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Sunday, January 23, 2022

The Invention of Power: Popes, Kings, and the Birth of the West

I wanted to flag a new book by my favorite undergraduate professor, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita. Here is the Abstract: 

In the tradition of Why Nations Fail, this book solves one of the great puzzles of history: Why did the West become the most powerful civilization in the world?

Western exceptionalism—the idea that European civilizations are freer, wealthier, and less violent—is a widespread and powerful political idea. It has been a source of peace and prosperity in some societies, and of ethnic cleansing and havoc in others.

Yet in The Invention of Power, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita draws on his expertise in political maneuvering, deal-making, and game theory to present a revolutionary new theory of Western exceptionalism: that a single, rarely discussed event in the twelfth century changed the course of European and world history. By creating a compromise between churches and nation-states that, in effect, traded money for power and power for money, the 1122 Concordat of Worms incentivized economic growth, facilitated secularization, and improved the lot of the citizenry, all of which set European countries on a course for prosperity. In the centuries since, countries that have had a similar dynamic of competition between church and state have been consistently better off than those that have not.

The Invention of Power upends conventional thinking about European culture, religion, and race and presents a persuasive new vision of world history.

This is a fascinating political science book, but there is also a legal connection. One argument in here is that Magna Carta should be understood in part as a product of the fight between the Pope and King John, not just between King John and the barons. That puts a different twist on that foundational document that merits further thought.

Posted by Gerard Magliocca on January 23, 2022 at 06:47 PM | Permalink

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