Re: po-mo is part of the world-system, not a virus

Fri, 21 Mar 1997 10:03:55 -0500 (EST)

Let me just express some more reservations--1. Hegemonies are not
inevitable, and simply the products of getting tired of calling some
period crisis--hegemony involves having key forces follow one's
leadership--enough forces that any challengers can be easily repressed.
This was not the case for England until 1815, when, as a result of its
presenting a conservative (also in some important senses 'liberal')
alternative to France, all the aristocracies, and important elements of
the middle classes of Europe, as well as the revolutionary middle classes
of latin America rallied to its side. Same is true, on a larger scale
with the US and worldwide business classes, organized labor forces, and
even some important anti-colonial forces after WWII. Simply indicating
that hegemonies are always rising and falling would suggest that the
system cannot ever work without active leadership--something I don't
believe is true, and is in fact demonstrated historically by both the
sixteenth century experience and that between 1650 and 1815. Secondly,
the period from 1690-1750 involved highly universalist sense of order as I
understand the term--meaning an order based on mathematics, reason, etc.
rather than on historical/religious traditions. Finally, it is important
in this sort of project to attend to the historical contexts of culture--I
don't know where it fits into your project, but modernism in almost all
its forms was marginal/counter-hegemonic in Europe and the US pretty much
until after WWII--before then it was seen by the dominant
aristocratic/nationalistic forces as a Jewish plot to destroy Europe's
historical/national foundations. It is precisely these
aristocratic/nationalistic forces, now forgotten except by historians like
Arno Mayer and Fritz Ringer, who bother to ask what forces were actually
dominating European intellectual/cultural life, which I asssociate with
British nineteenth century hegemony. Hopefully I will have an article
soon clarifying this viewpoint.


Steven Sherman

On Sat, 15 Mar 1997, Albert J Bergesen wrote:

> Steven--This all gets tricky and depends alot on our definitions and what
> we mean by this and that. It is also a matter of relative universalism
> and relative particularism. If we take the 17th century with its "crisis"
> and the 30yrs war as a period of multicentricity--which seems
> reasonable--then by the second half of the 18th it seems reasonable to
> talk about a rising Britain. If by the latter half of the 19th we see a
> declining Britain and a rising Germany and US, then, in some ballpark way,
> late 18th to mid-19th constitutes something of a British hegemony period,
> remembering always that some of this is rising and falling hegemony. This
> dating does not seem controversial to me.
> Second, The Enlightenment is about the universal rights of man--not man in
> classes--but man in general. Adam Smith is about the universal propensity
> to truck and barter--not having to truck and barter because of class
> menbership and requirements from particular mode of production, but in
> general, for all time, for all people, for all situations. Romanticism is
> about nature in general; about the sublime in general, about feelings that
> transcend class, race, gender. it is in this sense that this is a period
> of universalism.
> Third, from 1850 on with Realism in art and what will be called the
> sociological critique of classical political economy, these eternals are
> now particularized: not universal nature, but specific places; not
> univesal human motives but class bound motives. Marx, Weber, Durkheim all
> qualify, limit, particularize, historicize classical political economy.
> It is in this sense that I am calling this a particularzing period.
> al b.
> Albert Bergesen
> Department of Sociology
> University of Arizona
> Tucson, Arizona 85721
> Phone: 520-621-3303
> Fax: 520-621-9875
> email: