ssrn-id1729755

ssrn-id1729755 - 1 A Eurocentric Problem M Shahid Alam...

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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1729755 1 A Eurocentric Problem M. Shahid Alam Professor of Economics Northeastern University Boston, MA 02115 [email protected] Published in: CounterPunch.Org (Feb. 10, 2010)
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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1729755 He who knows himself and others Here will also see, That the East and West, like brothers, Parted ne’er shall be.” Goethe 1 In no other major civilization do self-regard, self-congratulation and denigration of the „Other‟ run as deep, nor have t hese tendencies infected as many aspects of their thinking, laws, and policy, as they have in Western Europe and its overseas extensions. 2 These tendencies reached their apogee during the nineteenth century, retreated briefly after World War II, but have been staging a comeback since the end of the Cold War. For several decades now, critics have studied these Western tendencies under the rubric of Eurocentrism, a complex of ideas, attitudes, and policies, which treat Europe when it is convenient as a geographical, racial and cultural unity, but places Western Europe and its overseas extensions at the center of world history since 1000 CE. 3 Unlike the garden variety of ethnocentrism, Eurocentrism emerged as an ideological project shaped by Europe‟s int ellectual elites in the service of Europe‟s rising expansionist, starting in the sixteenth century. It makes swee ping claims of European superiority in all spheres of civilization. In this worldview, only Europeans have created history over the past three thousand years, beginning with the ancient Greeks. In various accounts, this centrality is ascribed to race, culture, religion and geography. The central organizing principle of Eurocentrism is the division of the world 1 Edgar A. Bowring, Poems of Goethe (John W. Parker & Son, 1853): 272 2 E. C. Eze, Race and the Enlightenment: A Reader (Blackwell, 1997); M. Shahid Alam, “Articulating Group Differences: A Variety of Autocentrisms,” Science and Society (Summer 2003): 206-18. 3 For a review of this literature, see Andre Gunder Frank, “East and West,” in: Arno Tausch and Peter Herrmann, eds., The West, Europe and the Muslim World (Novinka, 2006).
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2 into unequal moieties: us and them, self and the Other. All those qualities that Western thinkers believe are emblems or sources of superiority are securely placed in the „us‟ category; and their opposites are pinned on „them.‟ The arrogance of this dichotomy is breathtaking. Once these di chotomies are in place, it becomes quite easy to „explain‟ Europe‟s putative centrality in history. One set of superior characteristics – innate, unchanging, unique account for the Western lead in all avenues of human endeavor, whether economic, technological, military, scientific or cultural. It is a tautological narrative of history par excellence . In order to „explain‟ the history of European superiority, the Eurocentrics first
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This note was uploaded on 10/24/2011 for the course SCIENCE PHY 453 taught by Professor Barnard during the Winter '11 term at BYU.

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ssrn-id1729755 - 1 A Eurocentric Problem M Shahid Alam...

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