2000. "A Response to Harley and Crafts," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(3), pages 842-846, September.
    6. Allen, Robert C., 1992. "Enclosure and the Yeoman: The Agricultural Development of the South Midlands 1450-1850," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198282969, Decembrie.
    7. Bronk,Richard, 2009. "The Romantic Economist," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521513845, November.
    8. Olmstead, Alan L. & Rhode, Paul W., 2008. "Biological Innovation and Productivity Growth in the Antebellum Cotton Economy," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(4), pages 1123-1171, December.
    9. N. F. R. Crafts & C. K. Harley, 1992. "Output growth and the British industrial revolution: a restatement of the Crafts-Harley view," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 45(4), pages 703-730, November.
    10. Olmstead,Alan L. & Rhode,Paul W., 2008. "Creating Abundance," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521857116, November.
    11. Persky, Joseph, 1990. "A Dismal Romantic," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 165-172, Fall.
    12. Allen, Robert C., 1983. "Collective invention," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 1-24, March.
    13. Levy, David M., 2001. "How the Dismal Science Got its Name: Debating Racial Quackery," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(1), pages 5-35, March.
    14. N. F. R. Crafts & C. Knick Harley, 2002. "Precocious British Industrialization: A General Equilibrium Perspective," University of Western Ontario, Departmental Research Report Series 200213, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
    15. Broadberry, Stephen N. & Irwin, Douglas A., 2006. "Labor productivity in the United States and the United Kingdom during the nineteenth century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 257-279, April.
    16. Douglass C. North, 1968. "Sources of Productivity Change in Ocean Shipping, 1600-1850," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76(5), pages 953-953.
    17. Easterlin, Richard A., 1981. "Why Isn't the Whole World Developed?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(1), pages 1-17, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Groß Steffen W., 2010. "Warum sich Ökonomen (wieder) mit Philosophie beschäftigen sollten – und Philosophen (wieder) mit Ökonomie / Why Economists should be more interested in Philosophy (again) – and why Philosophers should," ORDO. Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, De Gruyter, vol. 61(1), pages 75-94, January.
    2. Allen, Robert C., 2014. "American Exceptionalism as a Problem in Global History," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(2), pages 309-350, June.
    3. C Knick Harley, 2013. "British and European Industrialization," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _111, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    4. Robert C. Allen, 2005. "Capital Accumulation, Technological Change, and the Distribution of Income during the British Industrial Revolution," Economics Series Working Papers 239, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    5. Bronk, Richard & Jacoby, Wade, 2016. "Uncertainty and the dangers of monocultures in regulation, analysis, and practice," MPIfG Discussion Paper 16/6, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    6. Sotoudeh, M-Ali & Worthington, Andrew C., 2016. "Estimating the effects of global oil market shocks on Australian merchandise trade," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 74-84.
    7. Dmitry Veselov & Alexander Yarkin, 2024. "Lobbying For Industrialization: Theory And Evidence," HSE Working papers WP BRP 266/EC/2024, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    8. Levy, David M. & Peart, Sandra J. & Farrant, Andrew, 2005. "The spatial politics of F.A. Hayek's Road to Serfdom," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 982-999, December.
    9. Crafts, Nicholas, 2000. "Development history," Economic History Working Papers 22384, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    10. Ambrosino, Angela & Fontana, Magda & Gigante, Anna Azzurra, 2015. "Shifting Boundaries in Economics: the Institutional Cognitive Strand," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201544, University of Turin.
    11. Nico Voigtländer & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2006. "Why England? Demographic factors, structural change and physical capital accumulation during the Industrial Revolution," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 319-361, December.
    12. Daniel Leunbach & Truls Erikson & Max Rapp-Ricciardi, 2020. "Muddling through Akerlofian and Knightian uncertainty: The role of sociobehavioral integration, positive affective tone, and polychronicity," Journal of International Entrepreneurship, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 145-164, June.
    13. Alessandro Nuvolari & Valentina Tartari, 2009. "Mr Woodcroft and the value of English patents of invention, 1617-1852," Working Papers 9015, Economic History Society.
    14. Martin Fleming, 2021. "Productivity Growth and Capital Deepening in the Fourth Industrial Revolution," Working Papers 010, The Productivity Institute.
    15. Harley, C. Knick, 2012. "Was technological change in the early Industrial Revolution Schumpeterian? Evidence of cotton textile profitability," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 516-527.
    16. C. Knick Harley, 2013. "British and European Industrialization," Oxford Economic and Social History Working Papers _111, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    17. Gregory Clark, 2006. "What made Britannia great? Did the Industrial Revolution make Britain a World Power?," Working Papers 618, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
    18. Johnson, Samuel G. B., 2019. "Toward a cognitive science of markets: Economic agents as sense-makers," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal (2007-2020), Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), vol. 13, pages 1-29.
    19. Richard E. Baldwin & Philippe Martin & Gianmarco I. P. Ottaviano, 2021. "Global Income Divergence, Trade, and Industrialization: The Geography of Growth Take-Offs," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Firms and Workers in a Globalized World Larger Markets, Tougher Competition, chapter 2, pages 25-57, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    20. Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, 2013. "Why Economics cannot Explain the Modern World," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 89, pages 8-22, June.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    industrial revolution; economic history; growth theory; productivity; Britain; China; non-European economies;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N0 - Economic History - - General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:18291. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Joachim Winter (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/vfmunde.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.