What it takes to make a culture a great culture

The article by Charles Murray, at least according to its title, is about whether America is past it, but is in reality about what it takes to make a culture a great culture great in the sense of innovation and historically significant achievement.

Human achievement has clustered at particular times and places, including Periclean Athens, Renaissance Florence, Sung China, and Western Europe of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. But why? What was special about those times and places? In the book’s final chapters, I laid out my best understanding of the environment within which great accomplishment occurs. . . .

To guide the discussion, I’ll provide a running synopsis, in language drawn from Human Accomplishment, of the core conditions that prevailed during the glorious periods of past achievement. I’ll focus in particular on science and technology, since these are the fields that preoccupy our contemporary debates over the present course and future prospects of American innovation.

Of course it is not just America’s prospects which are now being submerged but the prospects more or less across the globe. I will provide the five headings Murray uses but the whole article is worth the time to read:

1. WEALTH, CITIES, POLITICS

2. RAW MATERIALS

3. THE NEED FOR PURPOSE AND AUTONOMY

4. TRANSCENDENTAL GOODS

5. HOW AMERICA MATCHES UP

The US is being used as a case study. It was the most advanced of our various cultures but its rot is also happening more rapidly than anywhere else. Decline of the West is an old story but it takes a long time for the fall to complete itself given the heights from which it begins. Still declining and not a single reason anywhere on the horizon to think that any of it can be reversed.

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