Civilization: Is the West History

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Science Documentary hosted by Niall Ferguson, published by Channel 4 in 2011 - English narration

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Civilization: Is the West History Niall Ferguson asks why it was that Western civilization, from inauspicious roots in the 15th century, came to dominate the rest of the world; and if the West is about to be overtaken by the rest. Ferguson reveals the 'killer apps' of the West's success - competition, science, the property owning democracy, modern medicine, the consumer society and the Protestant work ethic - the real explanation of how, for five centuries, a clear minority of mankind managed to secure the lion's share of the earth's resources. Ferguson's conclusions are surprising and provocative. He reveals that while the killer apps have finally been downloaded by the rest, in the process Western civilization has lost faith in itself. And it is that loss of self-belief that poses the biggest threat to its continued predominance.

[edit] Competition

The first programme in the series begins in 1420 when Ming China had a credible claim to be the most advanced civilization in the world: 'All Under Heaven'. England on the eve of the Wars of the Roses would have seemed quite primitive by contrast. Yet the lead that China had established in technology was not to be translated into sustained economic growth. In China a monolithic empire stifled colonial expansion and economic innovation. In Europe political division bred competition. The question for our own time is whether or not we have lost that competitive edge to a rapidly ascending Asia.

[edit] Science

In 1683 the Ottoman army laid siege to Vienna, the capital of Europe's most powerful empire. Domination of East over West was an alarmingly plausible scenario. But Islam was defeated: not so much by firepower as by science. Niall Ferguson asks why the Islamic world didn't participate in the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, and if the West is still capable of maintaining its scientific lead, at a time when educational attainment in science subjects is declining.

[edit] Property

Professor Ferguson asks why North America succeeded while South America for so many centuries lagged behind. The two had much in common (not least the subjugation of indigenous peoples and the use of slavery by European immigrants), but they differed profoundly on individual property rights, the rule of law and representative government. There were two revolutions against royal rule between 1776 and 1820, yet Simon BolĂ­var was never able to be George Washington, and Latin America remained politically fragmented, socially divided and economically backward even as the United States rose to global primacy. However, Niall Ferguson asks whether North and South are converging today, linguistically and economically.

[edit] Medicine MCGroup

Niall Ferguson looks at how late 19th-century advances in modern medicine made it possible to export Western civilization to the 'Dark Continent': Africa. The French Empire consciously set out to civilize West Africa by improving public health as well as building a modern infrastructure. Yet in other European empires - notably Germany's in southwest Africa - colonial rule led to genocide. What was the link from medical science to racial pseudo-science? The imperialists talked of their civilizing mission, but their rivalry ultimately caused world wars that endangered the West's global dominance. Today, have Western aid agencies learned lessons from the past? Or is China in the process of building a new African empire?

[edit] Consumerism

Today the world is becoming more homogenous and, with increasingly few exceptions, big-name brands dominate main streets, high streets and shopping malls all over the globe. We dress the same; we want the same latest technological kit; we drive the same cars. But where did this uniformity come from? The answer is the combination of the industrial revolution and the consumer society. Originating in Britain but flourishing most spectacularly in America, the advent of mass consumption has changed the way the world worked. Led by the Japanese, one non-Western society after another has adopted the same model, embracing the Western way of manufacturing and consuming. Only the Muslim world has resisted. But how long can the burkha hold out against Levi's? Niall Ferguson examines whether we are now seeing the first effective challenge to the global dominance of Western consumerism.

[edit] Work

The sixth element that enabled the West to dominate the rest was the work ethic. Max Weber famously linked it to Protestantism, but the reality is that any culture regardless of religion is capable of embracing the spirit of capitalism by working hard, saving and accumulating capital. The question is why that ethic seems now to be fading in the West. Europeans no longer work long hours; Americans have almost given up saving completely. The real workers and savers in the world are now the heirs of Confucius and not Calvin. Perhaps, ironically, the biggest threat to Western civilization could turn out to be this Westernization of the world if the consequence of Asian economic growth is to change the global climate for the worse. Yet these fears may underestimate the ability of Western civilization to solve the world's problems. In the final programme of the series, Niall Ferguson argues that the real threat to our survival is our loss of faith not in religion but in ourselves.

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: XviD ISO MPEG-4
  • Video Bitrate: 1888 kbps
  • Video Resolution: 720 x 416
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 1.731 (16:9)
  • Frames Per Second: 25fps
  • Audio Codec: 0x2000 (Dolby AC3)
  • Audio Bitrate: 192 kb/s AC3 48000 Hz
  • Audio Streams: 2ch
  • Audio Languages: English
  • RunTime per Part 47.mins
  • Number Of Parts: 6
  • Part Size: 701 MB
  • Source: DVD
  • Encoded by: Harry65

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