Why the West Rules—For Now

Why the West Rules—For Now
Author Ian Morris
Country United States
Language English
Subject Geography, social evolution, history
Published 2010 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Media type Hardcover, Paperback
Pages 768 pages
ISBN 978-0-374-29002-3 (1st edition, hardcover)

Why the West Rules—For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future is a history book by a British historian Ian Morris, published in 2010.


The book compares East and West across the last 15,000 years, arguing that physical geography rather than culture, religion, politics, genetics, or great men explains Western domination of the globe. Morris' Social Development Index considers the amount of energy a civilization can usefully capture, its ability to organize (measured by the size of its largest cities), war-making capability (weapons, troop strength, logistics), and information technology (speed and reach of writing, printing, telecommunication, etc.).

The evidence and statistical methods used in this book are explained in more detail in Social Development,[1] a free eBook, and by the published volume, The Measure of Civilization.

Morris argues that:


The book won several literary awards, including the 2011 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Creative Nonfiction[2] and 2011 GetAbstract International Book Award,[3] and was named as one of the books of the year by Newsweek,[4] Foreign Affairs,[5] Foreign Policy,[6] The New York Times, and a number of other newspapers. It has been translated into 13 languages. The Economist has called it "an important book—one that challenges, stimulates and entertains. Anyone who does not believe there are lessons to be learned from history should start here."[7]

The book has been criticized by the Canadian historical sociologist Ricardo Duchesne for offering a diffuse definition of the West which Morris envisions encompassing not only Europe but all civilizations descending from the Fertile Crescent, including Islam, as well as a propensity to level out fundamental differences between the development of the West and the rest, which disregards the singular role of Europe in shaping the modern world.[8] Morris replied, saying that "despite his review’s length, rather little of it takes on my book’s central thesis", and defending his focus on China.[9] The notion that the Middle East and Europe are in the same system was actually introduced by David Wilkinson in 1987.[10]


  1. Ian Morris (2010). "Social Development" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-05-30.
  2. "The 2011 Literary Award Winners". PEN Center USA. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  3. "getAbstract International Book Award". getAbstract. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  4. "21 Ways to Be Smarter in 2011". Newsweek. January 3, 2011. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  5. "Review: Why the West Rules--For Now" (PDF). Ian Morris's website. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  6. Kedar Pavgi (November 28, 2011). "The Global Thinkers' Book Club". Foreign Policy. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  7. "Global power: On top of the world". The Economist. October 7, 2010. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  8. Ricardo Duchesne. "Review of Why the West Rules — For Now". Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  9. Ian Morris. "Response to Review no. 1091". Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  10. See David Wilkinson, "The Connectedness Criterion and Central Civilization", pp.17-21 of Matthew Melko and Leighton Scott, eds., The Boundaries of Civilizations in Space and Time, University Press of America, 1987, ISBN 0819164925; and Wilkinson, David (Fall 1987). "Central Civilization". Comparative Civilizations Review (17). pp. 31–59.
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