Review of Kenneth Pomeranz's “The Great Divergence”
JM Bryant's article "The West and the Rest Revisited" is a dyspeptic view of the Great Divergence debate that brings up the points you made above. I recommend it!
Have you encountered the recent synthesis of the last two decades of new data pertaining to the debate from Stephen Broadberry? https://voxeu.org/article/accounting-great-divergence-recent-findings-historical-national-accounting
Excellent review. I read the book and found it similarily turgid, even if I came to the argument somewhat sympathetic. I hold a synthesis view that exogenous factors did help propel the West towards global supremacy, but these factors could not have been exploited without endogenous ones. In this sense, I think Joel Mokyr's books are a better guide to the root causes, with Pomeranz's argument being a complementary rather than a replacement.
Acemoglu and Robinson "Why nations fail" argue that China was politically absolutist so could (and did) repress the "inclusive" economic institutions needed for industrialisation. Economic development requires free markets (what "inclusive" seems to mean), but sustaining such institutions requires "inclusive" non-absolutist political institutions, i.e. democracy. Politics upstream of economics?