misra responds

Mon, 03 Mar 97 15:03:38 EST

Dave Smith just called my attention to this debate (guiltily, I admit to
have not been following WSN these last few weeks).

Gunder remarked:
>4. It would be nice if Misra would also speak/write here for Boswell &
>Misra or at least for Misra, from whom I get the impresssion [my idea?] that
>she does not altogether share Boswell's ideas about world reality

Well, here I am. Most likely, I won't please either Terry or Gunder with
my remarks. But I am Misra speaking for Misra, and not Misra for Boswell &

The way I read this debate is that Terry is arguing that European
expansion (geographically, in terms of trade, and in terms of production)
during the long 16th century provides the evidence we need to show that
capitalism emerged in Europe during this period. Perhaps that's
simplifying too much, but I don't have anything in front of my except
Terry's Saturday email to the list.

Gunder suggests that this read privileges Europe's position in the world-
system in ways that are not productive for world-system theory. He
disputes this notion, with the following remarks, which I'll attempt
to address:

>5. The Baltic is one thing, Eaurasia a rather bigger different thing.
>To expand 3 plus times from virtually nothing is not much, and lests look
>at how this "expansion" was achieved = with American money.

Although European-Asian trade expanded during this period, it still was
*very very very* small compared to intra-European trade or intra-Asian
trade. And, American silver is what gave the Dutch the chance to trade
in Asia (Asian traders had enough partners, thanks very much, and silver
gave Europe an "in").

6. For this European "expansion" to spell EXPANSION, Boswell would have
A. Compare it with the "expansion" opf others, eg of India, China, etc.
etc., but of course since TB does not LOOK at those, he can't compare
anything, and
B. Look/see also how much the European "expansion" was as a share of the
rest of the world's "expansion" and/or how big a share Europe got thanks
to its "expansion". Since TB does not look elsewehere, of course he cant
see that, nor realize how little it was.

I believe this is a fair critique of our work. The way I see it, Terry
and I are most interested in making sense of how the Dutch became so
powerful within Europe, in comparison to the other European powers,
and what this tells us about the workings of the European world-system.
We don't look at Europe as belonging to a larger world system, or
put together trade figures for regions outside of northern Europe.

While we can discuss the internal processes of the European world-system
(a project I continue to think is important and can contribute to world-
system theory), it would be useful to add the context Gunder pushes for
(how the European world-system was impacted by processes in the larger
world system, how other regions of the world system similarly or
dissimilarly "developed") in order to develop a better understanding of
the workings of the world system.

Comparative-historical scholars (of all stripes) should and generally
do recognize the validity of this point -- we must continue to look
at our cases (even the case of the world-system) using comparative
frameworks in order to develop the most sophisticated and sensible
understanding of what's occurred/occuring. Although I can't promise
that my research will follow up on this need for contextualization and
comparison, I hope that it will. I think that this is the way that
we build good theories.

7. To say that Europe "exapanded" to take up a big position in Southeast
Asia, not to mention in East/South/or even West - and Central - Asia, is
.... ok, lets call it balderdash instead of BS!

I don't have the past emails, so I'm not sure who said exactly what, but
this does seem quite clearly off-the-mark. Europe was unable to expand
enough to take up a "big position" in Southeast Asia. The Dutch made up
a very tiny portion of the trade in Asia, and only controlled a very
limited territory. Professor Barense has made this point already.
Every source on European-Asian trade I'm aware of agrees with this point,
and I have no evidence to the contrary.

>Fortunately, this non-"disgreement" does not affect our friendship, and
>Terry's research helps enlighten us about what can be seen under the
>European streetlight, but alas it can NOT enlighten us much about what
>went on in the world as a whole, and it distorts even what we can see in
>Europe & the Baltic & Atlantic; because it does not take account of the
>whole nor of how that whole shaped the [marginal] European part.

Well. :) I take Gunder's remarks as a charge to keep pushing beyond
the limits of our previous research, in hope of developing a better

Yet, on the continued debate about whether there was a *qualitative*
shift in Europe during this period which signals the emergence of
capitalism, I quite honestly feel that I need to examine more evidence
and make sure that what we all mean when we say "capitalism" is
crystal clear. *Something* happened in Europe. As Professor Sanderson
suggests, perhaps the financial innovations played a role (I am
fascinated by the work that points out the innovation of "long-term
credit" to the state and its effects). But personally, I can't convince
myself that I know enough about regions outside of Europe and what we
all mean when we use the word "capitalism" to come down on either side
of this debate.

I am grateful to Terry, Gunder and everyone else for keeping me interested

Joya Misra

Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
University of Georgia
Baldwin Hall
Athens, Georgia 30602