Re: All of the above

Mon, 3 Mar 1997 19:50:27 -0500 (EST)
william r. thompson (

Here is a challenge to Gunder Frank, Al Bergesen, Joyra Misra, and Terry
Boswell, as well as anybody else who wants to join in. I suspect we
could argue until the cows come home about the relative centrality of
eastern vs. western eurasia in the world economy/system. But what
empirical evidence might we look for (other than Bairoch's data) that
could resolve this question? What I am hinting at is that I'm not sure
that everybody in this game is using the same criteria - therefore, it
might be helpful if people spelled out what criteria they had in mind for
establishing centrality/exceptionalism/breakthroughs to capitalism, or
whatever. For instance, if I wanted to establish centrality according to
the sheer volume of transactions, there would be no doubt where the
center was in say the 17th or 18th century ala Bairoch. Yet we also know
the Chinese economy has remained quite large in GNP terms despite low
scores in development and per capita wealth. Therefore, I do not find
Bairoch's data all that useful for establishing where I think the action
is in the world economy. I think the most interesting action is where
the innovation is concentrated (if, it is indeed concentrated) and I
don't see a whole lot of it going on in eastern Eurasia after the Mongol
phenomena. But, as well as my foggy mind can recall, I am introducing a
different criteria for focus than the earlier exchanges discussed. So,
maybe that is unfair ( and surely balderdash or worse according to
Gunder) but at least I can produce some evidence for innovation in the
world economy over the last millennia. To convince me that I'm out to
lunch or looking under the wrong streetlight, one would either have to
demonstrate that I have overlooked substantial evidence for economic
innovation or that innovation is simply the wrong focus. According to
the serial data I have in mind, the innovation center shifted away from
eastern Eurasia as early as the end of the Sung period, and toward
western Eurasia or, at least, very limited portions (Genoa, Venice
initially) thereof. Bill Thompson