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Unintended Consequences

In this book, based on the 1995 Ohlin Lectures, Deepak Lal provides an interdisciplinary account of the role of culture in shaping economic performance. Topics addressed include a possible future "clash of civilizations", the role of Asian values in the East Asian economic miracle, the cultural versus economic causes of social decay in the West, and whether modernization leads to Westernization. Lal makes an important disctinction between material and cosmological beliefs, showing how both were initially shaped by factor endowments and how they have evolved in response to changing historical pressures in different civilizations. Lal's first major theme is the interaction of factor endowments, culture, and politics in explaining modern intensive growth in the West. The other major theme is the role of individualism - an inadvertent legacy of the medieval Catholic Church - in promoting this growth, and the strange metamorphoses this has caused in both the West's cosmological beliefs and the interaction between "the West and the rest". Lal takes account of the relevant literature in history, anthropology, social psychology, evolutionary biology, neurology, and sociology, and the economic history of the regions and cultures that form Eurasia. An appendix shows how the stories Lal tells can be described by four formal economic models.
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Lal takes his readers on a breathtaking gallop through economic and religious history, to discover both the material and the cosmological determinants of economic progress. He enthralls with the breadth and comprehensiveness of his effort to explain the miracle of emergent economic growth in 18th century Europe, taking its origins back to papal decisions in the 7th century. Imitation is easier that modernizing without westernizing. A stimulating and provocative analysis. -- Richard N. Cooper, Boas Professor of Economics, Harvard University A provocative book that is dusturbing in its implication for stability in the West. Individualism has wrought economic wonder, but without the constraints of religion, moral degeneracy proceeds apace. The cultures of the East, which embody shame as a critical control on behavior may offer more promise. Lal deserves commendation for producing a work that is both cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary, no small feat. -- James M. Buchanan, Advisory General Director, Center for Study of Public Choice, George Mason University, and Noble Laureate in Economic Sciences, 1986 This is a very important and thought-provoking book. The belief in a 'cultural' basis for development has been with us for a long time. Economists have tended to debunk them, pointing to the ability of very diverse societies to achieve rapid development. Those believing in the importance of culture have therefore tended to reject the understanding that economists do bring to development. Deepak Lal has made a major contribution to bridging the gap between these groups and to synthesizing the roles of cultures and markets in economic growth. The book is a fascinating read, covering as it does the evolution of the major civilizations and the reasons why all but the West were unable to achieve development until recent years. -- Anne O. Krueger, Herald L. and Caroline L. Ritch Professor of Science and Humanities, Department of Economics, Stanford University; Director, Stanford Center for Research in Economic Development and Policy Reform; and Senior Fellow, the Hoover Institution

About the Author

Deepak Lal is the James S. Coleman Professor of International Development Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.


"[This book] is an extraordinary piece of work; it opens up a wide window through which the reader can see across continents, centuries, and civilizations." - Ranjit Sau, Economic and Political Weekly

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