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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress » User review

An Invaluable Frame of Reference

  • Jan 12, 2000
According to Joel Mokyr, economic growth is the result of four distinct processes: Investment (increases in the capital stock), Commercial Expansion, Scale or Size Effects, and Increase in the Stock of Human Knowledge (which includes technological progress proper as well as changes in institutions). Throughout his brilliant book, he correlates technological creativity with economic progress throughout classical antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and then into the later 19th century.

In Chapter 12 ("Epilogue"), he further develops what is assuredly an invaluable frame-of-reference within which to understand our own time. Why does technological creativity occur? There are two components in the invention-innovation sequence: "technical problems involve a struggle between mind and matter, that is, they involve control of the physical environment." The other component is social: "For a new technique to be implemented, the innovator has to react with a human environment comprised of competitors, customers, suppliers, the authorities, neighbors, possibly the priest."

This brief commentary has only inadequately suggested the scope and depth of Mokyr's rigorous inquiry into technological creativity and its contributions to economic progress. In weeks and months to come, there will be new "levers" which help to create new "riches." The historical context within which Joel Mokyr places these opportunities is a contribution of incalculable value.

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Robert Morris ()
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Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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"An excellent volume outlining in great detail, yet wide ranging in scope, the role of technological change in history. Will make a great supplemental text for our future World Economic History course that I'll be teaching."--Michael Haupert, Univ. of Wisconsin-LaCrosse

"Mokyr has demonstrated, yet again, that he is one the best economic historians around. His book is a treasure trove of facts and insights about technological progress often overlooked in other accounts. Further, his argument that economics might do well to adopt the methodology of evolutionary biology instead of the standard application of Newtonian physics is cogent and convincing."--Howard Bodenhorn, St. Lawrence Univ.

"An informative and well-written study of humankind's progress."--J.M. Skaggs,Wichita State Univ.

"The history and the examples Mokyr uses are a delight to read."--Business Week

"Joel Mokyr is a first-rate scholar who has read a wide body of literature. The book is very well written, lively and engaging. It is closely reasoned and well executed"--Nathan Rosenberg, Stanford University

"Joel Mokyr likes telling his story and he tells it well; his book makes for good reading and rereading, and this in itself sets him apart from many of his fellow economic historians."--The New York Times Book Review

"[Mokyr's] examples are so comprehensive, his knowledge so detailed, and his conclusions so broad and firmly drawn that the reader comes away full of insight."--The Christian Science Monitor

"[A] rich, ...
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ISBN-10: 0195074777
ISBN-13: 978-0195074772
Author: Joel Mokyr
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA

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