The society is open to change, and the people therefore work to solve problems and make things better

This cultural value is related to the previous three. If time is linear and there is hope for improvement in life; if time is a valuable resource and should be used wisely; and if people have a desire to improve, then there will be a natural openness to change and hope that problems can be solved so that life can be improved. In a culture with this belief, people will be eager to work to make things better and will take risks to solve problems because they have hope that human effort can change the history of a family, a factory, a city, or even a nation.

By contrast, a society that has a fear of change or new ideas, and simply clings to traditions or cultural habits that may be harmful or may hinder productivity, will find economic progress hard to achieve. People in such a society will not work for change as much as they simply complain about circumstances but avoid taking risks. This is because they have little hope for good results and experience frequent despair about life. Such beliefs are more common in tribal societies that are resistant to changing their traditions or in Muslim nations where a fatalistic attitude toward life has taken hold.

In Britain, Landes says, the Industrial Revolution depended on three types of innovation that resulted from people being open to change and working for improvement in the way things were done: (1) the substitution of machines for human skill and effort; (2) the substitution of inanimate sources of power (especially coal) for human and animal power; and (3) the use of new and abundant raw materials in manufacturing.[1] The rapid growth of the cotton industry, the primary force that drove the Industrial Revolution in Britain, was a result of constant learning and teaching of new processes for manufacturing.[2]

In more general terms, Landes says that an ideally productive so?ciety “would value new as against old . . . change and risk as against safety.”[3] This vision was embraced in Europe and even more so in the United States, where the innovations brought about by new machines and the development of routine processes in factories were even more pronounced than in Europe.[4]

By contrast, for centuries, while European and American science and technology were marching forward, China remained resistant to any change. Landes quotes various visitors to China as saying that the Chinese “are more fond of the most defective piece of antiquity than of the most perfect of the modern” (see similar quotations in an earlier section, 284-85). Visitors also reported that “any man of genius is paralyzed immediately by the thought that his efforts will win him punishments rather than rewards.”[5] Therefore, China “slipped into technological and scientific torpor.”[6]

 
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