October 29, 2010

Japan 1601-1852

One big question that I haven't seen asked much is whether, if Europe hadn't "taken off" around 1400-1500, would Japan have ever become the first scientific and industrial country, and, if so, how long would it have taken?

Something that Charles Murray's 2003 book Human Accomplishment made clear was that most of the world's major civilizations outside of Europe were in cultural stasis or decline by 1500, before the arrival of Europeans. If you ask Chinese, Indian, or Arab scholars to list the most important scientists and artists in their history, their lists start to peter out over the last millennium. This is rather like how the ancient Classical world's accomplishments start to slow down after the peak in the 400s BC. The New World's accomplishments seem to have peaked with the Mayans, who invented writing, but then started to lose it.

As a conservative, I have to admit that these trends tend to be due to conservatism: reverence for past accomplishments and satisfaction with the current life start to undermine the hunger for new achievements. (The Ancient Egyptians were the first to illustrate this tendency, making rapid progress about five millennia ago, then being mostly content to maintain their high relative level of civilization for thousands of years until Alexander's conquest.)

The main exception to this pattern of stasis outside of Europe was Japan. In 1601, Japan began a policy of isolationism, which lasted for 250 years. During this period, Japanese cultural accomplishments continued steadily. To take one example, the tracking of sports statistics, a minor but telling aspect of modernity, seems to go back to late 18th Century sumo wrestling. Similarly, the most famous Japanese picture in the world today, Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa, is from around 1830. So, Japan was continuing what looks like steady progress in a world in which backsliding was the norm. Thus, when the West rudely intruded in 1853, Japan was able to modernize itself with remarkable speed, avoiding Western conquest until the development of the atomic bomb.

Japan in 1601-1852, however, was not taking off, accelerating, the way Europe did, with Britain increasingly in the lead, especially with the Industrial Revolution. Japan was much farther behind the West in 1852 than in 1601.

Interestingly, Japan's geographical position off the coast of East Asia is rather similar to the British Isles' favorable position off the coast of Western Europe. If we assume the English (like their offspring in the New World) benefited enormously from the island privilege, what Shakespeare hailed as:
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war

Japan, then, was the most likely place outside Europe for the right combination to come together for humanity to break free from the Malthusian Trap.

So, without the West, would Japan have yet achieved science and the Industrial Revolution?

97 comments:

Karl said...

Steve, how much of the the cultural stagnation and reversal is due to conservatism and other cultural factors versus some form of dysgenics? As societies become more advanced, more children, regardless of health and intelligence, are able to survive infancy and the general safety net that grows inside a society may allow people to successfully reproduce that would never have been able to do so in an earlier incarnation of their society.

Is there a way to separate how much is due to cultural factors and how much to a change in the level of IQ as well as other behavioral traits that have a genetic basis? Or do we have any idea if IQ changed as these civilizations peaked?

Anonymous said...

"...most of the world's major civilizations outside of Europe were in cultural stasis or decline by 1500, before the arrival of Europeans."

Western Christendom was the only old-world civilization to escape conquest by nomads in the period 1000-1500. Geographical good fortune: too far west for the nomads to reach, with a buffer in Eastern Christendom, which WAS conquered.

My theory is that the other civilizations were permanently changed by their experience of conquest, even if they later threw off or assimilated their conquerors. They became backward-looking - focussed on restoring or preserving their glorious pasts, and this made it difficult for them to move forward.

Contrast the Song and Ming in China, or the the Abbasids and the Ottomans in Islam. The Qings are an even better example: barbarians, they proved their worthiness to hold the Mandate of Heaven by Sinifying themselves in the traditional manner.

I'm reminded of Cologne Cathedral, begun in the middle ages, finished in the 19th century. An art historian pointed out the the new parts, although executed with the highest craft, lack creativity. Striving for authenticity, they could only copy mediaeval motifs. Because they imitated, they could not innovate. But the mediaevals innovated all the time, because whatever they did was by definition authentic.

Like Western Europe, Japan escaped foreign conquest, and one can argue that this accounts for their continued cultural vitality. Notably, they could throw themselves into modernization without losing their sense of authenticity.

I think one reason Japan didn't become another Europe is that Japan was essentially a monoculture. Its connections with Korea and China were much more distant than, say, England's connections with France, the Netherlands, Germany, etc. Europe was always a mosaic, its different centres permitting a wide range of culturally generative processes: competing centres, shifting plays on centre-periphery dynamics, cultural refugia... Geography plays a role here too, promoting and reinforcing the existence of many political and linguistic centres. Sorry guys: for Europe, diversity WAS strength.

Anonymous Canadian

Natalie said...

It's also worth noting that the reason Japan sealed itself off in the first place had a lot to do with keeping the Europeans out, especially the missionary-happy Portuguese and other such nations.

So if there hadn't been any Europeans knocking around in the 1500s, there might never have been an isolationist period, either.

Fjordman said...

Charles Murray's book is excellent and will be remembered as an important pioneering work. I have read it in great detail and it isn't flawless. You could successfully find a few Asian names that should have been included but weren't - the Japanese mathematician Seki Takakazu being the most serious omission in my view - but the overall dominance of European and Western scholars will not be seriously affected by this. Most of the major scientific breakthroughs were made by Europeans. Most of the people who almost made these breakthroughs or contributed to them were Europeans, too. In other words: If you made a list of "individuals who were not included in Human Accomplishment but perhaps should have been," then it would have a few Asian names but more European and Western ones.

No matter how you put it, modern science was to an overwhelming extent a European invention, in methodology and mentality as well as in results. In fact, after spending years looking into the material my basic conclusion is that the European leadership role is currently understated, not exaggerated as we are frequently told. I already suspected that the African contributions were small and that those of the Islamic world were inflated, but I was genuinely surprised to find that the Asian, especially East Asian, contributions were not greater. This represents by far the most challenging issue to explain for those who believe in IQ as an important variable.

Koreans probably have a higher mean IQ than any European nation, even the Germans. Yet throughout their entire history until today they haven't produced a single mathematician of anywhere near the stature of a Gauss, Leibniz or Riemann. The only possible conclusion is that Koreans have historically underperformed in the sciences compared to what their numbers and IQ levels should predict. So have the Chinese. The only East Asians to have performed anywhere close to what their IQ should indicate are the Japanese during the past century. The Japanese contributions to the sciences since the mid-1900s are respectable, but not more than that if you take into account the fact that they constitute more than one hundred million wealthy people with perhaps the highest mean IQ of any nation worldwide.

Anonymous said...

'I have to be admit'
NO, I have to admit.

Henry Canaday said...

Well, two things Japan lacked: the phonetic alphabet and the patent system.

The phonetic alphabet enabled easy communication over distance, without lengthy study. Combined with the printing press this enabled the spread of ideas, which was in turn important in the scientific revolution.

And there is a new book out, William Rosen’s “The Most Powerful Idea In The World,” which argues that the most powerful idea in the world was the idea that ideas themselves, in the form of inventions, should be private property. Rosen argues that only this proposition, in the form of England’s patent system, provided incentives for the many small inventions that made practical the big inventions, like working steam engines, and all the later continual innovations that created the industrial revolution.

So Semitic traders’ compression of pictographs into a few sound symbols, and the Anglo-Saxon recognition that, “every dog likes to keep his own bone,” may have been necessary to all this progress.

Dahinda said...

Here is a treehugger's view of the same period. Not maybe an answer to your question but it has an insight to Japan from that time:

http://www.energybulletin.net/node/5140

Anonymous said...

Some cultural achievements in the arts is nice, but Japan actually declined, technologically, in isolation. All those industries that had developed for war amongst the warlords and later for invading Korea, disappeared in the long era of enforced peace and isolation.

Yes Japan is an island like Britain, but, unlike Britain, it is more isolated from the continent - it doesn't have easy access to the mainland like Britain does with France, Flanders, Holland, etc. The distance is longer, the seas more stormy and treacherous, and the closest country is Korea, not China.

Thus, Japan was better protected against invasion, by nature and geography, than Britain was, but, by the same token, Japan was also less suited for close economic integration with the continent via trade.

Also, having less fear of invasion and less dependance on trade, Japan could more easily become isolationist, which was an option that Britain never had. Britain could not afford to ignore continental politics. British trade with the continent was also too important to cut off or ignore in favor of autarky. Thus Britain was doomed to be a part of the larger European political and economic system, whereas Japan could afford to go it alone quite easily.

Japan therefore was less likely to "do an England" and create an east-asian industrial evolution on her own. You really do need many countries together in a system competing against each other, to spur innovation and growth. Isolation doesn't do this.

Anonymous said...

A lot of it has to do with the society's reaction to gunpowder. By this measure Japan was moving backwards and actually reversed in 1852.

Gunpowder was invented probably in France around 1425. The final innovation that made it useful was corning. This was the gunpowder that set off the "Gunpowder Revolution" that swept East transforming military architecture and whole societies as it went.

The Portuguese introduced gunpowder in the mid 16th century to Japan where it was immediately employed to good effect in their ongoing civil war (Sengoku period).

The Tokugawa Shogunate was built on gunpowder but it immediately drove gunpowder off the island through a variety of laws, taxes and customs. Some military historians credit Nobunaga with creating the first first volley fire. If so this meant that the Japanese invented musket tactics and were therefore the most advanced military force in the world.

But for two hundred and fifty years Japan concentrated on the sword. This led to a rich mine of movie plots for the future but made them hopelessly primitive when Perry's black ships arrived.

China received gunpowder later yet. Evidence for that is seen every summer when the tourists climb the Great Wall. They are told how ancient it is but the famous sections were built in the early seventeenth century in the final days of the Ming dynasty. In the West such walls had become obsolete a century before after Charles VIII had invaded Italy and knocked down all the high walls with his guns. The Great Wall of China proves that the Chinese didn't invent gunpowder.

China reacted badly to the McCartney expedition when the Brits tried to "open up" their country. That led to the Opium Wars. Japan adapted better but there was the Shinsengumi terrorist movement (which led to additional movie plots). I don't think late Tokugawa Japan was more advanced culturally than the Qing dynasty of China - I doubt if the Japanese or Chinese of the time would have thought so. The big difference was that Japan met Americans who were not very imperialistic. Perry did not seize the opportunity of Japan's weakness to invade the way the British reacted to China.

Albertosaurus

William B Swift said...

An interesting data point in any comparison between GB and Japan is two books on sword fighting written about the same time (about 1599) - Miyamoto Musashi's A Book of Five Rings and George Silver's Paradoxes of Defense. The fundamental strategy in each is totally different - Mushashi's book promotes what could be called "committed attack".

The school described in Silver's book was called "Masters of Defense" and their strategy was called "Fight Safe" - guard yourself well and wait for your opponent to make a mistake you can exploit.

I don't know how much this helps in understanding other differences between them at this time and in how they have changed, but I have thought it interesting ever since I noticed it.

Anonymous said...

The Japanese and English has their civil wars to consolidate power at approximatly the same time. They also developed writing about the same time. Before 1000 AD the Japanese wrote in Chinese and the Brits in French or Latin.

Giovanni said...

The progress, in modern terms, belongs to the Christianity: the Greeks knew the power of vapor, but they used it only for religious or theatrical events. Only the christian tought permitted the progress and the trasformation of the nature for industrial purpose, because for the semite philosophy the man was the lord of the Creation, in contrast with the man part of the Creation belongs the Greek and Roman "religion".
For this reason I think, the Japaneses and their Shintoism weren't incline to an industrial revolution.

Luke Lea said...

It was impossible to take off before steam power and machine tools made it possible to invest, and reinvest, commercial profits into new machinery, thus expanding the productive powers of labor.

Until then there was no alternative to conspicuous consumption.

I think Weber was right. It was no coincidence that almost all those early investors in the Industrial Revolution were Protestant dissenters bent on constructing a new heaven and a new earth.

Capitalism and Christianity went hand in hand. History with a capital "H" was a thoroughly Judeo-Christian concept (of Progress) foreign to the East, where the idea of overturning the old order of society was anathema.

Anonymous said...

As a conservative, I have to be admit that these trends tend to be due to conservatism: reverence for past accomplishments and satisfaction with the current life start to undermine the hunger for new achievements.

This is an interesting point. I have been trying, for some time now, to formulate why I feel a certain unease with Traditionalism of the Auster/Kalb variety, despite being sympathetic in most respects. This point is one I will have to explore in my essay.

JGP

Anonymous said...

Europe took off in the Enlightenment, in which pure scientific enquiry for the sake of scientific enquiry was encouraged.The tenets of the ancient Greek philosophers were challenged - strictly on the basis of evidence - and in many cases found to be erroneous.
I believe it was the culture of rational enquiry, in which theories were freely made and frely challegend, the culture of peer review an learned journals, and of such august bodies as the Royal Society that enabled the 'take off'.
All the advances were initially the worl of lone 'mavericks' who were often intially sidelined.The culture of free expression, free enquiry and intercourse of ideas and theories - that presuppose a literate an unprejudiced society, was the fertile soil upon which the ideas of the mavericks flourished.
That is perhaps why western Europe - in particular Britain was the home of so many breakthroughs.At that time eastern Europe was a heavily controlled society, usually in the midst of turmoil and warfare.

Anonymous said...

Similarly, the most famous Japanese picture in the world today, Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa, is from around 1830.

Please tell me this is a joke.

There must be 5,000 or 10,000 kindergartens in the USA with fingerpaintings on their walls of that caliber.

If that's the best that the Japanese can do, then they've got some pretty serious problems with the arts.

Anonymous said...

I think that the ancient Greek cultural decline, which you mentioned here, was the consequence of Alexander's integration of the Greek world with the East. Greek civilization didn't decline to any randomly low level, but (surprise, surprise) to the level then typical of the Middle East.

According to McEvedy and Jones, the population of the Greek peninsula fell in half (from 4 million to 2 million) almost immediately after Alexander's conquest. Large numbers of Greeks went to the newly conquered lands (places like Alexandria in Egypt or Antiochia in what is now Syria), becoming elites there, and, over generations, assimilated into the local populations. One would have also expected an inflow of Eastern slave labor into Greece from the former Persian Empire as well.

As the Greek ethnos was assimilated away, its accomplishments disappeared with it.

If anybody has a more plausible explanation of Greek decline in the centuries after Alexander's conquest, I'd like to hear it. I'm not saying this facetiously either - I'm actually curious about what happened and would like to hear other theories.

Eugene said...

One reason that the isolationism of the Edo Period lasted as long as it did was because the Tokugawa shoguns were so good at doing what they did.

Except that competent bureaucracies do not foster paradigm-shifting progress, the same way that unstressed ecosystems tend not to promote evolution. However, by the early 19th century, the Tokugawa's hold on power was growing frayed. Inbreeding was taking its toll. Powerful domains like Satsuma chafed under the draconian trading restrictions, or simply ignored them.

The governor of Satsuma married his adopted daughter into the Tokugawa line. When that failed to change the political tides sufficiently, Satsuma joined forces with the even more fractious Choshu, and the emperor (still a puppet in Kyoto) was convinced to do the unheard-of equivalent of dissolving parliament, with the promise of holding real power in the new government.

The Tokugawa regime subsequently collapsed in one of the shortest, most decisive civil wars in history.

Perry's arrival was the straw the broke the camel's back. But it had been creaking for decades. The adventurous curiosity of the early Meiji Period reformers--which saw some of the best minds of the era traveling around the world gathering up all the political ideas, science and technology they could lay their hands on--would have perhaps erupted later, but inevitably.

Whiskey said...

Steve, first Europe "took off" not in 1400 but around 1100 or so. Based on "White Gold" and the extensive use of water power to process textiles, saw wood, and any number of things that beat plain old human power. Or to put it more succinctly, relative stability + low population density + new food resources (mouldboard plow) + new textile exports = wealth. Wealth that spread unlike Japan or China, to all parts of the society.

England was mostly a backwater until Elizabethan times, places like Bruges or Rotterdam were far more wealthy, from top to bottom. It wasn't island status. Being an island is not all its cracked up to be -- easy access by sea allows any appreciable naval power (the Vikings for example) to have what amounts to a superhighway to any point in your realm.

Nor did the Classical world "stagnate" as much as fail to take advantage of advances such as Hero of Alexandria's steam engine, Archimedes screw pump, cranes, and so on. Because like China and Japan, there was no point in doing so: slave labor made it useless.

The same presence of slave labor in the South kept technical innovation low, and hampered their ability to exploit new weapons such as the submarine (CSS Hunley) or the Williams rapid fire gun.

The Classical world, Japan, China, and antebellum South were filled with jaw-droppingly brilliant men. But technological advancement requires lots of skilled craftsman to make it happen, not just brilliant men, and rewards for those craftsmen.

This means in effect costly labor, above all else. Japan was filled with people. You do the math.

Whiskey said...

Let me add, conservatism has nothing to do with it.

When societies benefit (or at least lots of important people do) from adoption of new technology, and society has sufficient flexibility to adapt to the change technology brings, then yes, it happens quite rapidly.

Japan's Tokugawa Shogunate suppressed firearms because it threatened the position and status of the Samurai. You wouldn't need them when you could raise a bunch of peasants, equip them with cheap firearms, and be more deadly. As a result, when the Black Fleet arrived, all the Japanese had were a few pathetic arquebuses. The modern world penalizes severely those societies that don't adopt change in order to preserve their social order, or have lots of people thus little incentive for technical innovation.

As for Greek cultural decline, it had two causes. One was the conquest of Greece itself due to low birthrates providing few soldiers when needed the most against Philip and Alexander. Which was caused by of course, relative wealth, and then plagues, few children and those who were born, often died. The other was the massacres of Greeks by Alexander in particular (he razed Thebes). The Peloponnesian Wars did not help, but Alexander killed far more.

The Romans experienced a similar demographic decline. Almost no Noble families from Marius's time survived to Augustus, and none from Augustus were around a century later. When the barbarian hordes overwhelmed the West, there simply were not enough Romans left to fight them. Underpopulation is a risk as well, you don't have enough people to keep your land from hungry neighbors.

John Seiler said...

No - to Japan's indepent development, unless they had become Christian. As Charles Murray points out in that book, and as Stanley Jaki details in several books, it the was Catholic Christianity of the Middle Ages that brought about the development of a self-sustaining science, which we still enjoy. See Murray's remarks on St. Thomas Aquinas.

Anonymous said...

"If that's the best that the Japanese can do, then they've got some pretty serious problems with the arts."

And this is why I question the rationale between making HBD public. I worry that, well, low-IQ morons like the example above, will simply be unable to distinguish between his or her personal biases and the subject matter. The more I visit blogs like this, the more I'm also convinced that bloggers like Steve at some level know this, and they exploit that fact to some extent to stoke up traffic and support.

IHTG said...

Greek decline in the centuries after Alexander's conquest

And yet, it was the Greeks who managed to hold on to their half of the Roman Empire until the 15th century.

Anonymous said...

"The Classical world, Japan, China, and antebellum South were filled with jaw-droppingly brilliant men. But technological advancement requires lots of skilled craftsman to make it happen, not just brilliant men, and rewards for those craftsmen.

This means in effect costly labor, above all else. Japan was filled with people. You do the math."

^this has been the most sensible explanation to me. Farewell to Alms is a good source for explaining that places like England had a culture of high wages. Their people would not stretch as close to their Malthusian population limits as would peoples of most other parts of the world. Life was more valuable, labor more expensive, and people had time to come up with ideas, rather than working in a field 12 hours a day to keep from starving to death. Plus when a family can afford a better diet, their IQ will be significantly higher. So English IQ could have been higher than the Japanese in 1600 AD simply due to nutrition.

Harmonious Jim said...

Agriculture was invented independently in several places, so maybe industry could have been too.

In my view the basic prerequisites were: plenty of coal and an engineering culture, that is lots of guys tinkering with machinery. Japan had some of both, I believe.

If the Japanese had been first to an Industrial Revolution, it probably wouldn't have spread so far so fast. The Japanese tend not to think that everyone else should do things the way they do. The British (and Americans) think the opposite.

Anonymous said...

I remember hearing that some Japanese mathematician independently developed some aspects of Calculus without Western influence, and I believe he was a contemporary of Newton and Leibniz. That's pretty impressive considering the isolation that Japan was undergoing at the time.

Anonymous said...

David Landes discusses this question a bit in his *Wealth and Poverty of Nations*.

Difference Maker said...

"And this is why I question the rationale between making HBD public. I worry that, well, low-IQ morons like the example above, will simply be unable to distinguish between his or her personal biases and the subject matter. The more I visit blogs like this, the more I'm also convinced that bloggers like Steve at some level know this, and they exploit that fact to some extent to stoke up traffic and support."

This must be some sort of not so subtle appeal to authority

Anonymous said...

"If that's the best that the "Japanese can do, then they've got some pretty serious problems with the arts."
I've seen that picture around and no child could do it. It was done through a wood block print process and was one of a series supremely difficult in execution. People who understand this stuff (including westerners) know that the original of this is work of genius. When it comes to art, that's the way it is. I'm still trying to figure out Matisse.Don't get me started on modern art.
The use of perspective, true-likenesses and color is a genius of European art, 1400-1900, achieved nowhere else; but the Japanese were amazing for their three-dimensional skills. They did the impossible with unusable materials, producing carvings so delicate and complex you'd swear the artist must be 6 inches tall to have committed such detailed transformation of a shapless block perhaps 4 inches square.
Well-come to think of it, the Japanese were known for their small back then.

Melykin said...

I agree with what others have written, that Christianity, particularly Protestant Christianity, played a big roll in the industrial revolution. The Protestants translated the Bible into English and, at least the dissenting Protestants, started teaching everyone to read. I don't know what the literacy rate in Japan was over the centuries, but I'm guessing only a few elites were literate.

Furthermore, Protestantism seemed to help ward off corruption. The least corrupt countries in the world today are still those that went through the Protestant reformation. Check it out at Transparency.org. Corruption makes it difficult for a civilization to advance.

Eugene said...

Japan kept a tight rein on its population during the Edo Period (largely through infanticide). A system known as muko-iri, which would have allowed Mr. Bennet to adopt a son-in-law and thus preserve the family name and fortune, allowed middle and upper-class Japanese to avoid the primogeniture trap.

Japanese society solved many of the problems that led to political instability in Europe. Today, the Edo Period is heavily romanticized. One reason Japanese don't worry much about the "birth dearth" is that, hey, the Edo Period wasn't half bad! But this kind of contentment is inimical to "progress."

At the same time, those enormous reservoirs of pragmatism allowed the Japanese to make up a two hundred year industrial and technological deficit in a single generation.

Mike said...

I shouldn't say "the ancient Classical world's accomplishments started to slow down after the peak in the 400s BC." Maybe this was the peak of Athenian development, but not of the ancient Classical world.

Rome, which was a backwater in the 400s B.C., did not begin to attain a sizable empire until the first century B.C. Indeed, it was Julius Caesar that conquered Gaul, as every schoolboy used to know; and the empire continued to expand into the second century A.D., bringing Roman roads, aqueducts, and other triumphs of ancient engineering into the Romanized parts of western Europe, including Britain. Neither did the empire cease to expend its energy on improvement of its capital; Augustus Caesar commanded the wholesale rebuilding of Rome, and the famous architect Vitruvius held an official position in this effort.

The apogee of the Roman empire can be dated to the Flavian and Antonine emperors, under whom the empire was at its widest extent. Gibbon considered this to have been one of the happiest periods in the history of the world. Melville wrote -

"O summit of fate, O zenith of time
When a pagan gentleman reigned
And the olive was nailed to the inn of the world
Nor the peace of the just was feigned.
A halcyon Age, afar it shines,
Solstice of Man and the Antonines..."

Anonymous said...

"Similarly, the most famous Japanese picture in the world today, Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa, is from around 1830.

Please tell me this is a joke."


Right, because art is primarily about realistic representation.

Evil Sandmich said...

Two words: "No Coal"

Anonymous said...

Hokusai was greatly influenced by rubens and other prints smuggled into the Japan.

Lucille said...

Anon, any kindergartner who can paint something like that should probably end up going pro one day. I'm really not sure what your problem is with that painting.

Jay said...

"One big question that I haven't seen asked much is whether, if Europe hadn't "taken off" around 1400-1500, would Japan have ever become the first scientific and industrial country, and, if so, how long would it have taken? "

Nope, and I will tell you why. The main reason why the Europeans took to the seas was because they wanted to bypass the Muslims on their way to the Asian spice trade. The spice trade back then is like the oil trade of today: This was where real wealth was made. And it was on one of these voyages that Columbus serendipitously stumbled upon the Americas.

And since the construction of merchant fleets were extremely expensive, innovative Europeans such as the British and the Dutch traders developed sound banking systems and the concept of the joint stock companies to finance their overseas exploration, expansion and colonization, and these banks and joint stock companies later financed the western industrial revolution.

The east, however, never really needed anything from the west, so the east never felt the necessity to build large trading fleets, and thus, never really developed a capitalistic class that was essential for the evolution of banks and joint stock companies. Moreover, under the Confucian social orders, the merchants were in essence the dregs of society, so they were basically at the mercy of the state. Thus, the state held trade monopolies in everything from salt, to weaponmaking, to grain. And without banks and joint stock companies, China never really developed the resources and the system necessary for industrialization.

And since previous posters had already mentioned how China and Japan stagnated during their periods of isolationism, I just want to mention that “necessity is the mother of all invention,” and since China and Japan never had a reason to evolved beyond a system that had kept the peace for so many centuries, they just did not feel it necessary to dabble with any real scientific inquiries, or anything that might disrupt the well-kept social order and societal harmony.

asdfasdfasf said...

"Steve, how much of the the cultural stagnation and reversal is due to conservatism and other cultural factors versus some form of dysgenics? As societies become more advanced, more children, regardless of health and intelligence, are able to survive infancy and the general safety net that grows inside a society may allow people to successfully reproduce that would never have been able to do so in an earlier incarnation of their society."


A less advanced society has less use for high intelligence, and in such a brutish world, smart geeks might not survive. Such a society might favor the thugs and the dumbass sheeple slavish to the thugs.
A more advanced society, by producing more food, does allow many more unhealthy dummies to survive, but it also allows more weakling smart geeks to survive.
Could Einstein or Stephen Hawkings have survived to maturity if they'd been born in a viking tribe? Probably not. Many West African tribal societies were brutish, and only the big and strong survived... but not too many smart geeks.

And some societies culturally favored the geeks. Confucian values favored people who did well on exams. They succeeded in life, gained more power and wealth, and had more children with higher IQs. Even so, most Chinese were not-too-bright peasants.
Jews are the smartest cuz fewer of them were into agriculture and more of them were into business and book-learning. Jews were like the Confucian Chinese MINUS the peasants dragging down the general IQ. So, Chinese IQ may be 100 but Jewish IQ is 115.

Too much of everything is bad. Some degree of conservatism is necessary for innovation since it provides stability for the smarties. Could Einstein have had time to sit on his ass and think his great thoughts if society all around him was constantly in French Revolution mode? No. Since most people are not too smart, their main virtue is to be stable or 'conservative'. And within that stability, smart people can come up with new ideas.
But if conservatism gains too much power and enforces its middlebrow or whitebread values on smart people--like Catholic Church did with Galileo--, it can be stifling and stultifying.

So, conservatism is good for middle class masses. It is the trunk of the tree from which branches grow and sprout leaves(smarties) reaching for the sun.

Anonymous said...

Steve,
I think it is instructive to look at the story of the discovery and development of the phenomenom of current electricity in the 18th to 19th centuries.
Now, as every schoolboy knows, it was the Italian anatomist, Galvani, who first made the strange observation that the legs of a frog he was dissecting twitched spontaneously whenever his knife touched the spinal cord.This mystified Galvani, who as a medical man was eternally searching for some 'vital force'.Therefore Galavani observed and investigated more, and as an 18th century man of science did so in a tabulated and systematic manner.He was lead to the conclusion that the effect was due to the presence of two disimilar metals touching the frog.Galvani thought the result interesting enough to publish in the scientific journals.Another Italian, Volta, took Galvani's investigation further and developed the first electrical battery - consisting of discs of disiimilar metals soaked in acid and separated by felt discs.
This battery - and the effects it produced became the scientific curiosity and wonder of the age, with researchers all over Europe experimenting with them (the Frankemstein story is actually based on real attempts by doctors in 19th century England to 'resurrect' corpses by aplying electrical currents - to paying audiences of the general public).
From the experiments and observations of Oersted, Faraday, Coulomb and others were deveoped by the end of the 19th century basically the backbone of the entire electrical engineering industry we see today - all facilitated by dedicated researchers, communication and journals and an enlightened age welcoming of progress.

asdfsdafasdf said...

"I think one reason Japan didn't become another Europe is that Japan was essentially a monoculture. Its connections with Korea and China were much more distant than, say, England's connections with France, the Netherlands, Germany, etc. Europe was always a mosaic, its different centres permitting a wide range of culturally generative processes: competing centres, shifting plays on centre-periphery dynamics, cultural refugia... Geography plays a role here too, promoting and reinforcing the existence of many political and linguistic centres. Sorry guys: for Europe, diversity WAS strength."

Japan was not a monoculture. Perhaps mono-racial(though even here, one could say Japanese are mixture of Asiatic and Ainu). Japanese culture has long been a mixture of indigenous pagan shinto, Chinese Confucianism, Buddhism, and even elements of Europeanism. In some ways, Japan was less of a mono-culture than European societies which essentially became Christian and destroyed/rejected its pagan roots and influences(until the Renaissance). Japan was even less of a mono-culture than Korea or China which, more or less, came under Confucianism. Under confucianist ideology, worst of the worst were bloodsucking merchants and brutish militarymen. Because the rulers of Japan were the militarist samurai, things were kinda inverted. And since samurai depended on the merchant class to serve as middlemen between themselves and peasants, merchants were far more valued and respected in Japan, which is why Japanese 'business culture' advanced more than in Korea or China where merchants got little cultural respect. As such, when someone got rich in China or Korea, he put on airs of being a scholar and paid less attention to business. And he prepared his kids to become dignified scholar-bureaucrats than moneygrubbing businessmen. Today, businessmen are valued and respected in China, and we've seen the rapid rise of Asia. Confucianism stressed education to teach people how to be 'wise' as opposed to 'greedy'. Today, the stress on education remains but it teaches Asians to be 'greedy'.

Since the military class is never big on ideas or ideology, Japan never came under a single intellectual dogma(like Confucianism in China or communism in North Korea). Notice that the military rulers of Chile were more tolerant of business and ideas than communist intellectual leaders of Cuba. Military rulers could be ruthless and quell ideas that might threaten the overall system, but the reasons tended to be political than ideological. Japan's military lords tolerated Christianity UNTIL it began to affect the samurai who were meant to fight and serve. OTOH, Japan tolerated Buddhism as an idea because it kept its pacifism to itself whereas Christianity was aggressive in its 'change-the-world' agenda.

It wasn't so much diversity as adversity that led to rise of Europe. Europe had kingdoms and then nations of comparable size and power, and this led to much competition. In East Asia, China was the one big fish, and smaller nations like Korea and Vietnam were essentially kow-towing(though sometimes bitter)satellites. And Japan respected China as the BIG POWER and GREAT CIVILIZATION. And chinese were too busy governing their huge empire.
So, East Asia didn't produce the kind of competitive energy among Britain, Spain, France, Germany, Russia, Austrians, Italians,(and for a time, Poles).

adfadefasdf said...

"It's also worth noting that the reason Japan sealed itself off in the first place had a lot to do with keeping the Europeans out, especially the missionary-happy Portuguese and other such nations.
So if there hadn't been any Europeans knocking around in the 1500s, there might never have been an isolationist period, either."

This is only partly true. After all, if Japanese only wanted to keep Europeans out, why did they maintain so little trade and contact with China and Korea during the Tokugawa era?

It is true that the Japanese grew alarmed by European power, ambition, and influences. But Japan wanted to shut itself from ALL of the world.
And this especially happened during the Tokugawa era when Japan had finally been unified and pacified. When Japan had been been divided by warring clans, each clan sought better weapons whereever and from whomever they could find. This was the time when Europeans both alarmed AND fascinated the Japanese. Japanese couldn't help but notice that Europeans had better and bigger guns and lots of other good stuff that could be used for warfare. So, each clan maintained contacts with Europeans to acquire better guns to fight other clans and gain supremacy as the lords of Japan. Once Japan was unified, the elites who 'had it all' felt far less incentive to learn from the outside world since they finally got everything they'd wanted--control over Japan. And since Japan had been at war for SO LONG, what the elites wanted was peace and stability.

Also, due to racial and/or cultural reasons, Japanese tend to be more inhibited and timid, and such people don't feel comfortable with outsiders. Even today, with dwindling number of working age population, Japan will not allow immigration from other nations. It's not necessarily hatred of other peoples but a kind of anxiety and timidness. Even a timid Japanese has his place in Japan and can rely on agreed upon rules to get along with other Japanese. But if Japan were to fill up with foreigners, each Japanese would need to become a more adaptable individual, and many Japanese are not up to this. They'd feel uncomfortable. A timid Japanese who smiles and bows a lot may be appreciated by other Japanese, but he will be seen as a fool by non-Japanese, and that will lead to tensions between Japanese and non-Japanese.

So, Japanese feel most comfortable when they are the total majority in their own country or when they are clear minority in another country, in which case they know their minority status in the larger community and try to get along. But if Japan were to become like the US--60% Japanese and 40% non-Japanese--, Japanese would have far more problems than we do in coping with the reality. Japanese like to be Japanese in Japan or a minority in a non-Japanese country. They can deal with either/or, but they cannot deal with something-in-between.

adasdfasdfsf said...

One East Asian disadvantage vis-a-vis whites is emotional or temperamental. Both groups are roughly of same IQ, but East Asians are less likely to be individualistic and idealistic and more likely to be communal and conformist(thus less sociall courageous; there are Asians who find dog-eating disgusting, but they don't get together to march and reform society like Westerners do).
We can see this in breeds of dogs too. Even if breed A has same IQ as breed B, differences in tempermaents may make breed A better for herding sheep and breed B better for tracking.
The timid-and-bowing DNA is more prevalent among Asians, and so even smart Asians are more likely to go along with the system than stand out. This could be cultural, but it can't all be culture since each race adopts or adapts to a culture to its own purposes. Christianity among blacks isn't what it is among whites.

I wonder if Brits had a certain advantage because, as class-conscious as they were, their language is less hierarchical than most others--even European. There is only YOU, HE, SHE, etc whereas in many languages, there is casual YOU and the formal YOU and so on. And some Japanese guy told me that it's customary for inferiors to end Japanese sentences with -yo. If it's left out, it's considered very very rude. So, there are bound to be more emotional barriers among non-English speakers. In contrast, there is a DIRECTNESS when one speaks English. It's YOU and I, not USTED and I. Also, age-hiearchy is still big in Asia. In American colleges, professors, upper class men,and underclass men all speak as equals. In other countries, professors are seen sages worthy of great respect.
And Upper classmen expect lower classmen to call them 'big brother' or some shit. Of course, such hiearchies did exist in England too--and even in the 20th century--, but English language(plus the ideal of gentlemanly fair play and irony)probably loosened it up a bit. I can't imagine any Englishman wanting to commit harakiri to preserve his honor.

OTOH, PC and junk culture--mostly from the US--has made fools out of most modern Brits, so I don't know where that country is headed.

Average Joe said...

Sorry guys: for Europe, diversity WAS strength

If by "diversity" you mean different groups of white people interacting with each other then yes it was a strength. Diversity tends to become a weakness when you throw non-whites into the mix.

Anonymous said...

"And yet, it was the Greeks who managed to hold on to their half of the Roman Empire until the 15th century."

But the Byzantine Empire did not contribute anything to science or technology. Neither did the Caliphate of course, but that's the point. By the 1st century AD the Greeks had already lost most of what was special about them, most of what we remember them by.

asdfasdfsadf said...

For the West to really shoot past all the others, it required the bourgeois revolution. In some places, it was violent(France), in some places less violent(Britain), and in some places gradual and slower in coming.

If the Japanese merchant class had gained greater wealth and clout, would the samurai military class have allowed it to eventually usurp the samurai aristocratic power? My guess is NO.

Though the Eurpean aristocratic class could be plenty ruthless, it had been deeply influenced by merciful and morally/spiritually egalitarian Christianity and by humanist values rooted in Greco-Roman tradition.
East Asians were far less 'sentimental' and far more ruthless in maintaining order. They were less idealistic and less worried about sin in the abstract sense. Christianity had gradually tamed the European aristocrats to be true and just and not cut down people just to keep power whereas the Japanese samurai elite was prepared to do just that without losing sleep over it.

Traditional Asian economics ultimately depended on Asian politics, and there was little chance that the merchant or proto-bourgeois classes in Asia could have taken power from the political or military elite. In China and Korea, the political ideology said sage-bureaucrats should rule through big government(and merchants were leeches). In Japan, emperor was the descendant of the gods,and the military class was made up of sacred warriors to guard this great truth. Also, both Chinese and Japanese were convinced that their worlds were aleady the apex of human achievement.

So, even with some indigenous cultural and economic changes, the political order would have remained more or less the same.
Similarly, the merchant class had no chance of taking power from the military class in Ancient Rome.

It took the arrival of Perry's black ships that FORCED Japan to change, but even here, Japan adopted change to not-to-change(to fight off the West). But Western influence and power were such that Japan couldn't help but change. It's like if a vegetarian eats meat to grow stronger to fight off bigger meat-eaters, he too becomes a meat-eater even if he'd intended to eat meat only temporarily to defend his vegetarian self.

Wandrin said...

I think they *could* have but i don't think they would have.

Extreme conservatism is in the interest of a landed elite unless it is threatened from outside.

The Japanese elite didn't need to take off because the technological threat from Korea and China wasn't there. As soon as that threat arrived they took off.

The European landed elites had that threat all the time.

Jay said...

"Because the rulers of Japan were the militarist samurai, things were kinda inverted. And since samurai depended on the merchant class to serve as middlemen between themselves and peasants, merchants were far more valued and respected in Japan, which is why Japanese 'business culture' advanced more than in Korea or China where merchants got little cultural respect. "

Actually, merchants were also treated like dregs of society in Japan, just like in China. In both these social orders, merchants were consistently the fourth and least respected class.

But I think what happened was that the demobilized Samurais got into this trade game when they were pensioned off, and it was these Samurais, not the traders, who used their government connections (and their sizable government pensions) to build national champions such as Mitsubishi. So, in a way, Japan always had a sort of state-directed mercantilist economic system which relied on war, conquest, and good relations with America, not trade, to attain the raw material necessary to sustain its military-state champions complex.

Traders only became more respected when the old mercantile system was dismantled by the victorious Americans, who did not want a military elite running a powerful war machine, and the state-directed production was instead shifted into making knick-knacks for the American market. But I get the feeling that these traders only got this much respect because they were essentially Samurai playing the role of traders. For instance, the salarymen of today still feel more like the retained Samurai of old, instead of free-wheeling Capitalist traders. Being a job-hopping Ronin is still highly frowned upon.

Bob said...

"Western Christendom was the only old-world civilization to escape conquest by nomads in the period 1000-1500. Geographical good fortune: too far west for the nomads to reach, with a buffer in Eastern Christendom, which WAS conquered.

My theory is that the other civilizations were permanently changed by their experience of conquest, even if they later threw off or assimilated their conquerors."

Foreign conquest is certainly very bad for a people.

There are a number of interesting papers by economic historians who attempt to quantify just how much damage European conquest had on various countries.

The conclusion is that India and China probably suffered the worst. The data Indian cloth production and exports shows that it fell by more than 90% as a result of colonization, despite the cheap labor and local cotton.

Japan and Thailand were never colonized and are both by far the richest countries in their regions.

The Vietnamese probably have higher IQs than the Thai, but have per capita GDP of 3,000 vs 8,000.

Jay said...

"Average Joe said...

Sorry guys: for Europe, diversity WAS strength

If by "diversity" you mean different groups of white people interacting with each other then yes it was a strength. Diversity tends to become a weakness when you throw non-whites into the mix."

Right, so all those over-achieving East Asians are making America weak?

Bob said...

"By the 1st century AD the Greeks had already lost most of what was special about them, most of what we remember them by."

The Greeks during this period will have to settle for being known for the rather minor achievements of protecting a weak and rapidly depopulating Dark Age Europe from Muslim hordes and bringing Christianity and civilization in general to Russia and much of Eastern Europe.

Doug1 said...

Steve—

This is rather like how the ancient Classical world's accomplishments start to slow down after the peak in the 400s BC.


Great contributions were being made by mathematicians and natural philosopher’s long after 400 BC – some of the greatest in fact. It’s just that Athenian democracy was gone after the 400’s BC. Euclid lived from 323–283 BC; Archimedes from c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC. Things maybe did slow down a bit after that but new contributions were still being made through the first and second century AD in Alexandria among other Greek centers of learning. Heron of Alexandria, c. 10–70 AD, built the first steam engine, admittedly only used as a curiosity, a windwheel powering an organ as the first known use of wind powering machinery, and many other notable inventions and axioms of optics and physics.

Doug1 said...

As for would Japan have invented the industrial revolution if England had not -- I suppose some other society in Europe or NE Asia or the Anglosphere (e.g. the US) would have before too much longer. German, the Netherlands, Belgium, US, Japan. Probably not China - it was at a rather cultural relative low point in the 18th and 19th centuries during the later Manchu dynasty.

Among advanced high IQ nations with resources conducing to textile manufacturing and steam power, England hand more free trade and friendliness to large scale private capitalism than most any other country, save the US.

dsfadadsfadf said...

For whatever reasons, the West came up with the concept of RIGHTS, which the East did not. East came up with the idea of right-and-wrong and rightfulness but not the concept of rights as in individual rights, human rights, property rights, etc.

Why did this happen in the West? Perhaps due to a more rational way of thinking derived from Greek philosophy? Perhaps due to Christianity where God was the almighty and even kings had to bow down before him. Since each
soul--no matter how poor or
humble--was equal under God, each person was perceived to possess certain 'rights'--right to be treated like the child of God.

Of course, human rights or equal rights took a long time to develop. The first evolution or revolution in rights was elitist. Vassals and noblemen gained rights which kings could not take away. Partly, this was political, a compromise between kings and his noble subjects since kings were far from all-powerful. Even so, ideas of rights didn't develop in Japan even though the feudal rulers of Japan weren't all powerful either and indeed depended on the loyalty and cooperation of their 'vassals'. Confucianism and militarism morally and idealistically stressed loyalty to the lord than allowed a more reciprocal relation that developed in the West. (This could be partly racial since East Asians naturally tend to be more 'slavish' and kow-towish). In Poland, the noblemen elected kings. In England, some kings even got killed for challenging rights of noblemen. And American Revolution happened George III 'violated' the rights of American elite class.

Though the vast majority of Europeans didn't have much in the way of rights until relatively recently, the fact that the elite noblemen had certain rights--Godgiven or righteous--that couldn't be taken away was a big revolution in cultural, moral, and political thought. Though the noblemen wanted to keep these rights--'privileges' by today's standards--to themselves, the concept was bound to spread(just like freedom for whites was bound to lead to freedom for black slaves in America, and just as suffrage for men were bound to spread to women; all things start small and spread out, but they have to start somewhere.)
Since noblemen had rights, the rising bourgeoisie also wanted these rights or legal protections from arbitrary power. And then this idea spread to the proles and other people, and eventually it turned into the idea of 'human rights', 'civil rights', 'equal rights'... though it has recently spawned some ridiculous 'rights' such as 'the right to go to college'.

Though the elites of feudal Japan also enjoyed privelges, these were not formulated into RIGHTS. If the higher-ups decided to arbitarily to take away the freedom, property, and life of lesser elites, that was that. What mattered more than rights was loyalty. Since even the samurai elites didn't have clearly defined legal rights, there was little chance of the Japanese merchant class gaining political, civil, or property rights. They could do well and get rich, but there was no legal guarantee for their wealth--just like the Cuban or North Korean regime can shut down limited local markets and grab all the loot anytime it chooses on a whim.

And without such guarantees, the merchant class couldn't have risen to the level of challenging the power of the feudal elite in Japan.

Also, without rule of law which makes rights possible, rich businessmen could unfairly destroy other businessmen--like mafia goons in Sicily--and that aint good for capitalism either.

Anonymous said...

As usual, the Bible-thumpers put the cart before the horse. Western Europeans changed Christianity to suit their purposes; Christianity did not cause the scientific and industrial revolutions. Christianity outside of Western Europe did not encourage the kinds of unsettling inquiries and changes that were tolerated in Western Europe. Therefore the thing that is different about Western Europe isn't Christianity, and saying that it was "Western Christianity" or "Roman Catholic Christianity" or "Protestant Christianity" simply ignores the point that those were all forms of Christianity that were radically changed by Western European Culture.

You people are also grossly uninformed about or biased against the facts of scientific achievements outside of Western Europe. The Caliphate did promote science and for a time was the world leader in science and learning; the Islamic World improved on Greek, Persian and Indian learning and contributed their own achievements (the oldest recorded use of the scientific experimental method is Islamic - there was probably an older Greek equivalent, but if it existed no record of it survives). Similarly we ignore the accomplishments of the Indian civilization in math and metallurgy - ancient India was producing extremely large cast iron pieces (including cast iron roof beams of large temples) long thought only possible after the Industrial Revolution using modern techniques. Pre-1500 AD China looked poised to have its own Industrial Revolution.

What made the difference wasn't religion, it was these cultures refusal to open up and let new ideas flourish. It wasn't Christianity per se that made the West different: it was, relatively speaking, the West's relative lack of religious conservatism - its willingness to not immediately squash new ideas on the basis of religious orthodoxy or cultural conservatism. It also helped that the West was fragmented into many competing nations and governments, so dissenters could flee elsewhere when the local reactionaries grew too intolerant. Thus the West progressed in spite of local setbacks where religious conservatives or political reactionaries attempted to set the clock back.

Thus modern science in the West may have been started by the Church, but it inevitably undermined the power of the Church and resulted in the secular situation we have today. Religious conservatives today who point to the religious origins of Western science completely miss this point: you can't have your cake and eat it too. If you take credit for a Western Christianity willing to foster a science which questions everything and which uses Nature, not Revelation, as the ultimate arbiter of truth, than you can't complain when this process usurps the claims of your religion to ultimate authority.

Well, you can complain about it, but you look like a rather unintelligent hypocrite and special-pleader in doing so.

georgesdelatour said...

"Foreign conquest is certainly very bad for a people.

Japan and Thailand were never colonized and are both by far the richest countries in their regions."

Bob, I don't think the colonialism argument really works. For one thing, Britain's longest held colonial possession in India was Bombay/Mumbai, which is India's commercial hub. Nowadays the rest of India is copying it. Ditto Hong Kong and China.

After Japan, South Korea is one of Asia's great success stories. Korea was ruthlessly exploited as a Japanese colony for some time. At the end of the Korean War, South Korea was officially poorer than newly independent India. Now it's much richer.

All the ASEAN countries except Thailand are ex-colonies, and they have all shown impressive growth for some time. Singapore was apparently the direct inspiration for Deng Xiaoping's modernisation program for China.

How about this theory? It's often smaller political units that succeed first. The Greek city states, the Venetian Republic, England, Japan, South Korea. The giant continental states are much harder to manoeuvre. The 19th century USA is just about the only example I can think of where a giant continental state modernised ahead of the pack, and there are obvious reasons why this might have been exceptional.

India and China are succeeding now because they've been pursuing policies since the late 1980s that they could have pursued since the end of WW2 - policies Singapore, South Korea etc pursued much earlier.

Anonymous said...

Actually, England in the 18th century was basically a racket run for the benefit of the rich, and in which the poor were treated with the uttmost brutality.
It might surprise some correspondents here, but England excelled virtually every eastern nation in the brutality and severity of punishments for crimes against property.
Over 200 crimes were punishable by death in England.These included stealing a few shillings worth of property, poaching a deer, unauthorised felling of trees, counerfeiting, stealing a horse etc etc.The penalty was not usually commuted but executed.
The muslims merely amputated a hand for theft, the English hanged the thief.

M said...

Japan and Thailand were never colonized and are both by far the richest countries in their regions.

Except for Singapore. Generally I think it is a truism that colonisers wanted and could colonise places with rich cities and ports and weak, poor and fractious hinterlands from which to raise armies (and which posed enough a threat to the cities and ports that those cities and ports would accept being annexed in exchange for security). So this is what colonised countries look like, although in many countries postcolonial forces have ravaged the colonial centres, leaving only places like Singapore and Hong Kong to truly exemplify the trend.

Eugene said...

If you want to understand Japan and the Japanese, grasp this fact first: Japan is a nation of introverts. Its culture and even the grammatical structure of the language reinforce that introversion on a daily basis. Though as the last century of Japanese history makes clear, introverts can instigate a lot of "change" once all their avoidance mechanisms have been frustrated, especially when surrounded by a bunch of annoying extroverts. You just won't see it coming. So set your passive-aggressive detectors to high (and get off my lawn!).

Anonymous said...

I think it's plausible that the Japanese advantage over Han Chinese and that the Anglo advantage over scandanavians is geographic rather than due to biodiversity.

Hopefully Anonymous

http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com

gwood said...

"The Vietnamese probably have higher IQs than the Thai, but have per capita GDP of 3,000 vs 8,000."

The fact that the Vietnamese are communists probably has something to do with it.

"The Great Wall of China proves that the Chinese didn't invent gunpowder."

The Chinese did invent gunpowder. They just never invented big cannons.

neil craig said...

I'm not convinced that China was in long term decline before we got there. The voyages of Cheng Ho around the Indian ocean are comparable to those of da gama or even Columbus & took place up to the 1430s. That is only 60 years before Columbus which is not really long enough to say it was a cultural trend rather than a dynastic decision.

However& perhaps contrarily I hold up the reason both China & Japan stalled is largely because of having a unified government, as Europe didn't. An example of the effect of this is that it was possible for Japan to deliberately regress by getting rid of cannon. They did this by firstly insisting all cannon makers move to the capital & after that had been done, gradually reducing the number of cannon makers, while enobling them into the aristocracy. A subtle & successful tactic but one which would not have worked if there were an outlying province/country where the Emperor's writ didn't run. They woul simply have kept the guns and won the next war. Compare this with numeropus medieval wuropean attempts to ban the crossbow (the nobles didn't like commoners having an ungentlemany weapon). It didn't work because Europe wasn't united.

My guess is that if either China or Japan had not, for reasons of national pride, been able to prevent their citizens adopting western technology, particularly shipbuilding, they would have caught up with europe. Though they would have remained somewhat excluded from the European world by both distance & language - The conflict, for example, between Newton & Liebnitz suprred both.

National pride can be a dreadful problem as much of the islamic world demonstrates. Japan is the one nation to have 3 times demonstrated the ability to absorb & learn from another culture (ancient China, the Europeanised world after Commodre Perry & the USA after 1945).

Mike said...

This subject has been explored and explained in Rodney Stark's Victory of Reason.

Dan Kurt said...

re:"...I was genuinely surprised to find that the Asian, especially East Asian, contributions were not greater. This represents by far the most challenging issue to explain for those who believe in IQ as an important variable.
-snip-
The Japanese contributions to the sciences since the mid-1900s are respectable, but not more than that if you take into account the fact that they constitute more than one hundred million wealthy people with perhaps the highest mean IQ of any nation worldwide." Fjordman

Mean IQ is a term that essentially is meaningless in this context. The Standard Deviation of the Mean IQ is needed to give context to that mean. White males have a wide SD at 16 while other groups have smaller SDs. The wide SD of white males throws some white males into the 5 to 6 sigma range of 165 to 180 IQ especially if the white male IQ mean is circa 105 rather than 100. Other groups with SDs of 12 or lower will not produce their 5 to 6 sigmas at such stratospheric IQs. See: Chapter 10 in The Scientific Study of General Intelligence, ISBN-10: 0080437931 as an example.

Dan Kurt

Dutch Boy said...

Machines and machine tools can't be made without access to coal and iron ore. Coal and iron deposits were close together in Britain which minimized transportation costs. Countries without proximate coal and iron ore deposits were slower to industrialize (e.g., Germany and France). Japan lacks significant deposits of either and was dependent on imports to industrialize.

Jay said...

"Doug1 said...

As for would Japan have invented the industrial revolution if England had not -- I suppose some other society in Europe or NE Asia or the Anglosphere (e.g. the US) would have before too much longer. German, the Netherlands, Belgium, US, Japan. Probably not China - it was at a rather cultural relative low point in the 18th and 19th centuries during the later Manchu dynasty. "

Well, I wouldn't call it a "cultural" low point. Maybe a societal low point, since the Chinese culture did take the pre-industrial agrarian society further than any other country in the world, so the culture, was in fact, quite advanced for an isolationist society living in peace. But it was this peace and stability that facilitated the massive explosion in population to 400 million, that brought the agrarian society to a standstill, since the land was so subdivided that individual nuclear families could no longer feed themselves. The culture was not at a relative low point. It was very sufficient in providing for the peace and stability. The Confucian social elite just never made the connection between trade and industrialization.

Templar said...

But if conservatism gains too much power and enforces its middlebrow or whitebread values on smart people--like Catholic Church did with Galileo--, it can be stifling and stultifying.

Congratulations, you just pulled off a perfect combo of casual anti-white racism and historical ignorance.

Svigor said...

Jay's right about merchants being below peasants in status AFAIK. The thinking being, peasants are a resource, but merchants are just parasites/middlemen. More money, but lower status. You see this in feudal Europe, too. Basically, the nobility "owned" the peasantry, so they were part of the ingroup, whereas the merchants were outside the nobility/peasantry "circle of life" and thus looked down upon. Plus their upward mobility threatened the nobility, so granting the peasantry social status was a way for the nobility to fight back against that upward mobility.

Echoes of modernity there.

Svigor said...

This must be some sort of not so subtle appeal to authority

What's telling to me about these posters is that they never express the first bit of concern about the damage assumed equality is doing to my group (damage HBD can begin to correct), but they figure I should worry about the damage the truth will do to some other group. I think they know what they can go do; it involves certain anatomical impossibilities.

Again, if liberals and the groups in question are so sensitive, they should've thought twice before blaming all their failings on me and mine. Too late to go back now.

Svigor said...

Anonymous dsfadadsfadf said...

For whatever reasons, the West came up with the concept of RIGHTS, which the East did not. East came up with the idea of right-and-wrong and rightfulness but not the concept of rights as in individual rights, human rights, property rights, etc.


This whole comment screams "individualism" for an answer. Euros just don't sit as easily under authority as Asians. You do more of your own thinking, you can innovate, demand rights, etc. You accept more authority, you have a harder time innovating or winning rights.

Anyone who's had kids knows these things aren't just nurture.

Svigor said...

This represents by far the most challenging issue to explain for those who believe in IQ as the only important variable.

FTFY. IQ is important, but so is much else in the behavioral suite.

Jonathan said...

I was surprised by the comment about Classical civilization supposedly peaking in the 5th century BC. It is true that there is a long tradition in the West of idolizing the Age of Pericles, and certainly in the 5th century the city of Athens was a model not only for efficient and representative government, but also for cultural achievement.

However, no one can devote even a small amount of study to the Augustan Roman period and not come away with the same evaluation of Imperial Rome in the 1st century AD. For cultural achievement, you have Virgil, Horace, Propertius, with Cicero not long preceding and Ovid not long following. You have fantastic achievements in architecture and engineering. You have highly advanced administration, coupled with a sophisticated concept of citizenship and the rule of law. This administration, moreover, was maintained over a vast area, and in the face of threats of rebellion and invasion in many districts.

Talk of the decline of Classical Civilization typically reveals more about the biases of the one making the claim than it does about any historical reality or objective measure of "decline and fall". Those who worship the "Greek" achievement inevitably say it all went downhill after the execution of Socrates. Those, like Edward Gibbon, who venerate pagan Rome, naturally identify the end with the edict of toleration of Christianity.

My own biases are in favor of Eastern Christianity, so of course I would say "classical civilization" ended finally in 1453, although I would be fully prepared to cite 1204 (the Fourth Crusade and conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders, leading to the permanent weakening of the Eastern Roman state), or perhaps even 1071 (the battle of Manzikert, where the Seljuk Turks conquered Anatolia and permanently destroyed Byzantine hopes of regaining control of the East, and which also precipitated the Crusades that would themselves prove disastrous for New Rome). On the other hand, I would be prepared to concede that "classical civilization" continued long after 1453 in the form of the Russian Empire, the "Third Rome", and that here we only really can talk of the End with the final annihilation of that state in 1917.

Svigor said...

Jay vs. Average Joe seems like a non-argument. Nobody today means "a patchwork of sovereign peoples," they mean "mixing everyone together within formerly European territories."

Anonymous said...

"My own biases are in favor of Eastern Christianity, so of course I would say "classical civilization" ended finally in 1453..."

That's not what the word "classical" means to most of the people who use it in the historical context. Arguments about semantics are boring, I know, so I'll just try to explain why I think that something very important (I call it classical civilization, you don't, but that's just words) peaked during the century or two after Alexander the Great and completely died by the 5th century AD.

It's known that the old libraries of antiquity (the Alexandrian library being he most famous) contained hundreds of thousands of titles. If you collect all the pagan Greco-Roman literature that's survived to our days, you'll only fill several hundred volumes. 99.9% of pagan Greco-Roman literature is gone forever.

It's been determined that it was already gone by the 5th century because 5th century authors tend to mostly quote the stuff we have now, while earlier authors mostly quoted stuff that has not come down to us.

It's important to note that the stuff that has survived is not representative of what the ancients considered important or of what modern historians would consider important. Works by Archemedes, Aristotle, Livy, etc. have been lost. It seems that the stuff that's survived did so more by accident than because anyone wanted it to survive.

And the production of highly original material slowed down long before the 5th century. Basically, there was a gradual decline in quality starting in the last centuries BC, and then a clean break in the late 4th and 5th centuries AD, after which old culture wasn't just ignored, but was actively stamped out. There's no way to avoid thinking about what happened as a clean break.

Anonymous said...

Dan Kurt -- which groups have IQ SD of 12?

All the data I have seen suggests E Asian IQ SD is the same as for Euros.

http://inductivist.blogspot.com/search/label/East%20Asians

"Using GSS data, I combined Chinese and Japanese Americans (only those born in this country) and got a standard deviation (SD) of 2.04 across 50 respondents. For whites born in the country, the SD is 2.08--not different, basically. SD tends to increase along with higher means, so if we take that into account by using the coefficient of variation (CV), we get .30 for Asians and .33 for whites. No difference, or a trivial difference at best."

See also:
http://infoproc.blogspot.com/.../asian-white-iq-variance-from-pisa.html

Anonymous said...

Dan Kurt

There's plenty of evidence to suggest that Europeans are under-represented in the high IQ category relative to East Asians. East Asian Americans are disproportionately over-represented in every elite high IQ competition in the United States, such as the International Mathematics Olympiad, the International Physics Olympiad, etc, often by a factor of 10-20x.

See here.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/national/10math_report.pdf

"Analysis of the USA and Canadian boy participants
led to a similar conclusion: Asian and ethnic Jewish
boys were approximately ten- to twenty-fold more
likely to become IMO participants than other non-
Hispanic white boys."

And the evidence suggests that East Asian Americans are roughly as smart as East Asians on average. That means that there's no strong selection effect. If anything, it appears that Euros are vastly under-represented in the high IQ category relative to East Asians.

Silver said...

In contrast, there is a DIRECTNESS when one speaks English. It's YOU and I, not USTED

Actually, "you" (nominative "ye") is the plural/polite form of "thou."

Anonymous said...

Japan was actually *abandoning* labor-saving technology during this period. See Chapter 6 of Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist (a good read, IMO).

Dan Kurt said...

re: "All the data I have seen suggests E Asian IQ SD is the same as for Euros." Anonymous

Yes all people are the same. Men and women are identical. There is no such thing as human bio-diversity. Happy now?

A serious answer to your question would be that a concerted effort has exerted to deny such differences in SD between races just as have been claimed that NO iQ differences exist between races.

Some data can be found on both sides of the SD question to bolster the arguments. It depends upon who you read and trust. In this it is similar to the topic of Human Caused Global Warming.


re: Two URLS that were given in post were DEAD giving these returns:

1) Inductivist
Moved by data, not doctrine.
No posts with label East As.

and,

2) Page not found
Sorry, the page you were looking for in the blog Information Processing does not exist.

Please learn how to post URLs on Blogger. Start with TinyURL.com.

Please don't use Anonymous. Identify yourself at the end of your post with a Handle, name or nickname. Have the courage to identify yourself so one can follow your posts.

Dan Kurt

JSM said...

"Right, so all those over-achieving East Asians are making America weak?"

Yeah, from doing stuff like spying, industrial and military, and taking our manufacturing, including the spare parts for our war machines. Also, building satellite-killer weapons.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea why you're so hostile Dan. None of the data I've seen suggests that East Asians have a lower SD than whites, though I have seen some data suggesting that blacks have a lower SD than whites, in addition to having a lower average.

Furthermore, if you examine elite high IQ competitions in the United States, East Asian Americans and Jewish Americans are disproportionately over-represented relative to European Americans, and there's no evidence that East Asian Americans are significantly smarter than East Asians in general.

Melykin said...

Anonymous wrote
"The muslims merely amputated a hand for theft, the English hanged the thief."
==========================

However, England no longer hangs thiefs, or anyone else while Muslims, frozen in time, continue to amputate hands, etc.

Alat said...

Steve,

David Landes in his "Wealth and Poverty of Nations" makes a convincing (to me) case that, because of its social structure, Japan would have gotten to the industrial revolution in a few decades even if Perry had never arrived. I read the book many years ago, so I won't attempt to summarize the argument, but you should check Landes's book - it is old enough now to be cheap, and it illuminates many other interesting questions too.

I haven't read the comments, so I don't know if someone else has already suggested Landes.

Matt said...

there's no evidence that East Asian Americans are significantly smarter than East Asians in general.

Seems like there's a lot of evidence they're more high achieving however... which is really what we're interested in here.

georgesdelatour said...

"The muslims merely amputated a hand for theft, the English hanged the thief."

English punishments were harsh back then. I suspect it's partly evidence of a low conviction rate. Also, the culture romanticised outlaws (Robin Hood, Dick Turpin, English pirates etc). So there was more emphasis on making an example of those the authorities did manage to catch.

Later on there was transportation, first to America, then, more famously, to Australia. That was tough, but probably better than amputation.

Matt said...

"re: Two URLS that were given in post were DEAD giving these returns:

1) Inductivist
Moved by data, not doctrine.
No posts with label East As."

This is the Inductivist link you are looking for:

http://inductivist.blogspot.com/search/label/East%20Asians

"Using GSS data, I combined Chinese and Japanese Americans (only those born in this country) and got a standard deviation (SD) of 2.04 across 50 respondents. For whites born in the country, the SD is 2.08--not different, basically. SD tends to increase along with higher means, so if we take that into account by using the coefficient of variation (CV), we get .30 for Asians and .33 for whites. No difference, or a trivial difference at best."

....

I'm sympathetic to HBD but I would be interested if anyone could explain why IQ variation does not change with genetic variation. I would guess it would be mainly because IQ sensitive genes (which give rise to the variation) are under strong selection and so don't change with normal loss of genetic information (due to serial bottlenecks). This might also explain why hybrid groups don't have more IQ variation?

Matt said...

By the way, if anyone's interested in the Roman/Classical period specifically, here's a pdf relating to a comparative study of the Roman and Chinese Empires, which purports some extent to explain the difference between their formation and decline (amongst other things).

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=ABUV07YH

To me some of the difference it expresses seems to be that the Chinese Empire formed during a period of interstate warfare by closely related ethnic groups with little room for expansion, so they responded by rationalising their war machine and government, giving them a "strong" central government (somewhat akin to the wars of the European early modern period, only without a hegemon ultimately emerging in that case), whereas the Roman Empire, rather than rationalising its structures seems to have continually expanded citizenship rights outside its polis, in order to gain allies and "outsize" its more ethnically foreign rival (Carthage). Perhaps an eerie echo of the modern West and the problems with our "advanced" conception of citizenship and rights? Although it seems like its rights (property rights at least) which can lay some of the claim as to why we are rich.

It would be interesting to integrate this with Peter Frost's theory of genetic pacification in the Roman Empire and with other HBD insights:

http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP08376389.pdf

and with Peter Turchin's "mega empires" theory (i.e. empires form primarily to protect against and in proximity to the steppe, where horse nomads live and secondarily to protect against other empires; because the locus of organised steppe nomads shifted to north east asia, imperial continuity was strongest there)

http://tinyurl.com/38lxtqe

asdfsdfsaf said...

Many Asian geeks may have higher IQs but white guys have bigger balls. Asians are better at and more comfortable with fitting into systems that's already been established(this goes for Mexicans of Indian descent as well, who can work hard under the gringo-made system but less able to create their own enterprises)whereas whites are more likely to venture into the unknown territory for the excitement and thrill.
Asians, being smarter than Mexicans, tend to achieve more, but most of what they've done in the past 100 yrs were taken from the West--science, technology, political ideas, etc.

Brains vs balls, it makes a difference. Zhou Enlai was smarter than Mao Zedong but the latter became the top ruler. Why? Bigger balls. Speer was smarter than Hitler, but Hitler ran Germany. Why? Bigger balls.
Many Jews under Stalin were smarter, but Stalin had the bigger balls and ruled USSR.

Man is half-carnivore, half-herbivore, and herbivores follow carnivores. Carnivores are better at grabbing power, herbivores are better at maintaining power for the long haul. Carnivores are better explorers, herbivores are better followers and settlers.

Jews have an advantage since they have both carnivore and herbivore traits. As carnivores, they are more sly and adaptive--more like the crafty and cautious weasel than a lion or bear. As herbivores, they have better good nomadic instincts for navigation and settling in pastures where the grass is green.

Anglo-entrepreneur vs Jewish entrepreneur. In the long run, the latter will win, as demonstrated in the film EUREKA by Nicholas Roeg. Anglo-adventurer seeks glory and excitement, but upon finding them, he grows weary, bored, and lost; decadent. The Jews, with 1000s of yrs of survival under all sorts of environments, have the sly and ruthless mentality and traits that enable them to never lose their focus on power even after the thrill is gone.
Anglos are for power and money FOR something(beauty, glory, fame, thrills)whereas Jews are for power and money for power and money.

Of course, if the balls are too big, things get too wild and funky, and leads only to social chaos. Al Sharpton has big balls but it's like his hormones dominate every aspect of his thinking and behavior.

Anonymous said...

"I'm sympathetic to HBD but I would be interested if anyone could explain why IQ variation does not change with genetic variation."

I was under the impression that the Finns, genetically less variable, have significantly lower IQ standard deviation than usual. Opposite with the Italians.

Matt said...

I was under the impression that the Finns, genetically less variable, have significantly lower IQ standard deviation than usual. Opposite with the Italians.

http://tinyurl.com/33n3zmt - seems to show a slight North to South decline in IQ diversity, on average, but in this sample at least people claiming Scottish, Polish and English descent all have higher diversity than Italians and Black people (all of these people are Americans however). This is just a GSS analysis though.

Plus, the pithole of diversity between Italians and North Europeans is rather smaller than the chasm of genetic diversity between Europeans and Africans. And even North Europeans (though I'm not sure if this includes Finns) have higher genetic diversity than Chinese/Japanewse afaict (see any genetic sample that compares CEU to Han and JPT). So it would seem even odder to me that this genetic diversity (North vs South Euro) showed a signal while larger diversity gaps didn't.

I know there's a theory (which I think may lay its origins with Dienekes Pontikos) that Northern countries may exhibit less IQ diversity due to the lesser complexity of society over time, so less niches for people with different IQs, but I can't remember seeing any evidence that variation is lower.

scaff said...

"The muslims merely amputated a hand for theft, the English hanged the thief."

The "muslims" (read "middle east and India" were doing a lot more to people than amputating hands); they were famous for their inventiveness in the ways of torture. Dracul the Impaler spent his youth among the Turks as a captive. He learned the impaling from them, though there may have been indigenous inventors.
"Don't be such a Turk to me" was a synonym for "don't be cruel to me," that shows up in novels until the 20th century.
I used to think the British laws were draconian, but actually it depended on the judge and relatively few death sentences were actually carried out--the authorities preferred to practice deportation. I don't have stats but I'm talking about the 18th century, from the early period on. In fact, in the 1700s, ordinary people starting complaining about executions occurring too near residences and public places, causing great unpleasantness. Even in the late 1500s, the crowds attending a drawing and quartering of a group of "traitors" was so insensed by the sufferings of condemned, that the authorities decided to just hang the remainder of the condemned to death the next day without gory embellishment. Some of the complaints in the 1700s, appearing in newspapers of the day, are pretty hilarious except of course it wasn't really funny. But they read like a Monty Python skit and did much to discourage public executions. Executions were mostly private after the early 1800s.
The British were brutal only by the standards of today. By the standards of the 18th century, they were popularly (meaning by other countries) considered much milder in their punitive measures, even in the military. Thackeray mentions that in Barry Lyndon. My own research has mostly been a morbid study of torture prevalent in central Europe and even fair France. Between them and the "Turks," believe me, the Brits couldn't hold a candle to them.

Svigor said...

And the evidence suggests that East Asian Americans are roughly as smart as East Asians on average. That means that there's no strong selection effect. If anything, it appears that Euros are vastly under-represented in the high IQ category relative to East Asians.

Not so fast. From what I read, the studies of China aren't particularly representative, either. Lots of surveys of rich eastern cities - the rural and interior regions, not so much. So the data held up as evidence against a selection effect could very well show a selection effect.

Doug1 said...

The Chinese did invent gunpowder. They just never invented big cannons.

As a curiosity only - that should probably be called fireworks powder in their hands. They never invented anything useful to do with it. Nor did they invent corning, which greatly increased the explosive power of gunpowder.

Similar things can be said about the Chinese invention of printing - though they did invent paper. When Gutenberg invented movable metal type and mass production printing presses it lead to a revolution in the exchange of ideas in Europe and was an important part of the modern rise of science. Nothing remotely similar happened in China with their block printing non mass production techniques.

A good deal of the touting of the inventions of non Euro civilization post early Mesopotamia and Egypt is boosterism (rather than and even handed relative evaluation) intended to deflate the enormous Euro intellectual contributions of the last 500 years.

Anonymous said...

Dan Kurt: if you were really a high IQ guy you could easily have found those links on inductivist and infoproc by simply searching for sub-strings. But I guess you aren't as interested in investigating the data as you are in expounding your priors.

For instance, just cut and paste the following into Google: "asian-white-iq-variance-from-pisa.html"

Svigor: the PISA and TIMMS data, which are nationally representative, show roughly a half standard deviation difference between euro countries and Japan/S. Korea/Taiwan. That's consistent with what is found for Asian-Americans, and more or less explains their overrepresentation on math and science Olympiads.

ITriedtobeaCynic said...

May I throw in a few points without connecting them:
(1) the advantage of an island isn't isolation. Until the railways water transport was much better than land transport. So an island nation has better internal transport. The sea isn't a defence by itself, but it means you defend yourself with a navy, not an army. Naval and civil shipping was the main motor of technology ans science in the take-off period.

(2) It wasn't "the West" or Western Europe, it was certain countries or regions within Europe. Some European countries never contributed anything, some had their moment and declined. Perhaps England and the Netherlands were the only ones the world couldn't have done without - and it's not a coincidence these two colonised the future United States.
(3) How about luck? The English had several strokes of luck, eg the feudal aristocracy obligingly exterminated themselves in the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century.
(4) As late as 1600, I for one if I'd been a well-informed observer would have bet that Venice rather than England was the nation of the future. So what happened to Venice? They seemed to have it all.
(5) England first got the virtuous cycle going whereby scientific discoveies feed into industrial advance that makes better scientific experiments possible. Is this something to do with the English long-standing lack of interest in philosophy (in the modern restricted sense)? And has the US benefited from inheriting and maintaining this healthy attitude (in spite of the majority of Americans not being of English descent since some point early in the last century)?
(6) Muslim rulers were always very business-friendly. What didn't happen for them was merchant capital moving into manufacture. Why?

Jim said...

Foreign conquest is certainly very bad for a people.

Foreign conquest is not always bad.
The rise of Britain began with the Norman conquest. The former British colony of Singapore is richer than thailand. South Africa is richer than never colonized Ethiopia.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a tough argument to claim that the Netherlands were more indispensible to "the world" than Germany, although both with England are in a different tier than most other Western European countries in their contributions.

Hopefully Anonymous

http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com

bruce said...

A 'conservative' who believes in progress?

Wonders never cease(/sarc)

A better question would be whether the Industrial Revolution etc was of any ultimate benefit to the Japanese people.