Mark Mazower on the End of Eurocentism

Critical Inquiry has just published a piece by Columbia University’s Mark Mazower, titled “The End of Eurocentrism,” that looks promising.

The abstract for the piece follows:

From one viewpoint, the years from 1945 to 1948 can be seen as a story about European reconstruction; from another, they emerge as the opening chapter of decolonization. Putting these two stories together raises the question of how Europe’s relations with the world changed in these years and, in particular, how contemporaries thought about Europe’s changing place in the world. This in turn was bound up with the ways in which they read the war and how the experience itself shaped their sense of Europe’s relationship with the world. This helps explain both Bidault’s surprise and Murray’s anxious discovery that there are other continents.

The Second World War marked the end of a long period of European ascendency, whose critical starting point was not the sixteenth century, let alone the Renaissance, but somewhere at the end of the eighteenth or the early nineteenth century. The age of Eurocentrism spanned the period from 1800 to 1945 in several senses. First, it marked the emergence of Europe as a center of world power through its formal colonialism and the technology gap created by the Industrial Revolution. Concurrently, there was the rise of settler societies, of which the “Anglo-world,” as James Belich tells it, was the most successful—although there was also the German-Russian settlement expansion south and eastwards, as well as its smaller Ottoman version. Subsequently, there was a kind of diplomatic intellectual counterpart to this European ascendancy: a new discipline of international law, one that enshrined the notion of a standard of civilization, that Gerrit Gong wrote about and that rested on a differentiated categorization of sovereignties in different parts of the world. This was accompanied by a changing conception of Europe. Paradoxically, as Europe expanded in power, Europe as a concept shrank. In 1840, for instance, the European powers could plausibly propose to Mehmet Ali that if he stopped threatening to invade Istanbul they would allow him to become part of the system of Europe. Forty years later, that was not an offer anybody was making. The geographical conception of Europe had become more focused even as Europe became more powerful.

Source: mark mazower on the end of eurocentism

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *