Dussel and Fornazzari, 2



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The Enlightenment represented the introduction of European epistemological hegemony-It created a binary thought system in which certain culture count and certain don’t. Postmodernity itself is trapped within that very system.


Dussel and Fornazzari, 2 [Enrique D., Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the Iztapalapa campus of the Universidd Autonoma Metropolitana, and Alessandro, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies at UC Riverside, “World-System and “Trans”-Modernity, Nepantla: Views from South, Volume 3, Issue 2, 2002, pp. 221-244, ALB]

Only Two Centuries of European Global Hegemony:



The People Excluded from Modernity European hegemony, principally British and French (although the latter to a lesser extent), was a result of the Industrial Revolution, in turn ideologically based on the “Enlightenment” and “Romanticism.” If we take the French Revolution (1789) as a symbolic starting date, this hegemony, as I have indicated, is just two centuries old. Europe was not always the “end and center of world history,” as Hegel believed; nor did it enjoy, since the prophets of Israel, ethical-political superiority, as Max Weber thought. It had not even been the “center” of the “world-system” since 1492. (As I have already suggested, world-system theory, although a critical position against the “first Eurocentrism” of Hegel or Weber, and against the Eu- ropean “common sense” still prevalent today, can now be considered to be the “second Eurocentrism,” since European hegemony is not five hundred, but only two hundred years old.)¶ The task now is to explain the rise of the West articulated with the decline of the East. This requires a global thinking that overcomes the “second” Eurocentrism. The world-system, which was born as such by an- nexing the “New World” (the Spanish American connection) to the “Old World” (comprised of two extremes: from a disconnected and secondary Europe to a prominent China and Hindustan), moves as a whole, like a heart, with its diastole and systole, whose first palpitation is situated in the East. The decadence of the East allowed the “center” of the world-system to be organized under Western control, although this did not occur instanta- neously or miraculously (in this respect, Wallerstein’s criticism of Frank is correct). This reorganization also did not simply follow the exclusive condi- tions and attributes of previous European history (i.e., contra the method of interpretation that attempted to detect “intrinsically” Europe’s superiority over other cultures). To think “non-Eurocentrically” is to be able [SIC]* to imag- ine that the Industrial Revolution was Europe’s response to a “vacuum” in the East Asian market, especially China and Hindustan; it is the effect of a structure (China’s being that of an imperial and autocratic state which impeded the triumph of the bourgeoisie) and of a crisis (a multiple political one produced by low salaries, the demographic explosion caused by the economic wealth accumulated since 1400, etc.). This “vacuum” attracted the “possibility” of being “filled” by a European production that had been growing since the fifteenth century. Marx correctly observed that market expansion, like all exchange, can lead to the expansion of production.Given the high European salaries and the low population in the United Kingdom (relative to China and Hindustan) the only solution (i.e., the only way to expand production and lower the proportion of the salary in the value or price of the product) was to increase use of the machine. In a few decades, the machine’s subsumption into the production process (which Marx describes adequately as the necessary means to create “relative surplus value” [see Dussel 2001]) gave Great Britain and France (and eventually all of Northern Europe) a significant comparative advantage over China, Hindustan, the Islamic world, Spanish America, and even Eastern and Southern Europe. This advantage was such that at the beginning of the nineteenth century (that is, by the 1820s, when Hegel gave his Lectures on the Philosophy of History [1970] in Berlin, scarcely five decades after Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations [1776], described China as the richest country in the world) all of the “Orient”20 would be seen as merely eternal and miserable “Oriental despotism.”¶ At the same time, Africa was being relegated even lower, as the continent of slaves (a view that ignored Egypt’s being a black African civilization [see Bernal 1987]). During the Berlin Congress of 1885 (little more than a century ago!) Africa would be divided up among the European powers. The South of Europe would remain, in the Eurocentric memory of the (Anglo-Saxon and Germanic) North, a moment of the late “Middle Ages” or the “northern part of Africa” (“Africa begins at the Pyrenees!”), and Latin America, with its indigenous and African population, would be relegated to the status of distant colonial world, on the periphery of the already semiperipheral and preindustrial Spain and Portugal. The “Enlightenment” vision would block off like a cement wall the old “disconnected Europe,” the “Dark Age” Europe that until the fifteenth century, in the most optimistic scenario, was a periphery of the Islamic, Chinese, and Hindustani world—that “Oriental” world, much more “refined” and developed, from all points of view, that was the “cen- ter” of the old world, and the densest part of the world-system until the end of the eighteenth century. From Hegel, Marx, and Comte to Weber— including Freud, Husserl, Heidegger, Popper, Levinas, Foucault, Lyotard, and Habermas—Eurocentrism shines unopposed. And it would dominate the colonial world with the brilliance [brillo] of “Western culture,as hu- manity’s most developed center “since the beginning” (even though it may be a qualitatively irreplaceable critical conscience, as in the case of Haber- mas until the present).¶ Europeans, in their “civilizing” expansion (“England has trans- formed itself into the missionary of civilization in the world,” Hegel [1970, 538] stated triumphantly), thus felt justified in covering over, excluding, and ignoring as nonexistent all cultures that preceded theirs, as well as those contemporary civilizations (those “peoples without history”) not worthy of notice by “Western Culture.” This process, by which modern Rea- son “excluded,” negated, and confined to “Exteriorityall it considered worthless in terms of the modern values and “universal” criteria of civiliza- tion by which it deemed everything should be evaluated, rapidly extended itself from the beginning of the nineteenth century to all the non-European cultures. The results were surprisingly effective, so much so that those who were negated—given their evident industrial inferiority—applauded through their neocolonial elites (educated in Europe and later in the United States) a Eurocentric ideology that until very recently has had no critical opponent. The exclusion, as a civilizing criterion, of everything non-European also gave Europewhich already had military, economic, and political hegemony—cultural and ideological domination. What was non- European finally disappeared from all practical and theoretical consider- ations. The Spanish and Portuguese (with respect to the first modernity) and the Chinese, the Hindustanis, and the members of the Islamic world, whether from Granada, Cairo, Baghdad, Samarqand, Delhi, Melaka, or Mindanao (with respect to their “centrality” in the Old World and to the be- ginning of the world-system until the end of the eighteenth century) would end up accepting the northern Eurocentric interpretation. Their Western- ized elites, even those leading leftist revolutionary projects, like Mao Ze- dong (is standard Marxism not a modality of Eurocentric expansion?) and, according to Jean-Paul Sartre in his introduction to The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon, would become peripheral “echoes” of the superiority of Western culture, a vision today globalized by transnational corporations and global financial capital (see Hardt and Negri 2000). In this sense, postmodernity is as Eurocentric as modernity.

*Gendered and Abelist language Said in Context
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