Bras. Political Sci. Rev.. 01/Jul/2015;9(2):121-6.


Alvaro Augusto Comin

DOI: 10.1590/1981-38212014000200014

For at least 800 years the wealth of the world was concentrated in those regions that the 20th century called “Third World”. In fact, during this long period, two great nations—China and India—concentrated approximately half of the population and GDP of the world. The 19th century will stage the “Great Divergence”: the West’s fast overtaking of the ancient Asian civilizations (and more generally over the group of countries and regions of the Asian, African, and Latin American continents). The huge distance between the developed and developing world in terms of wealth (and therefore power) endures until today; however, from the middle of the last century and more rapidly in the last three decades, the movement of divergence appears to have peaked and the outline of a possible convergence (and a possible overtaking) grows in likelihood.

That is the plot of the book by Deepak Nayyar, which is primarily organized by the presentation and analysis of economic statistics covering the last thousand years of our history, divided into three major periods: from the year 1000 to 1820; from the year 1820 to 1950; and from then to this day. Based on this timeline, the author seeks explanations for the West’s overrunning of the other regions of the world and discusses the trends of reversal of the “Great Divergence” that occurred in recent decades, leaving several questions unanswered regarding the future of the “Race for Growth”. Due to space reasons I will limit this comment to present a general summary of the movements defined by this timeline, just touching on the controversies involved.