historical evidence

Sat, 1 Mar 1997 02:42:31 EST5EDT
Terry Boswell (TBOS@social-sci.ss.emory.edu)

Gunder accuses me of taking his name in vain. I plead guilty. It
should be obvious to most that reconsiling our views over the
existence of capitalism is in vain. I think the transformation of
the loose world system into an integrated capitalist world-system in
the long 16th century to be the most important process in human
history since horticulture. As I understand him (which is rare),
Gunder now holds that no such transformation took place. Despite our
fundamental disagreement, what might not be obvious is that we are
good friends and that I truly respect his endeavor to expand the
horizons of world system theory. In that spirit I feel
downright obligated to offer a gentle retort to claims that appear
from my perspective to be a bit extreme, including his
following claim:

"NONE of that qualifies for or justifies the Eurocentric terminology
"European EXPANSION", better translated into Eurocentric bullshit.

Respectfully submitted - to the historical evidence!
gunder frank"

In regard to 'historical evidence' of expansion, three types come to
mind - geographic, trade and economic. In geographic terms, between
1450 and 1650 the W.European states managed to reverse the tide of
Arab/Turkish expansion and go on to conquer the Americas, large
portions of costal Africa, most of Indonesia, and critical trading
posts throughout Afroasia. In terms of trade, the evidence points to
a concurrent massive expansion, as indicated by the Baltic trade
increasing perhaps 10 fold, the EuroAsian sea trade increasing at
least 8 fold, and the Euroamerican sugar trade rising perhaps 3 fold
(see Boswell and Misra, forthcoming _Acta Politica_ for data).

Increases in economic product are harder to measure for this period.
In some ways the trade data reflect an increase in production, most
obvioulsy in the case of sugar production and Baltic trade. But, it
is quite possible for trade to increase faster than production due to
an increased division of labor. This was surely the case,
although productive expansion is also widely reported. Scattered
data on textiles indicate a clear production increae in Britain and
the Netherlands, for instance.

This expansion, regardless of what changed in Asia, is not just bull.
Rather, it was of such magnitude that the quantitative change became
a qualitative one.



Terry Boswell
Department of Sociology
Emory University
Atlanta, GA 30322