Re: historical evidence

Tue, 04 Mar 1997 09:32:47 +1100
Bruce R. McFarling (

On Mon, 3 Mar 1997, Albert J Bergesen wrote:

> That for me raises the eurocentric issue again. Without indulging in
> Western self hatred, it seems reasonable that when the theoretical output
> of an area that has just attained temporary global hegemony (post-1850
> Europe) makes universalist claims that this area is totally diffferent in
> viritually all ways from the rest of the world, and that difference
> accounts for this rise, and that this rise, is a turn in world history,and
> not, as it turns out, a blip, that this theory seems legitimately called
> zonal centrtic, and when the zone is Europe, then Eurocentric. This seems
> like a straight call.

Having read part of one of Sanderson's books, I would point out
there is a rough fit here with the broad outlines of his argument:

- A persistent increase in 'commercialisation' from the rise of
states onward (pretty much Gunder Frank's '5,000 years')
- A diversity of particular political systems, one of which is
feudalism, as found in Europe and Japan, specifically including personal
vasselage (among the elites) and other features (that is, historical
- Feudalism having a differential propensity to shift into a
system in which capitalist relations are a predominant institution for the
organisation of production (here I lapse into an institutionalist rather
than Marxist understanding of capitalism -- but then, variety is the spice
of life, eh?)
- This is simply a differential propensity, not an absolute
requirement for the emergence of capitalism, so that if,
counter-factually, there had been no feudal systems, the 'central' (I
guess what has sometimes been called the 'axial' system) system would have
had states making the transition to a dominance of capitalist rules of
authority within producing organisations in any event.

That really does fit with the account from which the above was
quoted. Because of their non-central status, most of the 'rise' was
consumed in catching up, and once they had caught up and started to move
ahead, the propensity of other states (empires, whatever) to shift to
dominance of capitalist institutions increased. In other words, when the
fundamental advantage is an early start, there is no reason to expect the
advantage to persist indefinitely.


Bruce R. McFarling, Newcastle, NSW