My book Le Secret de l'Occident (1997) extensively referenced in a paper about the causes for the rises and falls of states. The author, Noel Cox, holds a chair in constitutional law at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. The involved section (i.e. paragraph 1.2) is reproduced below. (Shortcut 1), (shortcut 2), (shortcut 3).
(Noel Cox: "The rise and fall of states: some constitutional modelling", ExpressO (2008), published on his personal website, p.12-15).

Safety copy: Aug 2010. Document PDF. Source.
The Secret of the West

The rise and fall of states: some constitutional modelling

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1.2 The rise and fall of civilisations – some theoretical explanations

       Let us first return briefly to the consideration of environmental factors upon the economic growth of civilisations. That group of scholars which emphasised the pivotal influence of geography may be typified by McNeill (9) He argued that the West’s growth was due to its resource base and to political competition that encouraged innovation. The latter variable may be seen as institutional – at least to some degree – but the former is explicitly environmental. In a similar vein Jones noted that the mountain chains and marshes of Europe formed barriers that prevented a single dominant state from evolving (10). In the absence of this dominance a dynamic tension was created, between relatively evenly matched states, which encouraged the creation and dissemination of ideas, competition (both state and individual, with all levels between).
       Diamond also emphasised geography, especially the abundant rainfall and the favourable effects of an indented coastline and high mountains on political evolution (11). The rainfall allowed and encouraged stable and reliable settled agriculture, which in turn led to the establishment of settled communities. The coastline provided numerous opportunities for the establishment of cities and towns based upon commerce. The high mountains created natural barriers, carving up the continent into conveniently-sized pieces, each of which evolved into a stable political entity. It might be argued that the rainfall and coastline argument goes some way to explaining the development of civilisation in its earliest stages, but that it does not go far enough to explaining the modern success of the European states. It could however be argued that the agricultural stability, and coastal trade, allowed the states that had developed between the mountain chains to maintain and preserve their independence into modern times, and so allowed then to benefit from the dynamic tension of the intellectual revolutions from the twelfth century onwards.
       Landes also laid much emphasis upon Europe’s temperate climate, which allowed the population to accumulate a surplus above a subsistence level (12). In contrast China’s environmental conditions allowed generally stable peasant agriculture that was characterised by plenty in good times (that did not encourage the pursuit of surplus and so the development of a strong middle class), but destructive and destabilising famine in bad years. But he also promoted a cultural hypothesis, which might be characterised as a belief that the defining element in Western growth and development was a more dynamic European culture (13).
       This ‘environmental’ argument assumed that one culture might be more dynamic than another. This could be explained as being the result of a permanent state of imbalance (dynamic tension), or it might reflect the greater dynamism of an evolving culture – such as Europe’s was from the end of the Dark Ages. This latter argument would help explain why the Crusades from the twelfth century onwards proved to be of such a lasting benefit to Europe. Not only was lost classical and all but lost Greek knowledge re-acquired, along with the newer Islamic learning, but the innovation and rapid growth that this engendered – and the evolution of modern states brought about by the political and military aspects of the Crusades – led to an intellectual blossoming in Western Europe, a challenging of received knowledge generally.

9 William McNeill, The Rise of the West (Chicago, 1963), p. 114.
10 Eric L. Jones, The European Miracle: Environments, Economies, and Geopolitics in the History of Europe and Asia (2nd ed., Cambridge, 1987), p. 226; The Record of Global Economic Development (Cheltenham, 2002).
11 Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (London, 1997), pp. 409-12.
12 David S. Landes, The wealth and poverty of Nations: why some are so rich and some so poor (New York, 1998).
13 David S. Landes, The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present (Cambridge, 1969); Revolution in Time – Clocks and the making of the Modern World (New York, 1983).


       To Landes, and others who emphasised environmental factors, this dynamic evolution was due, at least in part, to the physical environment of Europe. The existence of plentiful and reliable rainfall could scarcely be enough, however, as the key element that led to the development of this region, for parts of the tropics enjoyed much higher rainfall, but never developed significant civilisations. To the environmentalist this too could be accounted for, being the result of excessively high temperatures (with an enervating effect on the human inhabitants, and the discouragement of complex clothing- and house-making), or an overabundance of natural resources (with a similar effect).
       Water is an importance element in the human condition, whether it is rainfall or not (and reliable), as well as the shape of the coastline (allowing safe harbours for ships), and the existence of rivers, allowing for inland navigation, irrigation, or providing a reliable water supply (and also sewerage system). Water was especially important in the thinking of Wittfogel. His hydraulic hypothesis contends that despotic governments often arose around rivers, as in ancient Egypt, China, and Mesopotamia. For him the presence – or indeed absence – of water was the single most important element in the development of the state. He developed the theory that the state arose when villages joined together to develop common irrigation projects (not necessarily due to free choice, but rather out of necessity, due to the physical environment). This co-operation, in Wittfogel’s mode, greatly improved the productivity of agriculture (14). But the next step, according to Wittfogel, was less beneficial. Once the state came into being as a means of developing irrigation (and it might be questioned how the co-operation of a group of villages can constitute a state), it soon inherently applied its bureaucracy to oppressive purposes (15). In fact, according to Wittfogel, what he termed an hydraulic state will cease appropriating only when the marginal cost of further administrative control begins to exceed the marginal revenue to those benefiting from state action (16). This is fundamentally a technology-driven model of the state (17).
       While this model might be of particular relevance to more primordial and less sophisticated states than are found today, it nevertheless illustrates the dependence of states on their physical environment (18). He correctly identified centralised bureaucratic empire in China as inhibiting Chinese science, technology and economic development. But his central premise did not give sufficient weight to the fact that Chinese water management was mostly small-scale and local. Nor can this hypothesis explain the recent relative backwardness of Eastern Europe, or the success (albeit relatively short-term), of the Hittite empire, whose

14 He wrote that:
In a landscape characterised by full aridity permanent agriculture becomes possible only if and when coordinated human action transfers a plentiful and accessible water supply from its original location to a potentially fertile soil. When this is done, government-led hydraulic enterprise is identical with the creation of agricultural life. This first and crucial moment may therefore be designated as the ‘administrative creation point.’ – Karl A. Wittfogel, Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power (New Haven, 1957), p. 109.
15 Ibid., pp. 126–36.
16 Wittfogel wrote that:
The power of the hydraulic despotism is unchecked (‘total’), but it does not operate everywhere. The life of most individuals is far from being completely controlled by the state; and there are many villages and other corporate units that are not totally controlled either. What keeps despotic power from asserting its authority in spheres of life? Modifying a key formula of classical economics, we may say that the representatives of the hydraulic regime act (or refrain from acting) in response to the law of diminishing administrative returns. – Ibid., pp. 108–9. In Roman times whole districts were laid waste by the depredation of the tax collectors. See, generally, Jean Andreau, Banking and business in the Roman world, trans. Janet Lloyd (Cambridge, 1999).
17 For more on this argument, see Noel Cox, Technology and Legal Systems (Aldershot, 2006).
18 Karl A. Wittfogel, Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power (New Haven, 1957).


capital Hattusa was largely devoid of natural water (19). But he correctly saw Latin America and Russia as failing due to the existence of large landowners or the concentration of land ownership, and the tradition of authoritarian governments, and the failure of the merchant class to develop fully. He did not, however, explore the causes of these factors.
       Finally, in a small selection of advocates for this approach, Pomeranz focused upon the stocks of coal, and access to the resources of the Americas (20). For him, the economic explosion in Europe from the fifteenth century was due to the availability of these new resources. This however fails to explain the subsequent development of intellectual ideas and industrialisation in the United Kingdom, which did not obtain those resources, and the relative decline of Spain and Portugal, which did. The latter has, of course, been blamed on the sheer richness of the new continent – Spain collapse amid an embarrassment of riches. But is has also been ascribed to the political or religious conditions of the peninsula.
       The second group among the rising/declining civilisations theorists gave pre-eminence to institutions, particularly what they saw as economic institutions. North argued that the structure of a society’s political and economic institutions determines the performance of its economy and its rate of technological change. This is because institutions define the degree to which property rights are protected and contracts enforced – the cost of transactions, or the transactional cost (21). This can be seen as primarily an economic model.
       Josselin and Marciano suggested that by constraining the growth of the public sector, a country’s legal system can and probably will have a considerable impact on its development (22). This could be described as the ‘arteriosclerosis’ argument, though the constraint is not necessarily unconscious; it may be the result of deliberate and conscious choice. However, the greater the degree of freedom of choice, the greater the likelihood that this choice will lead to innovations. Conversely, if little choice is offered, by a stifling legal code, or archaic and inefficient administrative procedures or political apparatus, there is little incentive for innovation. Innovation might indeed be positively discouraged, for political, religious or cultural reasons. In the late eighteenth century the Chinese imperial reply to the tentative overtures of a British trade commission led by Earl Macartney was that ‘Our empire possesses all things in prolific abundance (23).
       But focusing primarily upon the growth of the public sector perhaps undervalues the positive consequences of a bureaucracy, in guarding against the unjust acquisition of property or ideas from others.
       Lal took a different approach, arguing that the West’s success was due to cultural factors. These included cosmological beliefs, political decentralisation and what he called ‘the inquisitive Greek mind’ (24). For him the structure of governmental institutions was a consequence of underlying cultural factors, and not in themselves a cause.

19 O.R. Gurney, The Hittites (2nd edn., Harmondsworth, 1990).
20 Kenneth Pomeranz, The Great Divergence: Europe, China and the making of the modern World Economy (Princeton, 2000).
21 Douglass C. North, Structure and Change in Economic History (London, 1981), p. 171; Douglass C. North, Institutions, institutional change and economic performance (Cambridge, 1990), p. 27.
22 Jean-Michel Josselin and Alain Marciano, ‘The Paradox of Leviathan: how to develop and contain the future European state’, European Journal of Law and Economics, 4 (1997): 5-21.
23 In 1793 Macartney was followed by 600 packages of presents, borne by 3,000 coolies. But his refusal to go down on both knees to the Chinese emperor (‘kowtow’, or kòu tóu) meant that his request for permission to open Chinese ports to British trade was turned down; Sir George Staunton, An account of Macartney’s embassy to China (London, 1797); Sir John Barrow, Some Account of the Public Life, and a Selection from the Unpublished Writings, of the Earl of Macartney (London, 1807); Helen Macartney Robbins, Our First Ambassador to China: An Account of the Life of George, Earl of Macartney (London, 1908). See also, for later initiatives, G. Melancon, ‘Peaceful Intentions: The First British Trade Commission in China, 1833-5’, Historical Research, 73 (180) (2000): 33-47.
24 Deepak Lal, Unintended consequences: the impact of factor endowments, culture, and politics on long run economic performance (Cambridge, 1998), p. 173.


       Huff examines the cultural – religious, legal, philosophical, and institutional – contexts within which science was practised in the disparate cultures of Islam, China, and the West. He finds in the history of (European) law and the European cultural revolution of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries what he saw as major clues as to why the ethos of science arose in the West, permitting the breakthrough to modern science that did not occur elsewhere. It might be countered that any argument based on the preconception that ‘modern science’ is predominantly western, or that it is inherently different to pre-modern science is skewed. However, Huff’s line of inquiry leads to novel ideas about the centrality of the legal concept of corporation, which is unique to the west (at least as the ‘corporation’ is understood in the modern west). This concept gave rise, according to Huff, to the concepts of neutral space and free inquiry (25).
       For Huff, free inquiry was limited in Islam due to the educational system which that religious engendered. Madrassas (26) were aimed at teaching two classes of science, and legal systems (or jurisprudence with associated logic, analysis and metaphysics). There were ‘Prophetic sciences’ and ‘foreign sciences’. The former was actually based on logic systems whose boundaries were very clearly drawn: the prophetic sciences were in line with the concept of upholding ‘divinity’ as revealed by the Quran. The foreign sciences, on the other hand, were those analytical body of knowledge that were at odds with the Quranic traditions and the theological propositions:

       It was even essential to Islam, ..., because the 'method was part and parcel of the Islamic orthodox process for determining orthodoxy. Where it failed was in the creation of a set of objective standards of law, against which all other laws and principles could be judged. Since the legal principles of Islamic law had been given once and for all, in the Quran and the sunna, and in the principles of fiqh worked out by al-Shafi'i, the only task left was to use logic in the narrow sense, to uncover faulty reasoning and thus preserve the doctrinal status quo .... (27)

       In this cultural tradition innovation could not prosper, yet in the tenth century Baghdad was the centre of a great Islamic civilisation – yet one that was based on ancient principles of science and knowledge.
       Rosenberg (28) and Birdzell (29) argue that standard growth models can only provide the proximate causes of growth. Innovation and accumulation of capital, labour and natural resources is growth, but it does not explain growth. For them, the fundamental causes of growth lie in favourable institutions and freedom from political restrictions – more specifically, secure property rights and the freedom to engage in (almost) any line of business and to acquire and sell goods at an unregulated price. This meant that the process of innovation was delegated to private firms and that individuals themselves were forced to bear full responsibility for their failures and reap the full benefits of their successes; a laissez-faire model.

25 Toby Huff, The rise of early modern science: Islam, China, and the West (2nd edn., Cambridge, 2003).
26 Madrasah (Arabic ةسردم ) is the Arabic word for school. It is variously transliterated as madrasah, madrash, medresa, madreseh, madrassa, or madressa. It refers especially to a Islamic religious school. The word also exists in many Arabic-influenced languages such as Urdu, Hindi, Farsi, Turkish, Kurdish, Indonesian, Malaysian and Bosnian. The Hebrew word midrasha also means a place of learning.
27 Toby Huff, The rise of early modern science: Islam, China, and the West (2nd edn., Cambridge, 2003), p. 158.
28 Nathan Rosenberg, Exploring the black box: technology, economics, and history (Cambridge, 1994); Nathan Rosenberg and Walter G. Vincenti, The Britannia Bridge: the generation and diffusion of technological knowledge (Cambridge, 1978).
29 Nathan Rosenberg and E.E. Birdzell, How the West grew rich: the economic transformation of the industrial world (London, 1986).


       According to Rosenberg and Birdzell these favourable institutions and political and economic freedoms arose in the West because of political fragmentation and competition between different territories in Europe. Investments and the merchant class were drawn to areas where property rights were respected and where they could carry out their business without too much political interference. There was no single empire in Europe, and therefore merchants could move from state to state as circumstances changed. The growth of markets – especially that of cities and long-distance trade – further spurred this development.
       Dudley right observes that favourable geographic conditions are a necessary prerequisite for economic progress; but that this is not alone sufficient explanation (30). China had the highest rate of innovation over two millennia before the modern era (31), yet its economic progress – at least until very recently – was markedly inferior to that in the West. Both geography and institutions are important (32). Dudley’s approach was to look at communications, using Innis’ (33) model, as modified by Kuznats (34). The latter asked why over certain periods have income levels risen more rapidly in some societies than in others (35).
       Other approaches exist also, such as Cosandey’s "rich states system theory" (36). In his view, internalist explanations of this sort all suffer from two serious inherent defects. First, Eastern Europe remains backward, despite ostensibly sharing the same environmental advantages supposedly enjoyed by the West. Second, because leadership fluctuations occurred among civilisations, such as in China, India, the Middle East, while at the height of their wealth. Inherent superiority cannot be a sufficient explanation (37). Cosandey favours a mixed model, with environment being also an important factor.
[Comment: I do actually favor a two tier model, with at the first level, political and economical factors, and at the second, deeper, level, geographical factors.]
       Lang studied sociological and ecological aspects of Asian societies, religions and science. He identified stable political divisions to be a factor in scientific progress – China was more productive when it was divided politically. He also saw that the different coastline profiles of Europe and China was a major element in the development of different political models in the two regions (38).
       Sardar saw the present backwardness of non-European countries as due mainly to their past colonisation by Europeans (39). Non-Western cultures are not, per se, obstacles to science, but science needs money to advance. The comparative retardation of science in the Third World is due – according to Sardar – to the lack of financial means, which he ascribed to the intervention of the West. While he would appear to be correct in some aspects of his views (such as the need for money to advance science), it must be questioned whether the West was responsible for the weakness of non-European science. The great age of Chinese innovation ended in around 1300, in the Arab world in about 1050, and in India as early as 700 AD. Some of this could be ascribed to the invasions of foes, but internal divisions seem to have played a larger role.

30 Leonard Dudley, ‘Explaining the great divergence: Medium and message on the Eurasian land mass 1700-1850’, in Alain Marciano and Jean-Michel Josselin (ed.), Law and the State: A Political Economy approach (Cheltenham, 2005), p.101.
31 Joel Mokyr, The Lever of Riches: Technological creativity and economic progress (Oxford, 1990), pp. 209-18.
32 Leonard Dudley, ‘Explaining the great divergence: Medium and message on the Eurasian land mass 1700-1850’, in Alain Marciano and Jean-Michel Josselin (ed.), Law and the State: A Political Economy approach (Cheltenham, 2005), p. 101.
33 Harold A. Innis, Empire and Communication (Oxford, 1950); The Bias of Communication (Toronto, 1951).
34 Simon Kuznats, Modern Economic Growth: Rate, Structure and Spread (New Haven, 1966).
35 See also Angus Maddison, The World Economy: a millennial perspective (Paris, xx).
36 David Cosandey, Le Secret de l’Occident (Paris, 1997).
37 David Cosandey, Le Secret de l’Occident (Paris, 1997).
38 Graeme Lang, ‘Structural factors in the origins of modern science: a comparison of China and Europe’ in Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek and Jennifer Jay, East Asian Cultural and Historical Perspectives (Edmonton, 1997), pp. 71-96.
39 Ziauddin Sardar, Science, Technology and Development in the Muslim World (London, 1977).


       Nor is it certain that financial means was lacking in all of Africa in the post-colonial era; yet the majority of states on that continent have suffered repeated economic, political and social crises, and many are in a markedly worse situation relatively than they were at the granting of independence. The explanation may owe more to the constitutional arrangements of these states than to their innate resources.
       In a similar manner to that just suggested – namely that progress and retardation was influenced more by a state of mind – or institutional arrangements – than by natural resources, Weber contended that religion was a prime catalyst for growth in Europe. In this theory a stern doctrine of Lutheranism and Calvinism promoted capital accumulation and economic development as a relentless commitment to one’s earthly calling and in avoidance of trivial pleasures (40). He derived the idea of religious inspiration for capitalism from the seventeenth century English economist Sir William Petty (41), the founder of the modern science of demography, and considered by Marx to be the founder of classical political economy.
       Weber argued that behavioural change alone could not bring about modern capitalism as it required an ‘appropriate set of conditions’ in the economic sphere. It was also driven by an underlying cultural (specifically religious) ethos. However, it may be questioned whether people are motivated by abstract ideas as much as Weber argued (Petty had relied on abstract ideas rather less, and cited many examples to prove that religious heterodoxy and trade go together). Perhaps more seriously, it was in the Reformed England (though also perhaps the Calvinist Scotland) rather than the Calvinist parts of Europe that the scientific revolution primarily originated, though there were instances of it appearing elsewhere. The role of religion cannot be ignored however, and there may be some truth in the comment by Kojève, that ‘Europe owed its success to Christianity’ (42). The implications of the advent of a postreligious Europe on its economic standing – if any – remains to be seen.
       It is important to observe that the advance of science and technology requires a thriving economy and a stable political division; not necessarily a concentration of power – indeed this would probably not promote innovation – but rather a dynamic tension between and among stable competitor states. If one is too dominant there could be a serious imbalance, which could result in instability in the weaker states, and eventually to the decline of the stronger state, as its markets, and sources of raw materials, become weaker. Balance – and the resultant tension of comparatively equal players – is crucial.
       Baechler, developing a nascent state systems theory, concluded that Western Europe enjoyed a stable state system which was instrumental in the economic development of the region (what he called the ‘growth of capitalism’) (43). For him the existence of political stability was a necessary pre-condition for growth, and this pre-condition could only be brought about by the existence of stable states.
       Taking a step back, to look at some of the possible reasons why stable states promoted growth, Blamont argued that government support for science and technology was motivated by prestige and power. Science was pursued as well, if not mostly, to satisfy the princely will for power and domination (44). This domination might be internal, or it might be external – but it required a competitor to the prince, so the latter provided the most stable circumstances for innovation.
       Braudel classified many decisive economic and political factors. He identified in particular the crucial role of sea-borne trade in the development of economic power. But he also emphasised the importance of multipolarity and the ultimately harmful effect of a unique

40 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism trans. Talcott Parsons (London, 1992).
41 Sir William Petty, The Collected Works of William Petty ed. T.W. Hutchison (London, 1997).
42 Alexandre Kojève, Александр Владимирович Кожевников, Aleksandr Vladimirovič Koževnikov. See Shadia B Drury, Alexandre Kojève: The Roots of Postmodern Politics {Basingstoke, 1994).
43 Jean Baechler, Les Origines du Capitalisme (Paris, 1971).
44 Jacques Blamont, Le Chiffre et Le Songe: Histoire politique de la découverte (Paris, 1993).


(without significant internal dynamic tensions) empire for China and the Muslim world. Braudel also recognised the importance of the causal relation between economic prosperity and the progress of science and technology (45).
       Jones, though advancing an environmental argument, considered many possible views, but was essentially an externalist. He also emphasised the gradual taming of governments as pivotal in the development of economies (46). He sought for mechanistic – social, political, economic – reasons for the rise of the West, and ultimately emphasised the state system as the decisive factor in the ascendance of Western Europe and Japan (47).
       Many of these theorists were concerned with the particular problem of China. That country was for long centuries very innovative, and it enjoyed considerable natural resources. Why then did it fail to grow at a rate comparable with that of Europe in the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries? There must, logically, be some explanation, however difficult it might be to identify. While China differed in many respects from Europe, this did not mean that it should not be equally successful economically. One aspect in which it differed, and which may have had an effect, was in its constitutional ethos or paradigm. Intellectual and economic freedom was not merely tolerated in Europe, but encouraged (at least after the Reformation, and in many fields well before this). This process began to have an obvious effect in the United Kingdom, the first of the liberal democracies, though it can be traced back many centuries. While it would be precipitant to suggest that democracy is the explanation, it may be worthwhile to set this aside for consideration.
       Diamond suggested that the mountain chains and marshes of Europe formed barriers which prevented a single dominant state from evolving. But would these physical barriers actually foster – or hinder – economic growth? The Roman empire extended across large tracts of Europe and North Africa despite these boundaries, and it was, for some centuries, economically and politically successful by any fair measure. Success may indeed have been due to factors independent of the physical environment, features that allowed success despite the hurdles the empire faced.
       Mokyr concentrated his attention very largely on Western Europe and China, neglecting almost entirely the Middle East, India and other East Asian countries (48). Further, he tended to over-simplify the degree of unity displayed in China, and as a consequence did not fully recognise that the degree of progressiveness of the Chinese governments is directly linked to the macro-political situation.
       It has been observed that progressiveness is evident when China is stably divided, and nonexistent or even negative when it is united (49). It might however be observed that the current cycle of Chinese industrialisation and economic growth may contradict this hypothesis, but it can be countered that the primary catalysts for this expansion has been the existence of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and to the fact that in mainland China, though provinces are theoretically subservient to the central government of the People’s Republic of China, in practice provincial officials have a large amount of discretion with regard to economic policy.
[Comment: not exactly; China stagnated when it was unified and deprived of same-level competitor states. Over most of history, this happened everytime when China got unified, since it was as a good approximation to consider each of the main civilizations (Europe, India, China) as isolated, militarily speaking. Since the XIXth century, this is no longer the case. China got blessed with new strong and threatening competitors: Britain (1839-42 and 1850-64 opium wars), Russia (1850-64 war), Japan (1894-95 war), France and Germany (1898 and 1900 wars). From this time on, China could be united and advance scientifically, because it had become a member of a larger states system. Indeed, it made huge progresses and caught up with the West. Nowadays, thanks to a strong competition with the US and India, China, even unified, is not going to stagnate.]
       It is the constitutional tension offered by the division of the country into relatively stable, but competing, units, that led to progress. It might almost be said that Orson Welles’s memorable line from the film The Third Man, was prescient in anticipating later theorists: ‘In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed — they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had

45 Fernand Braudel, Civilisation and Capitalism, 15th-18th century (London, 1985).
46 Eric L. Jones, The European Miracle: Environments, Economies, and Geopolitics in the History of Europe and Asia (2nd ed., Cambridge, 1987).
47 Eric L. Jones, The Record of Global Economic Development (Cheltenham, 2002)
48 Joel Mokyr, The Lever of Riches: Technological creativity and economic progress (Oxford, 1990).
49 David Cosandey, Le Secret de l’Occident (Paris, 1997), pp. 209-64.


brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock (50). [Comment: what a poor quote: Welles was no historian... During all its history, Switzerland was actually torn by terrible internal wars and weathered terrible external wars. And it produced much more than the cuckoo clock!] Dynamic tension has its advantages, as the role played by biodiversity in evolutionary biology illustrates (51).

       Pomeranz argued that stocks of coal, and access to the resources of the Americas, aided European economic growth. But China has much coal, and the gold from South and Central America helped to ruin the economy of Spain, and condemn it to centuries of relative economic and political oblivion. Europe itself was to undergo a long Dark Age, from c.300 AD to 1100 AD, that was caused by a variety of forces, not least of which was the mass migration of peoples from the east (52).

       Baechler, Blamont, Cosandey, Diamond, Needham and others offer us a variety of political and economic theories. Whilst they have some similarities there are also aspects in which they are divergent. The institutional theories from Huff, and Rosenberg and Birdzell, also reflect these difficulties. But from our perspective the greatest problem is that they are attempting to describe the success and failure of whole states and multi-state regions. Such as exercise inevitably present complexities of interpretation that threaten to reduce them to idle speculation. We will therefore attempt to narrow the focus, firstly by looking at the structural influences upon the success of individual states that may be ascribed to statehood itself.

1.3 The success of individual states

       Failure in states is a notion that presents an immediate difficulty. Legal formalism may be in decline in respect of domestic law, but has apparently strengthened its hold on international law (53). A failed state is still a state in international law, though sociologically or economically it may not be one. It is distinct from a state because it is a political entity, which a civilisation need not necessarily be (though it very often is, and the state and the civilisation may be one and the same). The existence of the legal structure or entity called the state, distinct from the community that comprises it, is an important element, for the state itself, as an entity, has its own inherent dynamism or tenacity. This dichotomy – the tension between the state entity and the country or civilisation of which it is a part – allows the survival of many states whose viability is marginal, at best, and may actually contribute to the decline


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Created: 27 Aug 2010 – Last update: 05 May 2012