Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Discovering the European Mind
From the 19th century through the 1960s and 70s, World History books were quite fair in their assessments of the varying accomplishments of all civilizations, but most authors and teachers paid more attention to the achievements of European civilization in the making of modernity and in the shaping of global politics, particularly after the European discovery of the Americas, the consolidation of Newtonian science, and the spread of Western-created industrial technology. This fairly realistic assessment was increasingly rejected from the 1960s on by historians who felt that all the peoples of the earth deserved equal attention and that it was “ethnocentric” to elevate European achievements above others. How can Europeans be portrayed as the primary players in modern world history if all the races of the world are equal and the task of liberal-minded academics is to nurture cultural harmony, overcome the belligerence exemplified in World War II, and produce “global citizens” in an increasingly interconnected world? But an obvious difficulty confronted this feeling: how can a new history of all humans—“universal” in this respect—be constructed in light of the clear pre-eminence of Europeans in so many fields?
It soon became apparent that the key was to do away with the idea of “progress,” which had become almost synonymous with the achievements of the West. In the political climate in the mid- to late ’60s, the West was at the center of everything that seemed wrong in the world: the threat of nuclear destruction, the prolonged Vietnam War, the pollution inflicted by European consumers; and the West was opposed to the brave new world taking shape: pan-Arabic and pan-African identities, the “liberation movements” in Latin America, the Black civil rights riots, the feminist struggle against patriarchy, etc.[1]
Not to be underestimated, this was the time when a highly influential school of thought, Dependency Theory, emerged, arguing that the reason Europeans modernized, in the first place, was that they stole the resources of other civilizations, enslaved their inhabitants, and enriched themselves unfairly. The once backward West had managed to surpass other cultures, starting in the late 15th century, by positioning itself, through dishonesty, duplicity, and violence, at the center of the world economy. The “progression” of the West was predicated on the systematic exploitation of the rest of the world. Millions of students were taught that the capitalist West, in the words of Karl Marx, had progressed to become master of the world “dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.”[2] Old dead white males[3] should no longer be praised for launching the modern world, but should instead be held guilty for holding back the development of other civilizations and creating a world capitalist system in the “core” Western world that held down the “peripheral” Third World.

Read More: http://www.radixjournal.com/journal/2016/10/2/discovering-the-european-mind

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