File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2001/bhaskar.0110, message 33

Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2001 22:15:39 +0100
Subject: BHA: <fwd> A.G.Frank on World history and the current crisis

Department of History
University of Nebraska Lincoln [UNL]
Lincoln, NE
Web Page:

Excerpt from the Pauley Lecture October 18th:

As part of that,  the UN declared 2001 as the Year of Dialogue of
Civilizations I will argue here tonight that this denomination is also
confusing and dangerous, particularly since  September 11. For now
the dialogue seems to be carried on more with with machetes, bombs
and airplanes, propanganda and  obfuscation if not downright lies.

As part of this  this  tragically  mis-named UN year, I participated in
a UN University conference on Dialogue of Civilizations in Japan.

My message was:

Why Dialogue Yes? Because we need it - among people who are the
only ones who CAN dialogue with each other in this ONE WORLD
of ours..

Why civilization No? Because there are none and never were any.
Even if there were, only people could dialogue - and also across the
theoretically alleged civilizations that have no and never had any de
facto historical existence.

To claim that different civilizations did and still do exist is not only
historically and scientifically confusing but also dangerous. The call,
attempt, and  claim to compare civilizations is  misguided and
therefore misleading. Even if it were possible to identify and compare
civilizations, which it is not because they do not exist, the very attempt
to do so only evades and confuses  the issue as  Gorbachov, who was to
speak here yesterday, said in his address to the UN already in 1988, that
is unity in diversity. Apparently, the UN did not listen very well, since
instead  it is still today going on about non-existing separate

Alas, this problem with comparisons and
applies not only to non-existent civilizations, but also to societies,
cultures, ethnicities and  especially races. Apart from the tendency and
danger of attributing and comparing characteristics that they do not in
fact have, the very comparative method must lead to misleading results
when it is applied to units or entities that are supposed to have been or
be separate but in fact have been and  still are so related to each other
that some of their supposedly separate characteristics  in fact  RESULT
FROM THEIR RELATION itself and/or from some influence that is
common to them both or all. All social life is characterized by such
relations, connections, and commonalities throughout world history,
as I intend to demonstrate in this evening; thus leaving precious little
of much use to be learned from any world history that is primarily
comparative. Moreover, before we can useful distinguish differences,
let alone understand which differences really make a difference, we
need to identify the connections and commonalities from which to
distinguish any differences.

All were historically shaped and are today re-shaped, not by any imagined
original pristine existence or derivation, but by their mutual  relations
with each other. I wonder why so many - even *world* historians do not
see that world history is history OF THE WORLD.   It is the refusal to
accept this fact of our common social life that can then find expression
in *we are God's chosen people*, *this land is ours and has been since
forever* ,*this land is ours,* and *ethnic cleansing* - instead of unity in
diversity, or diversity in unity.

Tonight I will speak about this unity, which at least in AfroEurasia
has a history of several thousand years. That is why it is historically
and theoretically more correct and socio-politically more useful to
do a unifying and connective rather than, or at least in addition to,
comparative world history. That is what I propose to do here tonight,
even with the brief time at my disposal to to look at best at some tips
of the icebergs over  the last 6,000 years in the history of the world.
One operational definition and characteristic of  a single common
history of globalization  historical process of globalization  is that
diverse groups dance to the same historical tune, which itself generates
that diversity.

In the Eastern Hemisphere *old* world, the beginnings of this process
and structure of globalization  can be identified and timed as far back
as at least 4,000 BC. in the eastern Mediterranean and surrounding areas
and peoples of  what has been called the Fertile Crescent. The neoliphic
revolution and common historical process began there precisely because
the area was fertile, and then  spread out from there to ever wider adjacent
areas and peoples. By 3,000 BC and certainly by 2,500. Sargon lived and
undertook his military economic expeditions around  2,450. Bronze age
cycles ,rome-china, medieval LIFE 1000 -1800 -1900

I would like to close our long voyage through world history and ok
its comparison with received Eurocentric history by deriving  some
important theoretical, ideological and political conclusions for the
present and our future.

This kind of WORLD history will hopefully one day replaces the
Eurocentric historiography and social theory begun by Marx,
embellished by Weber, recently codified by David Landes his best
selling WEALTH AND POVERTY OF NATIONS, and  converted
into the worst kind of political propaganda by Samuel Huntington as
THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS. This mis-named  World history
of civilizations is directly pertinent to the divisive and dangerous
political agenda pursued  under the ideological cover of appeals
to comparative history and the comparative method in the social
sciences.  Alas, both are swords with two edges, one that can with
great difficulty be used  to do good, the other with great ease to do

In 1970 President Richard Nixon declared that we are all Keynesians
now. By analogy we are all  Marxists now, and especially those who
deny it. For it was Karl Marx and Friederich Engels who in 1848 for
the fist time codified the alleged difference between THE WEST AND

We developed what has come to be called *democratic capitalism*  in
the West starting in  Europe, while the rest languished in its traditional
and the *Asiatic Mode of Production* under *Oriental Despotism*.
The claim is that they would have remained there for ever had it not
been for the *Expansion of Europe*,  its *capitalism* and the colonialism
and imperialism whose *civilizing mission* was to carry *the white man's

After Marx, te most famous academic exponents of all that are Max
Weber, who added some rationalist yeast to Marx=s capitalist bread so
that it could rise and  accumulate. The modern father of history, Otto
von Ranke disingeniously claimed that his Eurocentric history was
universal, Oswald Spengler lamented its decline, and Arnold Toynbee
still eulogized Western civilization as a standout from among his
depending when we look at 23, then 21 or only 19 civilizations.

Also following Marx, this  Eurocentric theology  has had and still
has countless disciples, preachers and other faithful.  All of them
construct and their  contemporary desiples still  hold on to an
either/or between an alleged European Miracle [as per the now
famous title by Eric Jones] derived exclusively from an also European
exceptionalism that in THE WEST and then compare that  to even
more equally mythical qualities - or rather the alleged lack of them
-in THE REST. Alas any serious historical research demonstrates that
The Rest never was as the Eurocentrist  claim, nor even was their own
West. Moreover, not only do they compare nonexisiting  apples  that
are innately black in the Rest with equally non-existent oranges that
are innately blue in The West. But their would be comparison is
vitiated by the prior cross-breeding of both with each other.  The
result is the empirical falsification - nay even denial - of world history
common to both and the derivation of  social theory of essential and
essentialist innate qualities, whose only use is the attempt to legitimate
the domination by The Rest by the West. These polar dualities have
been the common mark of all the scions of the received wisdom from
Marx in 1948 to Landes in 1997. They include  the  "father of sociology"
in France Auguste Compte and Sir Henry Maine Main in England
who distinguished  between supposedly new forms of thinking and of
social organization based on "science" and "contract," in the West that
allegedly replaced age "traditional" ones that still mark THE
REST. Another comparison of the same duality, was that of the also
Frenchman Emile Durkheim ,who idealized our "organic" vs. their
"mechanical" forms of social organization. Not to be outdone Germany
produced Ferdinand Toennis, who alleged a transition from traditional
"Gemeinschaft" to modern "Gesellschaft" and of course the still more
influential George Simmel, Werner Sombart, an above them all Max

In a later generation and by then in the Unitdd States, Talcott Parsons
codified Weber and idealized "universalist" vs. "particularist" social
forms, and Robert Redfield with whom I studied cultural anthropology
claimed to have found a contrast and transition or at least a continuum
between traditional "folk" and modern "urban" society and a  symbiosis
between "low" and "high civilization."  With the only partial exception
Redfield's, none of these polar opposite ideal types even remotely
contemplate  that each pole may have influenced the not so ideal
characteristics of the other, and all neglect if not deny any world
history common to them all.

Other authors also offer only non-world historical "internal" explanations
to account for the alleged superiority and ascendance of the West over
the Rest . For these writers, the rise of the West  also  was a "miracle"
based on  the West's unique qualities., that The Rest must now try to
copy to enter the paradise of the West. That was called ''Modernizationan
Theory,'' much of which was invented for the by CENIS branch at MIT,
where I innocently spent 3 months in 1958. That is where the CIA funded
Lucian Pye and  his political alleged science, the sociologists Daniel
Lerner's invention of *The Passing of Traditional Society,* and  David
McClellan's *Achieving Society,* all of which were codified there as
*The Theory of Social Change* by Everett Hagen and complemented
by The economist W..W. Rostow's *The Stages of Economic Growth.*
All were cut from the same Eurocentric cloth and followed the same
theoretical pattern, and they dominated the social sciences for more than
a generation. In 1958, Rostow confided  Rostow  confided in me that since
the age of 18 his goal was to replace Marx. Indeed, his book was then
subtitled *A Non-Marxist Manifesto* by which he really meant an
anti-Marxist one.  Alas we may ask, what was the point? Rostow's
"stages" were little more than a "bourgeois" version of Marx's stage by
stage development from feudalism to capitalism to socialism -- all starting
in Europe! Like Marx, Rostow claimed that now the United States,
following England, would show the rest of the world the mirror of its
future.  Rostow (1975), later  also explained  How it All Began: Origins
of the Modern Economy through the scientific revolution that allegedly
distinguished modern Europe. The next year, Cipolla (1976:276)
claimed "that the Industrial Revolution was essentially and primarily a
socio-cultural phenomenon and not a purely technical one, [which]
becomes patently obvious when one notices that the first countries to
industrialize were those which had the greatest cultural and social
similarities to England."  David Landes (already in 1969 had also
discovered the cultural conditions for The Unbound Prometheus:
Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe
only in Europe itself.

Three decades later my now friend  David Landes still repeats the same
1997. There he claims that *if we learn anything from the history of
development, it is that culture makes all the difference*, that is of course
our Western culture. [A  public debate on our respective books is
available on video for $ 29,95 from C-Span who broadcast it nation-
wide]. In reply to my charge that he too is an undercover Marxist,
David replied that his Harvard colleagues do not regard him as such
and informed us that when he misbehaved his father used to call him
a socialist, to which I signified my pleasure and honor to have something
in common with his father.  Well, David is a super-duper Marxist indeed
when he mis-behaves in doing comparative *world history,* as he
erroneously names it, of the   WEST vs. THE REST, and literally
litters his book with adjectives and ad-hominims about the rest.

Although Landes writes "anyone who wants to understand world
economic history must study China," that is where he finds his best
epiteths. The Chinese lacked range, focus, and above all, curiosity;
they were a culturally and intellectually homeostatic society that could
live with little change; they had indifference to technology, technological
and scientific torpor; lacked institutions for finding and learning [in the
world's most literate society!]; abhorred mercantile success, and were not
motivated by greed and passion. They showed deliberate introversion,
isolationism, risk aversion, irrationality, xenophobia, arrogance,
haughtiness, stunned submissiveness, self-defeating escapism; were
insecure and brittle, and so on and on. To other parts of the Rest, my
friend David attributres other ''intrinsic capabilities'' as he calls them
of being Dumb, dour, dull, docil, incapable, inefficient, intolerant, cupid,
avaricious, self-imposed archaism, submissive, sanctimonious, intolerant,
hypocrit, lacking in skills, curiosity, initiatives and civic interests; and
In his review of David's book in the New York Review of Books, the
father of modern world history and past  president of the AHA William
McNeill can justly write that Landes "assumes an unchanging culture
[in China] ... and his chapters on Latin America, the Muslim lands and
China [also Russia, Spain and Portugal]  bluntly attribute their fumbling
in making progress toward modernity to defects in the culture and
institutions of the peoples concerned."  McNeill calls many of these
"assumptions" "unabashedly triumphalist dubious assertions"

In case you think all this is quaint academicism, recall that when that
old cold warrior e Samuel Huntington, lost  his bogey of the Evil
Empire, he used  this kind of  Eurocentic historiography and social
theory  as his base  for his  alleged  CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS,
invented by him for the prupose, nobody knows how, between US
and THEM for which he coined the term THE WEST AND THE
REST, in particular with China and Islam.  Bernard Barber then re-
babtized them as  *A Jihad vs. McDonald* and Francis Fukuyama
*The End of History*. Beyond that reigns Kaplan's *Age of Chaos.*

All of this divisive ideology is rapidly put to the political use for
which it was invented, against China while a US spy plane was
sitting there and now against Islam, President Bush's denials
notwithstanding. Unfortunately, the mis-guided and mis-leading
Eurocentric historiography and and social theory, intentionally or
not, still provide the un-scientific basis and ideological legitimation
for all this, along of course with the denial or neglect of a common
world history that would instead sustain unity in diversity.

Not to be left out of the Eurocentric loop, the media magnate and
conservative, nay reactionary, Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi,
soon after hosting the G-8 summit meeting in Genoa that also drew 100
thousand protesters in the streets, one of whom was shot to death, himself
raised a storm with his public declaration, significantly made after
September 11, that Western civilization is superior to the Islamic one.
So much for the comparative mis-called world history of civilizations,
cultures, ethnicities and all that. As long the world is ReOrienting anyway,
it would be useful for us to follow the course of contemporary world
history and also to ReOrient. QED.

Thank your for your attention and patience with me.

     --- from list ---


Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005