Blaut's reply to sanderson's reply etc.

27 Feb 97 19:37:30 EST
James M. Blaut (70671.2032@CompuServe.COM)

Dear Steve:

Of course I'll read your stuff but my posting was a reply to *your* review of
*my* book, and what I say is a refutation of *your* attacks on *my* positions,
and I have to respond to what you say in the review, don't I? And it is hardly
adequate as a respone to my reply for you to say,
in essence, "Oh, I answered *that* criticism in *another* one of my writings,

It is indeed a form of Eurocentrism -- and a common one these days -- to say,
in, effect, "Well, Europe was superior to everyone else *except* Japan" (or some
would say China). This fits so neatly with the present-day situation of Japan.
It happened, so it was foredoomed to happen, etc. Moreover -- and I am
definitely *not* referring to your position -- there are new, or newly popular,
forms of both cultural and genetic racism that use the modern rise of Japan as
an argument against Africans (abnd African-Americans). The extreme racism is
found, for instance, in a book by I-forget-his-name which claims that the East
Asian genes are slightly superior to the European genes but both a re *vastly*
superior to African genes. More commonly, we get arguments suggestiong that
cultural qualities of medieval Japan or China somehow held the same potential
for modernization as did European cultural qualities -- but evryone else was and
is a barbarian. (Part of this can probably be explained by the need to
accomodate Eurocentric world history to Needham's work.)

You haven't addressed my (actually, Gunder's) point that Japan achieved core
status because of its isolation and thus its unique chance to prepare defenses
against colonialism.

As to the nature of feudalism, I erred unthinkingly in saying it was
"widespread." I meant it was found in many widely spread places. There were, for
instance, serfs in many societies, manors in many societies, feudal
aristocracies in many societies, nested-hierarchical systems of sovereignty in
many societies, etc., in Africa, Asia, Europe, and also, it seems, among the
Maya and Aztecs. So why does Japan win any prizes?

If you had read my book more carefully, you'd have noticed that I make the same
point that you do about commnercialization. Whether the end product would have
been capitalism-as-we-know-it or something a bit different (and hopefully more
humane), I don't know.

I *do* think it likely that Africa waas on a par with Europe in 1500. If
sufficiently goaded, I will re-transmit on this list my long defense of that
positiion which I sent to the H-Africa list.

Colonialism: In my book I argue that colonialism gave Europe its unique
advantage, and that Europe became the great imperial center not for reasons of
pre-1492 qualities but becasuse of the fact that Europe was much more accessible
to the Americas -- initially, to the looting grounds-- than any other
maritime-oriented protocapitalist (or whatever you want to call it) society. And
I was obligated to explain why West African civilizations were not
maritime-oriented. You say in the review: "Doesn't the fact that West and
Central Europe were not oriented to maritime commerce mean precisely that these
regions were at a lower stage of economic development?" (p. 512) Maritime
orientation does not equal or imply higher levels of development for those
periods. And late-medieval West and Central Africa had very advanced and complex
civilizations and traded intensively with the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean
regions. But more concretely, it would have made no economic sense to send or
obtain trade products by sea, because of the vastly greater distances and
because of the rather unfavorable wind systems.

Colonialism again: Your list of the factors that you favor as explanatory in the
rise of Europe and Japan does *not* include colonialism. I am delighted to learn
from you that in other writings you do emphasize the significance of
colonialism/imprerialism in the rise of the modern European world system.

Jim Blaut

X (his mark)