Why should we care about the time? Why should the clock constitute such a fundamentally important component of European culture and economy? When did the process of globalization begin?
David Landes explored each of these issues, and sought to contrast the historical experience with chronometers in China and in Europe. In particular, Landes examined the history of the mechanical clock, concluding that from the seemingly minor invention of accurate timepieces arose the economic and political juggernaut of Western European culture.
It is Landes's argument that European economic and political power arose because of the cultural acceptance of devices that were able to divide, and measure the passage of time accurately. In so, Europeans began the process of the democratization of time. The ability of all people to have access to the telling of time, and therefore the ability to control the behaviors and most importantly the work schedules of all peoples, has been paramount in the rise of European civilization to prominence.
Landes concluded by contrasting cultures in the world today that accept and embrace change with those that reject innovation. Referring to the encounters between Chinese and Europeans in the early modern period, Landes views the rejection by the Chinese of the cultural and technological influence of the West as a mistake. Only now, in the opinion of Landes, is Chinese civilization recovering politically, economically and technologically. From Landes' viewpoint, those societies who are unable to learn from the new ideas offered by other cultures are bound to founder.