[lit-ideas] Re: Ian Morris

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 4 Aug 2013 23:23:05 -0700

Thanks.  I'll watch the video tomorrow.  For me Morris is a perfect example of 
how a reader "brings something to the text."  My past reading doesn't support 
the conclusions Morris implies that he will draw.  I took early offense at him 
for entering into the Political Science realm without acknowledging the two 
Political Scientists who have been the most innovative and provocative.  On the 
other hand, I've read Niall Ferguson and not taken offense at him for what 
sounds a bit like part of Morris' argument.  Ferguson may be closer to Morris 
than to the political scientists, and perhaps Morris's beginning with a 
counterfactual is homage to Ferguson.

Ferguson is an Imperialist who thinks there needs to be a world ruler on the 
order of what the British were during the 19th century.  Morris may be 
attempting to mine his archeological background with the intention of relating 
it to the British-sort of imperialism.  I recall being unhappy with Ferguson 
for assuming that the U.S. ought to seek to be imperialistic in the 
19th-century-British sense.  That he thought the U.S. might be persuaded by his 
arguments indicated to me that he never entered into the American way(s) of 
life as much as he claimed to.  One of those ways is Isolationism and I 
referenced Krauthammer referring to its resurgence.  I'm not a Ron Paul 
Isolationist, but I don't agree with Krauthammer that the world will descend 
into chaos if we have four or eight years of an Isolationist-president's 
administration.  After all, both Wilson and F.D. Roosevelt won their elections 
by accommodating Isolationist positions.  

Perhaps, if I am getting closer to Morris's position in my speculation I need 
to add Victor Davis Hanson to the mix.  He might embrace many of the arguments 
of Morris and Ferguson but argue that there is no non-Western military force 
that is ever going to defeat the military forces of the West.  He qualifies 
that position with a lot of caveats.  He doesn't mean the defeat at Little Big 
Horn or Pearl Harbor except in the sense that they were milestones causing the 
U.S. to take these enemies more seriously.  Once that happened Western victory 
was assured -- if not immediate.  I haven't read Hanson recently but I doubt 
that he sees any Eastern force being able to "rule" over the West in the sense 
he has argued the West has ruled over the world.  

I was once in a debate of long duration with an expert on the Red Army who 
described it as unconquerable and the best army in the world.  I think this guy 
was correct in a sense, the same sense that the Chinese army is unconquerable.  
No foreign nation is going to be able to invade and conquer either of these 
nations in the foreseeable future.  However, this isn't what Morris, Ferguson 
or Hanson had in mind by "rule."  Britain and now the U.S. have been able to 
project their military might long distances in order to conquer or intimidate 
nations in order to accomplish political goals.  Neither Russia nor China 
presently have that capability.  They can exert influence against or in support 
of bordering nations but they can't move a huge military force half way around 
the world.  And we apparently have political forces rising up in the U.S. 
saying we don't want to do that anymore; which might result in a benign 
interpretation of Morris's title "Why the West Rules -- for now."


-----Original Message-----
From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On 
Behalf Of Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
Sent: Sunday, August 04, 2013 7:56 PM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Ian Morris

In a message dated 8/4/2013 11:38:40 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, 
lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx writes:
"Ian Morris is a Professor in Classics  and History at Stanford University. 
 Samuel P. Huntington (died in 2008)  was, and Francis Fukuyama is a Political 
Scientist.  I am probably treating  Morris unfairly at this point and should 
have read further before saying  anything about his book."
Thanks for the input.
More about Morris from wiki, for the record. 
We read in Wikipedia of Ian Matthew Morris that he "grew up in the United 
Kingdom." "Morris is currently a Willard Professor of Classics and Professor of 
 History at Stanford University."
"Since joining Stanford, Morris has served as Associate Dean of Humanities and 
Sciences, Chair of the Classics Department, and Director of the Social Science 
History Institute. He was one of the founders of the Stanford Archaeology 
Center and has served two terms as its director."
"Morris attended Alleyne's comprehensive school in Stone,  Staffordshire, and 
studied ancient history and archaeology at Birmingham  University. He gained 
his PhD at Cambridge University .[1] From 1987 through  1995 he taught at the 
University of Chicago."
"Between 2000 and 2007 he directed Stanford University’s excavation at Monte 
Polizzo, Sicily."
"Ian Morris has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation,[3]  
National Endowment for the Humanities.,[2] Center for Hellenic Studies in 
Washington, D.C.[4] and Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of 
"Professor Morris has published extensively on the history and archaeology of 
the ancient Mediterranean and on world history and in 2011 was awarded an  
honorary degree by De Pauw University."
"His 2010 book, Why the West Rules--For Now, compares East and West across the 
last 15,000 years, arguing that physical geography rather than culture,  
religion, politics, genetics, or great men explains Western domination of the  
globe. The Economist has called it "an important book—one that challenges,  
stimulates and entertains. Anyone who does not believe there are lessons to be  
learned from history should start here.""
"The book has been criticized by the Canadian historical sociologist Ricardo 
Duchesne for offering a diffuse definition of the West which Morris envisions 
encompassing not only Europe but all civilizations descending from the  Fertile 
Crescent, including Islam, and a propensity to level out fundamental  
differences between the development of the West, which ushered in modernity, 
and  the rest: "To Morris ... the West is simply a geographical category; the  
ultimate origins of the West’s primacy are to be found in geographical  
factors".[6] Morris replied, saying that "despite his review’s length, rather  
little of it takes on my book’s central thesis", and defending his focus on  
"Why the West Rules--For Now won the 2011 PEN Center USA Literary Award for  
Creative Nonfiction."
Burial and Ancient Society, Cambridge, 1987 ISBN  978-0-521-38738-5 
Death-Ritual and Social Structure in Classical Antiquity,  Cambridge 1992; 
Greek translation, 1997 ISBN 978-0-521-37611-2 Editor,  Classical Greece: 
Ancient Histories and Modern Archaeologies, Cambridge, 1994  ISBN 
978-0-521-45678-4 Co-editor, with Barry Powell, A New Companion to  Homer, E. 
J. Brill, 1997 ISBN 978-90-04-09989-0 Co-editor, with Kurt  Raaflaub, Democracy 
2500? Questions and Challenges, Kendall-Hunt, 1997 ISBN  978-0-7872-4466-8 
Archaeology as Cultural History, Blackwell, 2000 ISBN  978-0-631-19602-0 The 
Greeks: History, Culture, and Society, with Barry  Powell; Prentice-Hall, 1st 
ed. 2005, 2nd ed. 2009 ISBN  978-0-13-921156-0 Co-editor, with Joe Manning, The 
Ancient Economy: Evidence  and Models, Stanford, 2005 ISBN 978-0-8047-5755-3 
Co-editor, with Walter  Scheidel and Richard Saller, The Cambridge Economic 
History of the Greco-Roman  World, Cambridge, 2007 ISBN 978-0-521-78053-7 
Co-editor, with Walter  Scheidel, of The Dynamics of Ancient Empires, Oxford, 
2009 ISBN  978-0-19-537158-1 Why the West Rules - For Now: The Patterns of 
History, and  What they Reveal About the Future, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 
2010; Profile,  2010 ISBN
The Measure of Civilisation: How Social  Development Decides the Fate of 
Nations, Princeton University Press, 2013 ISBN  978-0-691-15568-5

1.^ a b Ian Morris, Stanford History Department.
2.^ a b c Classics  and History Expert - Ian Morris, Stanford University.
3.^ Ian Morris, John  Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
4.^ a b Faculty win Guggenheims for  'exceptional' scholarship: 4/02, 
Stanford University.
5.^ Global power: On  top of the world. The Economist.
6.^ Ricardo Duchesne: Review in Reviews in  History from Institute of 
Historical Research
7.^ http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1091/response
8.^  http://penusa.org/2011-literary-awards-festival-winners

Portal icon History portal 

Classics and History Expert - Ian Morris, Stanford University  Humanities 
Why the West Rules for Now, Interview with Ian Morris  in 
_www.theglobaldispatches.com_ (http://www.theglobaldispatches.com) .
Ian  Morris interview on "Conversations With History," a UC Berkeley 
podcast and  video series.
' Foreign Policy magazine review of Why the West Rules.
Categories: Living people
American archaeologists
American  non-fiction writers
Stanford University Department of Classics  faculty
American historians

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