We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access .
Civilization Audiobook
Civilization
Written by: 
Niall Ferguson
Narrated by: 
Niall Ferguson
 >   > 
Civilization Audiobook

Civilization: The West and the Rest

Regular Price:$24.49
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Publisher's Summary

The rise to global predominance of Western civilization is the single most important historical phenomenon of the past five hundred years. All over the world, an astonishing proportion of people now work for Western-style companies, study at Western-style universities, vote for Western-style governments, take Western medicines, wear Western clothes, and even work Western hours. Yet six hundred years ago the petty kingdoms of Western Europe seemed unlikely to achieve much more than perpetual internecine warfare. It was Ming China or Ottoman Turkey that had the look of world civilizations. How did the West overtake its Eastern rivals? And has the zenith of Western power now passed?

In Civilization: The West and the Rest, bestselling author Niall Ferguson argues that, beginning in the fifteenth century, the West developed six powerful new concepts that the Rest lacked: competition, science, the rule of law, consumerism, modern medicine, and the work ethic.

©2011 Niall Ferguson (P)2011 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Thought-provoking and possibly controversial." (Library Journal)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (1226 )
5 star
 (494)
4 star
 (431)
3 star
 (231)
2 star
 (54)
1 star
 (16)
Overall
4.1 (1029 )
5 star
 (428)
4 star
 (359)
3 star
 (182)
2 star
 (49)
1 star
 (11)
Story
4.1 (1039 )
5 star
 (450)
4 star
 (355)
3 star
 (171)
2 star
 (44)
1 star
 (19)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    David I. Williams Keithville, LA, United States 05-07-13
    David I. Williams Keithville, LA, United States 05-07-13 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    227
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    183
    51
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    20
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great overview of a touchy topic"

    This fascinating look into Western Civilization by Niall Ferguson is certain to ruffle some feathers. It is bound to raise controversy. Ferguson asks the question that can’t be asked. The question that must never be asked in our modern world: Why did Western Civilization come to dominate the rest of the world in the last 500 years? After all, five hundred years ago a betting man would have looked at puny Europe and compared it with the powerful Moslem world and the vast Chinese realm and scoffed at the idea that the Europeans would have come to dominate. What caused this? The stock answer today is colonialism. That is of course nonsense. After all the Islamic world was built oni colonialism. China was a vast empire. Why were they not ascendant?

    Ferguson comes up with the answer. Western Civilization developed six concept, what he calls “killer applications” that allowed it to grow and dominate. These “killer applications” are competition, science, democracy, medicine, consumerism, and the work ethic. He goes into great detail about each of these concepts, how they developed, and why the lack of these “killer applications” or their underuse lead to the other world powers drop at the same time that the West began to rise. There is some fascinating material here. I am sure that many will argue against Ferguson’s points, but the ability to debate and discus such concepts freely is itself a mark of the West.

    One of the things that I like about this book is that it eschews any racial nonsense. The West did not become superior due to any superiority on the part of Western man. Rather it became superior because of it’s ideas. He shows that as nations begin to adopt these ideas they begin to grow. The ascendency in our own time of China is in many ways related to the slow acceptance of these ideas. This is an excellent book and deserves a reading.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    avdefsa MYRTLE BEACH, SC, United States 12-28-11
    avdefsa MYRTLE BEACH, SC, United States 12-28-11 Listener Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    17
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Worth Reading"
    Where does Civilization rank among all the audiobooks you???ve listened to so far?

    I like this book much better than Ferguson's last book the Ascent of Money, it is much more readable and engaging. Well researched and full of history I'd never heard. Definately worth the read.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I thought this book would be more of the same as previous books in this genre such as Guns Germs and Steel and 1493. The theme is the same, but this book brings a lot of new information to the table.


    Any additional comments?

    I like apples

    10 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. E. JORDAN Berlin, Germany 05-07-15
    J. E. JORDAN Berlin, Germany 05-07-15 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    69
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    29
    25
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Drunk Man Looks upon his Navel"

    What a bizarre experience listening to this book was. By about 3/4 of the way through, I think it was just playing in the background while I thought about other stuff.

    First of all, I was unaware of Niall Ferguson before I chose the book. My bad. I guess I'm too far outside the Conservative Movement subculture to be aware of its shining intellectual lights. The guy is a charlatan. He sounds like he knows what he's talking about but he really a blowhard. But hey, if you love him, get this book. If you've never heard of him, I suggest you check him out before sending him your money. You decide.

    This next point is a little related to what I've already said, but, second, the book isn't really illuminating. It's sophomoric. These are the sorts of ideas you'd come up with in high school or college for why one band is better than another or why one sports team is going to kick another team's butt. You will not come away with this book with any deeper understanding of anything. He basically looks at history and tries to figure out what makes his team/band/nation/culture so much better than anyone else's and why it must have been a historical inevitability that he'd end up at the pinnacle of it all.

    Finally, ... does he do this all the time? The author/reader switches constantly between an RP (standard Southeastern English) accent and a Scottish one. I can only figure he's Scottish and trying to pretend he's from London-Oxbridge, perhaps so people won't listen to what he's actually saying. His name looks Scottish. Why is he ashamed of being Scottish? (Slainte, Scotland!)

    And if he's not even clever enough to maintain a standard accent while reading his own book, which I assume was his goal when he started using it, then is he really clever enough to take on the big issues of culture? Maybe the accent thing doesn't distract you. At first I thought it was funny and then it was distracting and then finally I just couldn't listen anymore.

    So, was the author dumb? his accent foolish? his intellectual approach to his thesis insufficient? Who knows for you, but for me it all added up to a title I really wish I'd skipped over.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PixelBrine Henrico, Va, United States 08-27-12
    PixelBrine Henrico, Va, United States 08-27-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    7
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very interesting with a slightly obvious bias"
    What did you love best about Civilization?

    The depth at which the subject is tackled.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Niall Ferguson? Why or why not?

    sure


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Niall Ferguson?

    sure


    Any additional comments?

    Niall Ferguson is a strong narrator and because it is his own book he knows just when to put the infection in a sentence. The subject is entertaining and well expressed. There is a pretty obvious bias that Mr. Ferguson acknowledges from the beginning but overall it doesn't show up too often and is not very one sided. there is allot of good history in this book.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John S. Seattle, WA United States 09-25-12
    John S. Seattle, WA United States 09-25-12 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    496
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    225
    191
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    28
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I like to think I'm intelligent"

    and am well-educated, but failed to get whatever "point" Ferguson was making here - just lots and lots (and lots!) of historical stories/anecdotes/facts for 14 hours. His reading wasn't a problem for me; although the sections where he read quoted passages in the speakers' accented English seemed weird at times, that did serve to set them off from the "story" itself.

    If I had the choice again, I'd read (skim) the print version instead. I tried breaking it down to listening no more than an hour per day, and even that left me looking at the time-elapsed counter frequently.

    12 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Asher 04-17-15
    Asher 04-17-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    13
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Reactionary Toward Anti-Imperialism"

    This was the first title of Ferguson's that I've finished. I thought I would like his ideas more because I learned of him through Dambisa Moyo's 'Dead Aid'.

    Ultimately I found that Ferguson goes against anti-imperialist thought so strongly that he barely mentions that elements of the six "killer apps" that lead the West to succeed over "the Rest" were partly due to the immense wealth gained by western powers from their empires. I know I give myself away as a more left-leaning person with this review, but I expected this to be more even-handed than it was. His swipes against Marx and general Communism were more heavy-handed than his dealings with Hitler and the fascist leaders of history. This may be due to the way that Hitler has been described to death already, everywhere else, but it just seemed bizarre to have such heavy disdain in odd places.

    Other than showing his biases too strongly at times, Ferguson does write well, and he deals with the topic of the rise of the West, just as the subtitle says he will. I'll probably listen to another, but I'll beware of his pro-imperial tendency.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul. MOORPARK, CA, United States 03-12-15
    Paul. MOORPARK, CA, United States 03-12-15 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    11
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Oh no!"

    After listening to this book, I have decided to become a Tailor and take over the world! I too at one time wore blue jeans.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jacobus Johannesburg, South Africa 02-02-15
    Jacobus Johannesburg, South Africa 02-02-15 Member Since 2013

    When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1172
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    233
    196
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    135
    7
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A "killer" analysis explaining Western dominance"

    Niall Ferguson’s book “Civilization: The Six Killer Apps of Western Power” summarises itself in its title. The book’s organisation is simple straightforward and to-the-point. In his introduction, Ferguson states, that he wants “… to show that what distinguished the West from the Rest – the main springs of global power – were six identifiably novel complexes of instructions and associated ideas and behaviours.” He borrows from computer language cleverly calling these “complexes” “the six killer apps” that “allowed a minority of mankind originating on the western edge of Eurasia to dominate the world for the better part of 500 years.”

    Ferguson then sets out to discuss the six “apps” methodically (one per chapter) and concludes with a final chapter asking if these “apps” are still needed? What about the Rest (the West’s rivals), will one of them supersede it? The killer apps that he discusses are: 1) Competition, 2) Science, 3) Property rights, 4) Medicine, 5) The consumer society and 6) The work ethic.

    While simplifying the structure, the content that Ferguson relays are must less of a simplification. Here he keeps his listeners engaged by interesting quotes (usually juxtaposed to give two different takes on an “app”), facts, figures and cleverly thought-out phrases that make his conclusions memorable. Two of the most interesting phrases for me in the chapter on work ethic, are “God was love, as the bumper stickers said, after all. At one and the same time, America was both born again and porn again.” and “Now it’s not your kicks you get on Route 66; it’s your crucifix.” (Both phrases are here quoted without its proper context. Ferguson is discussing the Protestant Work Ethic that took root in Springfield in the United States of America.)

    In short, Niall Ferguson brilliantly conveys his argument. Using choice language he makes a powerful argument which makes it easy to follow, especially if you are listening to the audio version of this work. Dazzling the listener with cleverly formulated phrases, he made it very difficult for me to discern his book critically (even though I live in a country where Mahatma Ghandi’s insights on government are often revered, because of its struggle sentiment.) It is just so well written!

    While the printed version of this book might be illustrated with maps, graphs or photos, you gain enormously in the audio version in that Niall Ferguson reads his work himself. Unexpectedly he does a jolly good job of it. Often authors are not the best narrators of their books. One thing that stood out was how he used different voices and accents to deal with the numerous quotes he made in the book. By doing so, he kept my attention and where I might start to opt out, his voice caught it again.

    If you consider listening to it, I would advise to let Ferguson’s prose, facts and insights guide you while his voice mesmerise you. He is after all the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University. It is indeed a ‘tour de force’ that vindicates the West’s colonial ambitions only to the extent necessary while being blunt about its atrocities! This is an excellent way in enlivening history and giving it a practical application. This book is not only interesting, it is one of those titles that sets the stage for further discussion on the role of the West and the Rest in our contemporary global society.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Curmudgeon Cow Hampshire 04-11-14
    Dr. Curmudgeon Cow Hampshire 04-11-14 Member Since 2008

    Doctor of misanthropy

    HELPFUL VOTES
    120
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    534
    27
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    5
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Food for thought"

    Say what you will about Ferguson, but you're never going to get the Cliff's Notes version of history from him. Agree or disagree, he manages to come at his history from a fresh, at least to me, perspective on things.

    To be honest, I found some of his assertions to be hopelessly... um... unlikely/naive/doctrinaire, but overall, he offered me a new way to look at world history, in particular with respect to the ascendancy of the west, and fresh ideas are always a good thing.

    The entire book seems to build to a rather predictable point, but in the end, it's more of the culmination of his arguments, and probably arguments that should at least be considered.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric 05-23-13
    Eric 05-23-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
    42
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    260
    46
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not Niall's best"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    No, I was disappointed by this work.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    Unlike "The Ascent of Money," the other work of Niall's I have read/ listened to, this work, "Civilization," seems to be more about promoting a personal agenda than facts. This is disconcerting to me, as now I'm not sure that "Money" is reputable material, either.


    Have you listened to any of Niall Ferguson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I have listened to / read "The Ascent of Money," written by Niall and narrated by Simon Pebble (who did an excellent job). I would recommend that work over this, however, I am concerned in regard to "Money's" validity, now, after taking in "Civilization."


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    This book could not be made into a movie, perhaps a documentary.


    Any additional comments?

    Niall's tangent about Weber's hypothesized "protestant work ethic" is far too drawn out and unnecessary as well as only weakly supportable at best. He admits this, himself, at the beginning of the rant. Something was very odd about this reading, too. I'm not sure if it was Niall doing all the narrating, but quotes are read in very poor mock accents. This detracts from the content.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank you.

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.