Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The economic basis of cultural creativity?   posted by Razib @ 2/26/2008 05:32:00 PM

Reading Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium by by Ronald Findlay and Kevin H. O'Rourke. So far somewhat like A Farewell to Alms, except painted on a much broader palette. I've read The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, and though I wasn't convinced by all the specific examples the general thrust of that work makes sense. Nevertheless, I was still surprised when Findlay and O'Rourke connected the introduction of Champa rice strains and the cultural efflorescence of the Sung period. Say what? OK, this the logic, the new rice strains resulted in far greater productivity, and so China's population doubled in about 200 years, from 50 to 100 million. This 200 year period can be thought of as a transient between stationary states around the Malthusian limit. Findlay & O'Rourke don't focus much on the specific expressions of creativity during this period, but if you read much Chinese history you note that there was a lot of stuff going on during this period which set the tone for the next 1,000 years, from Neo-Confucianism to styles of landscape painting.