Jack Goldstone

Lecture Series

Jack Goldstone, George Mason University

Cultural and Technical Innovation: The Twin Foundations of Economic Growth

Please join us for our next CSES Lecture Series on February 28th, 2013 at Cornell University from 4:30 to 6PM in Malott Hall 251. Jack Goldstone will present his research on “Cultural and Technical Innovation: The Twin Foundations of Economic Growth.”


Modern economic growth rests on innovation; that is widely accepted. But innovation is usually seen as proportional to effort, investment, and levels of accumulated knowledge technological prowess. These are positive forces; but innovation also requires overcoming the negative forces of established authority, intellectual ‘sunk costs,’ and the vested interests who benefit from maintaining status quo beliefs. Only Western civilization was successful in overcoming these negative forces. This was not due to any exceptional flexibility or vibrancy in Western culture. Quite the reverse, it was due to the exceptional rigidity and closure of Western intellectual culture prior to 1500, and the impact of discoveries on that rigid system which broke it open and led to new world views.


Professor Jack A. Goldstone is the Virginia E. and John T. Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University, and a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Previously, Dr. Goldstone was on the faculty of Northwestern University and the University of California, and has been a visiting scholar at Cambridge University and the California Institute of Technology. He is the author of Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World, awarded the 1993 Distinguished Scholarly Research Award of the American Sociological Association; Why Europe? The Rise of the West in World History; and nine other books as well as over one hundred research articles on topics in politics, social movements, democratization, and long-term social change. He has appeared on NPR, CNN, Al-Jazeera, Fox News, and written for Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, the Washington Post, Al-Hayat and the International Herald Tribune. His latest book is Political Demography: How Population Changes are Reshaping International Security and National Politics (Oxford University Press, 2011).

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“[T]he challenge is to specify and explicate the social mechanisms determining the relationship between the informal social organization of close-knit groups and the formal rules of institutional structures.”— Victor Nee