Reply to Blaut, another round

Sun, 16 Mar 1997 09:09:00 -0500 (EST)


I'll respond to only two of your arguments.

as an Aside, you may not see much this week, as a nuumber of the people
you mention are decamping for Toronto for the Interntl Studies Assoc
meetings. Sat fetures two panels on cycles...

ON Japan & Europe on the edge:
1) SEAsia is not on the edge, but a major cross over region, by land and
by sea of Asian trade;
2) why not other edges? Sanderson, myself, do NOT argue it is solely
being on the edge, but several things in combination. The point is NOT
that Europe was unique, but rather that several conditions, trendes,
events all occurred there (& in Sanderson's argument only slightly later
in Japan). All of those making these arguments do so in the same
direction that you have: Europe was not necessarily special or "better",
maybe luckier and was able to seize that luck and parlay it into world
dominance (relatively temporarily if Gunder is right).
3) tributary is a more general term, the way Chris C-D & I use it than
feudalism. Feudalism is the most decentralized form of tributary state
and world-systems; something that vaguely resembles Marx's 'asiatic
despotism' is th other extreme. Tributary states vary, throught time and
place along this continuum, shaped among other things, by their position
in relevant world-systems.
All these systems experience cycles of pulsation (expansion-contraction
OR rapid and slower expansion) and states within them experience cycles
of rise and fall. For details on all of this see _Rise & Demise_ and or
papers at aforementioned ISA panels.

Now, an olive branch of sorts. I think we are spending far too much
energy trying to establish who is least eurocentric. Indeed, we are
falling into the standard left/radical game of self-criticism via forming
a firing squad in a circle with all shooting inwards. Meanwhile the
right laughs its ass off and continues selling inherent Eurocentric
superiority. I know that I must spend a good deal of time in the
classroom demolishing the still widely held view that European dominance
is due to inherent superiority of white folks. This can be done from a
variety of perspectives, with varying degrees of intensity, and most
importantly with varying degrees of success.

In THAT game, whether this one factor or that one process is more or less
significant in the explanation of the fact of European dominance in the
late 19th and 20th centuries is often a relatively minor finesse.

The counter argument to all anti-eurocentric is always the fact of recent
European dominance. Some answer IT by highlighting its recency and relative
brevity, others by emphasizing it is the result of concatenation of
events and processes--ones, that given a little more time might well have
happened elsewhere. This is the importance of Sanderson's discussion of
Japan. There are, no doubt, other such locales.

For sure we can argue about both the strategy & tactics of how to combate
Eurocentrism and about how Europe came to dominance and about what might
come next, but nothing is gained by incessantly tarring those with whom
with disagree as Eurocentric.

I do NOT think that you, Gunder, Steve S, or the reset are Eurocentric,
but I do disagree on several points. Most of which are laid out in
detail in Rise & Demise [and I recognize since it is literally hot ff the
press, few have had a chance to read it yet. Fortunately, or
unfortunately, what came out this year is, at least as far as Chris & I
are concerned, MUCH better than the draft Mss that were discussed at ISA
in 95 and circulated--indeed because we tried to attend to a number of
criticisms. Now, whether 'much better' is 'good' others will need to
say.] To the point here [a seredipitous typo had that pint, and maybe
all need to share a few...], is the R&D is anti-eurocentric as much as
Colonizers... but in substantially different ways. As a careful
geographer, you know very well that there are many different paths from
place A to place B, each with its own advantages and disadvantages...


Thomas D. [tom] Hall
Department of Sociology
DePauw University
Greencastle, IN 46135