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The Decolonization of Europe and Japan?
by Threehegemons
20 February 2002 14:27 UTC
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Elson--I don't agree with your metaphor that Europe and Japan will insist on 
being decolonized by the US in a way that parallels the earlier decolonization 
of the non-Western world.  Neither Europe nor Japan are colonies metaphorically 
or really.  They are the partners of the hegemonic US.  In other words, they 
reaped quite real rewards from this partnership, and indeed, in crucial 
measures these societies are more comfortable than the US itself. They are 
likely to be worried in coming years about the deleterious effects of US 
policies on world order, which needs to be maintained to continue their 
economic prosperity and physical well-being.  By contrast, the non-Western 
world at the beginning of the twentieth century needed to decolonize to make 
even minimal efforts to address the destruction of livelihood wreaked by 
colonial rule.

The semi-periphery and periphery remain the place where metaphors of 
decolonization remain relevant--in fact, a 'second decolonization of Africa' is 
a fairly popular slogan among some, and 'decolonization of the mind' is 
something you hear a good deal from postcolonial thinkers.  In the future, 
decolonization will probably not only involve sloughing off the Eurocentric 
aspects of the enlightenment heritage, but also the creation of regional 
financial and security arrangements to gain some room to maneuver and to strike 
fear in the hearts of the US or any other Western power inclined to bomb 
whomever they dislike.

In general, I don't find your total pessimism about the prospects of the 
periperiphery and semi-periphery altogether convincing.  Alice Amsden's 
argument that the last twenty years should be seen as a temporary setback in 
the face of a general trend of creating some globally competitive industries 
strikes me as equally plausible (putting aside the issue of East Asian 
development, which is another story).

Finally, although you reference Arrighi's theories about the US' turn to 
coercion, you ignore his emphasis in nearly everything he writes these days on 
the likelihood that East Asia will be a major player in shaping the emergent 

Steven Sherman

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