the semester, our class has examined the growth of cultures through drastic social
shifts, changes in religions and even economic phenomena like debit. In A Culture of Growth: Origins of the Modern
Economy by John Mokyr, the author analyzes how during the period of
1500-1700, European cultures and institutions rose to power and created a
thriving environment for intellectuals, innovation and knowledge.
The culture Mokyr discusses relates to
the intellectual elite and the way they interact with their beliefs about the environment.
The author writes, “Culture is a set of beliefs, values and
preferences, capable of affecting behavior, that are socially (not genetically)
transmitted and that are shared by some subset of society” (8). The group of
people the most affected by the rise of innovation was the small amount of
intellectual elite. The minority of elite played a huge role in the cultural growth
of Europe because they were crucial to the market for ideas. Mokyr states, “…what
counts disproportionately is the culture of an educated elite” (119). According to Mokyr, the concept of the market for ideas
relates to how intellectual entrepreneurs tried and convinced the elite to
accept their ideas and innovations. Institutions were created by intellectuals “in order to gain various advantages, including
much-hoped-for financial security, freedom, and time to do undisturbed research
through patronage positions” (p. 183).
intellectual elite helped the entrepreneurs through providing funding, support
and approval to the new ideas. Even though the group of elite may have small,
they had a huge impact on the social aspect of society and the power to provide
patronage to the new innovators.
The market for ideas helped create
numerous vital concepts like experimental philosophy in scientific research and
an emphasis on mathematics. It also stressed the importance of gathering data
and organizing information. Between the fifteen century and seventeenth century,
there was a major change in traditional views concerning subjects like the use
of science. Cultural variants such as Protestantism, Heliocentrism, and
Galilean mechanics filled Europe with new useful knowledge and scientific advancements.
In western Europe, the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment were results
from the shift in attitudes. In the 17th century, the Enlightenment challenged
people’s beliefs of technology and science. The Enlightenment was an important
movement in European history where there was a push in importance of scientific
and mathematical knowledge and focus on human progress.
The European market for ideas between the
fifteen century and the seventeenth century evolved dramatically. It became
more competitive and decreased transaction costs and entry barriers so there
was an increase in trade and ideas. The institution developed motivation for innovators
to create new ideas. There were incentives that rewarded the innovators while
also making sure to decrease the forces against or delaying innovation. Europe
was able to increase useful knowledge by becoming the first to support a market
for ideas through encouraging innovation. The Republic of Letters was a
community comprised of scientists, scholars, philosophers, mathematicians and more
intellectuals that examined and shared knowledge. The Republic of Letters allowed
knowledge to thrive and was not constricted by any other institutions. The institution was vital because it
illustrates how Europe placed an emphasis on knowledge. It was the first time individuals
were able to share, discuss and examine knowledge with others who possessed the
same passion for learning as they did. The Republic of Letters gave innovators
a safe space to learn and grow.
One of the biggest cultural changes in
early western Europe were the cultural entrepreneurs because they were able to
shift and challenge the traditional beliefs. The key cultural figures that made
influential changes in the Enlightenment were Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton. They
not only changed thinking in Western Europe but also worldwide. Bacon offered a
unique approach to science through finding new ways to conduct experiments and
gather data. Bacon gained a recognition through his work on the scientific
method. As for Newton, there has been some debate whether Newton’s fame was a “consequence”
of the rapid growth of England’s industrial market or the Newtonians simply had
a major impact. Newton was able to impact the Industrial revolution through
changing beliefs in society. The author writes, “Newton
aimed for more modest goal… to provide a mathematical description of observed
phenomena. The implication was that once nature was intelligible, it could be
manipulated, controlled, applied to human needs” (104). Newton provided insight
and added information to knowledge that had already been known. While Newton
did provide contributions to mathematics and physics, he also simply expanded traditional,
past knowledge, adding modern elements to it. He increased the importance of science
in society through his reputation and patronage.
culture Europe possessed is why the rapid change and progression happened in
Europe and not other countries like China.
There was period of time when China and Europe were once similar in culture
like technology. However, by the eighteenth century, Europe made the huge intellectual
transition, leaving many countries, like China, behind. The author writes, “China did not have very competitive market for ideas, and
incumbents were able to erect high barrier to entry to potential entrants who
wanted to contest the status quo and become cultural entrepreneurs” (p. 310). There was little progress in China due to things like
a centralized government and the lack of competitive drive Europe possessed. China’s
government also regulated and controlled all of the knowledge. it failed to
spark new ideas and innovation. China rejected the majority of Western knowledge.
Many were skeptical of the forcing knowledge. Europeans exchanged and explored
the possibilities of knowledge, voyaging to other countries and gaining new
role of culture and institutions is vital to a culture of growth because it
creates an environment that supports the trading, examination and growth of knowledge.
It is through the role of the institutions such as the Republic of Letters,
that provided a community of intellectuals with a space to express and share
ideas, that knowledge was encouraged. Along with the affluent culture of elite,
that provided funding and patronage to entrepreneurs, the emphasis on the
growth of knowledge is what transitioned Europe to a different period