Andre Gunder Frank

No Civilization

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ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age
On the New World Order
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Multilateral and Entropic Paradigms for the World Today and Tomorrow


We are living in confusing and dangerous times. The buzz word these days is GLOBALIZATION - as though that only started a few years ago. That widespread opinion leads to equally widespread confusion and misguided political practice . A related widely used term is that of ''civilization'' or worse distinct "''civilizations" and ''cultures'' or ''ethnicities." For instance, the UN declared 2001 as the Year of Dialogue of Civilizations and the United Nations University organized a major international conference in Tokyo, which I attended. My thesis was that there are and never have been NO distinct and even less pristine civilizations [plural]. These terms are also confusing and even dangerous, particularly since the events of September 11, 2001.'Civilization'' [singular] came into use to distinguish it from ''barbarism" and the social evolution . The notion of distinct major "civilizations" has become popular especially since the nineteenth century, to distinguish one from another, and especially ''The West" from ''The Rest" - to use Samuel Huntington's terms in his widely successful THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS [1993, 1999]. Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain never tires of declaring that he and US President Bush , who has also used the same term, are defending ''civilization" [singular and a barely disguises reference to WESTERN civilization] through the use of advanced technology airplanes and bombs, but also depleted uranium and cluster bombs, dropped on the poor, and the accompanying Big Brother ''WAR IS PEACE" propaganda and obfuscation, indeed downright lies. One, as important as it is hardly noted, is the abrogation of one of the greatest achievements of civilization: international law and its codification and institutionalization a half century ago at the Nuremberg Trials, the Geneva Conventions, the United Nations et al - be it noted ALL brought into being by the very big powers who are now destroying them. Those who do not command these military and world media weapons, have recourse instead instead to 'poor man's weapons'' of car bombs, suicide bombers, machetes, and ''ethnic cleansing." Now - but by the major powers already also for decades - the dialogue seems to be the use of the former by the rich against the poor in Vietnam and countless other instances.

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. For instance former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev in his address to the UN already in 1988 called for ''unity in diversity.'' Apparently, the UN did not listen very well, since instead it is still today going on about non-existing separate civilizations. 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 always been or be separate. In reality however, all 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. Moreover, before we can useful ly 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 mine and has been so since forever'', and ''ethnic cleansing'' - instead of unity in diversity, or diversity in unity.

Everywhere in the world today, ethnic politics is increasingly replacing or at least masking ildeaological, class, and even international politics. Those who invoke an alleged ethnic, cultural or civilizational difference and uniqueness - and often superiority - to support their political practice, and even populist politics, mostly do so in defense of their own narrow interests against those of much more widespread popular ones. The evocation of ethnicity, culture and civilization as the proper basis of politics not only flies in the face of all world and even ''national'' historical reality. It is itself, as the plague of post-modernism also is, the result of the global reality and forces whose existence and legitimacy it seeks to deny. That can easily be demonstrated by a materialist analysis of WHY these ideational forces are now so widespread. Others and I have done so elsewhere.

Here, I propose to address another important [mis]use of ethnic, cultural and civilizational categories: Widespread explanations of THE RISE OF THE WEST AND JUSTIFICATIONS of its domination of THE REST. They began to have currency in the middle of the nineteenth century, and they are still alive and kicking. An illustration is the archetypical THE EUROPEAN MIRACLE by Eric Jones and the recent publication and world-wide success in many translation of THE WELATH AND POVERTY OF NATIONS - WHY SOME ARE SO RICH AND SOME ARE SO POOR by Harvard economic historian David Landes, which his colleague John Kenneth Galbraith. Called ''truly wonderful." A nationally televised debate between Landes and me about his book and my 180 degree opposite one ReORIENT is available for $ 30 from C-Span. In it I said that what is truly wonderful is that Landes manages to pack every mistaken notion about this question between the covers of one book. These mistaken notions have a long geneaology and a presitigious pedigree, My recent work on world history is an attempt to help reverse this trend, which I fear will have an only feeble effect on the entrenched powers that be.

Even so, I hope against hope that my 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 and converted into the worst kind of political propaganda by Samuel Huntington.. 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 evil.

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 THE REST. under the title COMMUNIST MANIFESTO. 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 burden.''


Until about 1800, the predominant Western perception of the East was favorable. Europeans were attracted to and sought to learn from many parts of the Orient that were seen as civilizationally, culturally, politically, socially, economically, and technologically more advanced than any or all of Europe. Indeed, "Orient" , as still recorded in The Oxford Dictionary whose first edition dates from 1911, defined

ORIENT: The East; lustrous, sparkling, precious; radiant, rising, nascent; place or exactly determine position, settle or find bearings; bring into clearly understood relations; direct towards; determine how one stands in relation to one's surroundings. Turn eastward.

Oxford Dictionary of Current English

What happened to make all those nice meanings disappear and have the American Oxford Dictionary [1980] now say instead:

ORIENT: The East, Countries East of the Mediterranean, Especially East Asia.

Before 1800, Europeans and Arabs at least had a much more global/ist perspective that was then suppressed and replaced by the rise of Eurocentric historiography and social theory in the nineteenth century. For instance, the Tunisian statesman and historian, Ibn Kaldhoun [1332-1406] evaluated and compared the "wealth of nations" before and at his time:

This may be exemplified by the eastern regions, such as Egypt, Syria, India, China, and the whole northern regions, beyond the Mediterranean. When their civilization increased, the property of the inhabitants increased, and their dynasties became great.... Their prosperity and affluence cannot be fully described because it is so great. The same applies to the merchants from the East ... and even more so to the far Eastern merchants from the countries of the non-Arab Iraq, India, and China

(Ibn Khaldun 1967:279).

Even in the eighteenth century Father Du Halde, the most learned French publicist of matters Chinese [who never left Paris and used Jesuit and other travellers and translators as sources] still wrote that in China the particular riches of every province, and the ability of transporting merchandise by means of rivers and canals, have rendered the empire always very flourishing.... The trade carried on within China is so great, that of all of Europe is not to be compared therewith (quoted by Chaudhuri 1991:430 [for a longer version also see Ho 1959:199]).

Lach and Kley (1965--) have written volumes [7 so far with others promised] about Asia in the Making of Europe. They observe for instance that "sixteenth-century Europeans had considered Japan and China to be the great hopes of the future" (ibid: 1890). By the end of the seventeenth century "few literate Europeans could have been completely untouched [by the image of Asia], and it would have been surprising indeed if its effects could not be seen in contemporary European literature, art, learning, and culture" (ibid:1890]). For in the meantime, hundreds of books about Asia had been written, reprinted and translated in all major European languages.

Adam Smith also recognized Asia as being economically far more advanced and richer than Europe in still in 1776. "The improvements in agriculture and manufactures seem likewise to have been of very great antiquity in the provinces of Bengal in the East Indies, and in some of the eastern provinces of China.... Even those three countries [China, Egypt and Indostan], the wealthiest, according to all accounts, that ever were in the world, are chiefly renowned for their superiority in agriculture and manufactures.... China is a much richer country than any part of Europe" (Smith 1937: 20,348,169).

Already by the mid-nineteenth century, European views of Asia and China in particular had drastically changed. Dawson (1967) documents and analyzes this change under the revealing title The Chinese Chameleon: An Analysis of European Conceptions of Chinese Civilization. Europeans changed from regarding China as "an example and model" to calling the Chinese "a people of eternal standstill." Why this rather abrupt change? The coming of the industrial revolution and the beginnings of European colonialism in Asia had intervened to re-shape European minds, if not to "invent" all history, then at least to invent a false universalism under European initiation and guidance. Then in the second half of the nineteenth century, not only was world history re-written wholesale, but "universal" social "science" was [new] born, not only as a European, but as a Eurocentric invention.

In so doing, "classical" historians and social theorists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries took a huge step backward even from European, not to mention Islamic, perspectives that had been much more realistically world embracing up through the eighteenth century. Among those who saw things from this narrower [European] new perspective were Marx and Weber. According to them and all of their many disciples to this day, the essentials of the "capitalist mode of production" that allegedly developed in and out of Europe were missing in "The Rest" of the world and could be and were supplied only through European help and diffusion. That is where the "Orientalist" assumptions by Marx, and many more studies by Weber, and the [fallacious] assertions of both and all their many disciples to this day about the rest of the world come in.


During the past decades, revisionist history and social theory has begun all too slowly to correct this Eurocentric MISreadig of history and and MISconstruction of social theory. A number of recent works by others summarize and themselves advance thihs all too necessary work. Among them are Samir Amin on EUROCENTRISM [1989], Jack Goody THE EAST IN THE WEST [19xx], and especially James Blaut DIFFUSIONISM: THE COLONIZERS MODEL [vol 1 of a planned 3 volume series that the author's untimely death prevented him from completing. Volume II is EIGHT EUROCENTRIC HISTORIANS [19XX]. My own contributions are especially ReORIENT: GLOBAL ECONOMY IN THE ASIAN AGE, [first English language edition 1998, Chinese edition 2000, Japanese edition 2001, each so far in three printings], and several summary articles, especially ''Around the World in Eighty Years [ JOURNAL FOR COMPARATIVE STUDY OF CIVILIZATIONS, Tokyo: No. 5, March 2000, and ReORIENT WORLD HISTORY AND SOCIAL THEORY, both also available on my web page] . A topical summary follows:

  1. The 'Orient' was not really like it was made out to be: recent critiques and alternative renditions of Third World [Under]development in the East and South;
  2. The 'West' did not really do it on its own the way it claimed: A re-examination of the Western 'exceptionalism' to which 'Rise of the West' has been falsely attributed and of the alleged Northwest European and American 'way' and methods of development that others are supposed to follow; and
  3. East/West comparisons can reveal and reflect what really happened: A review of some more systematic comparisons and their theoretical pretensions.
  4. The West did invent 'capitalism' but its colonial imperialism was used to develop the west and underdevelop the rest: These are proposed alternatives that, while denying the crassest allegations of European exceptionalism, still identify Europe and America as the birthplace and 'center' of a world-economy and world-system and its 'capitalist mode of production' that only subsequently spread out to 'incorporate' the rest of the world.

Each of these steps has made a perhaps necessary contribution without however affording us a sufficient alternative perspective and analysis. Some authors and works, including my own, have contributed to more than one of the above categories. My book and in summary my articles present some elements of an alternative holistic global analysis that recognizes how the whole is not only more than the sum of its parts but also helps to shape its parts and their relations to each other, which cannot be analyzed or understood apart from the structure and transformation of that whole itself.


Let me try to put in a nutshell the world economy and Europe between 1400 and 1800. Early modern and modern [and therefore presumably also future] history themselves have a millenarian long history. Moreover, it has been a continuously common history at least throughout all of AfroEurasia. If there was a "new departure," it was the incorporation of the Americas and then also of Australasia into this already ongoing historical process and then world-wide system. Not only the initiative for this incorporation, but also its very causes and then the forms of its execution, had been generated by the structure and dynamic of the AfroEurasian historical process itself.

AfroEurasian history had long since been cyclical, or at least pulsating. The present millennium began with a period of system-wide political economic expansion. It was apparently centered at its far "eastern" end in Song China, but it also accelerated an accentuated re-insertion of its "western" end in Europe, which responded by going on several Crusades to plug its marginal economy more effectively into the new Afro-Eurasian dynamic. A period of pan-AfroEurasian political economic decline and even crisis followed in the late thirteenth and especially in the fourteenth century. Another long period of expansion began in the early fifteenth century, again in East and Southeast Asia. It soon included Central-, South- and West- Asia, and after the mid fifteenth century also Africa and Europe. The "discovery" and then conquest of the Americas and the subsequent "Columbian exchange" were a direct result, and part and parcel, of this world economy/system wide expansion.

So, the "long sixteenth century" expansion in fact began in the early fifteenth century; and it continued through the seventeenth and into the eighteenth centuries. This expansion also continued to be primarily Asian based, although it was also fuelled by the new supplies of silver and golden money now brought by the Europeans from the Americas. In Asia, this expansion took the form of rapid growth of population, production, trade including imports and exports, and presumably income and consumption in China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, India, Persia, and the Ottoman lands. Politically, the expansion was manifested and/or managed by the flourishing Chinese Ming/Qing, Japanese Tokugawa, Indian Mughal, Persian Safavid, and Turkish Ottoman regimes. The European populations and economies grew more slowly than all but the last of the above, and they did so rather differentially among each other. So did some "national" and other quite multi-ethnic European states, all of which were however much smaller than the large ones in Asia. The increased supply of money and/or population generated more inflation in Europe than in most of Asia, where increased production was more able to keep pace, including during the seventeenth century. In much of Europe however, economic and political growth were constrained and regionally even reversed in a major "seventeenth century crisis," which left most of Asia unscathed. Therefore also, population growth was faster and greater in Asia than in Europe, and so continued into the eighteenth century before inflecting after 1750.

The already long existent "system" of "international" division of labor and trade widened and deepened during this expansive long "A" phase. However as usual, different productive sectors and regions were differentially situated in this "system" of accumulation, production, exchange, and consumption, which were de facto on a "silver standard." The differentiation in productivity and competitiveness that underlay the division of labor and exchange were manifest in im-balances of trade and "compensated" by flows over long distances of mostly silver specie money. Most of this silver was produced in the Americas and some also in Japan and elsewhere.

Reflecting the macroeconomic imbalances and also responding to corresponding microeconomic opportunities to make and take profit, the silver moved around the world in a predominantly eastward direction across the Atlantic and - via Europe - across the Indian Ocean, and westward across the Pacific from the Americas and Japan. Ultimately, the largest silver "sink" was in China, whose relatively greatest productivity and competitiveness acted like a magnet for the largest quantity of silver. However there as elsewhere, the incoming money generated increased effective demand and stimulated increased production and consumption and thereby supported population growth. The new supply of money failed to do so where the political economy was insufficiently flexible and expandable to permit growth of production to keep pace with the increase in the supply of money. In that case rising effective demand drove up prices in inflation, which is what happened in Europe.

Europe's disadvantaged position in the world economy was partly compensated by its privileged access to American money. On the demand side, the use of their American money - and only that - permitted the Europeans to enter and then increase their market share in the world market, all of whose dynamic centers were in Asia. On the supply side, access to and use of cheap - to the Europeans virtually free - money in the Americas afforded the wherewithal to acquire the supplies of real consumption and investment goods world-wide: servile labor and materials in the Americas to dig up the silver in the first place; slave labor from Africa; and from a European perspective virgin soil and climate also in the Americas. These resources were used to produce sugar, tobacco, timber for ships and other export crops later including especially cotton at low cost for European consumption. West European imports via the Baltic Sea of grain, timber, and iron from eastern and northern Europe was also paid for with American money and some textiles. And of course their American supplied money was the only means of payment that permitted Europeans to import all those famed Asian spices, silks, cotton textiles and other real goods for their own consumption and also for re-export to the Americas and Africa. Asians produced these goods and sold them to Europeans only for their American supplied silver. That is, all these real goods that were produced by non-Europeans became cheaply, indeed nearly freely, available to Europeans; because they had and were able to pay for them with their American supplied money. Indeed, this silver - also produced by non-Europeans - was the only export good that the Europeans were able to bring to the world market.

Additionally moreover, this supply of goods produced by labor and raw materials outside of Europe also replaced and freed alternative resources for other uses within Europe: American sugar supplied calories for consumption for which Europe did not have to use their own farmland; Asian cotton textiles supplied clothes for which to European consumers and producers did not have to use wool from European sheep that would have eaten European grass. Otherwise, that grass would in turn have had to be produced on still more enclosures of land for even more sheep to produce still more wool. Thus, the import of Asian textiles with American money indirectly also permitted Europeans to produce more food and timber in Western Europe itself. Thus, Europeans were able to use their position in the world economy both to supplement its own supplies and resources by drawing directly on those from the Americas to the west and Eastern Europe and Asia to the east. The supply of these additional resources to Europe from the outside also freed European resources for use in its own development.

The process can be elucidated by making an interesting comparison with the second half of the twentieth century: Americans now need not even incur the small cost of getting others to dig up silver money for them. They simply print one hundred dollar bills and treasury certificates at no more cost to themselves than just printing them. Then Americans respond to the "dollar shortage" in Europe of the 1940s and in the "Third" and former "Second" world in the 1990s by using these paper "dollars" to buy up real raw materials and manufactures - and nuclear scientists! - for virtually nothing in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere around the world today. Witness that today far more dollars circulate outside the United States than inside it; and most of its national debt, unlike all others, is denominated in its own currency. And that it can print at will especially while it does not generate inflation at home as long as most of the dollars flow and circulate abroad. Moreover, Americans sold literally tons of simply printed treasury certificates to West Europeans and Japanese in the 1980s. Therefore additionally, Americans now continue to receive increasingly valuable Japanese yen and German marks in the 1990s in exchange for the ever more worthless American dollar debts incurred in the 1980s. That way, part of the population in the West is once again able to spend far beyond its real means and consume way beyond its own resources and production - other than of money! - and to permit itself the luxury of promoting more benign "green" environmental policies that save its own ecology besides! This something-for-nothing strategy is essentially what Europe also did for the three centuries between 1500 and 1800. The difference is that the U.S. dollar is at least based in part on American productivity, while European silver was extracted only from its American colonies. Of course, that later Western productivity was also derived in part from its earlier colonialism.

To return then to 1800, Europe's still productive backwardness may also have offered some of the "advantages" to catch up, discussed by Gerschenkron (1962). Europe's backwardness incentivated and its supply of American money permitted Europeans to pursue micro- and macro-economic advantages, which were to be had from increased European participation in the expanding Asian economies from 1500 to 1800. Of course, Europeans also took advantage of their increasing political economic relations with Africa and the Americas, including especially the "triangular" trade/s among all three. All of these, including of course also investing profits derived from all of these overseas political economic relations at home, contributed to capital accumulation in Europe, or more precisely to Europe's participation in World Accumulation 1482-1789, to use my earlier title (Frank 1978a)].

Nonetheless, however much European "investment" and the Atlantic "triangle" may have contributed to Europe's participation in world accumulation, from a world economic perspective the Asian contribution was greater still. That was so for at least two reasons: To begin with and still throughout this early modern period until at least 1800, productivity, production, and accumulation was greater in Asia than elsewhere in the world. Indeed it was greater in each of two or more "regional" parts of Asia than in any other "region" of the world. Secondly, this increase in European [participation in] accumulation was possible only thanks to that Asian accumulation. Europe used its American money to buy itself a ticket on the Asian economic train. Of course, in the absence of that economy or its dynamic in Asia, Europe would not have gone or gotten anywhere! That is, Europe would have remained where it already was: in world economic terms, just about nowhere; or it would have made its way only through the Atlantic triangle, which was much smaller and poorer than the Asian economies.

Finally, Europe arrived somewhere [in the world economy!] after three centuries of trying to do business in Asia since 1500. Really, however, these European attempts were of even longer standing, since already the European crusades to West Asia since the twelfth century and then the fifteenth century European excursions in search of South and East Asia were themselves already generated by the attractions of Asian wealth. The post 1800 "Rise of the West" and "Decline of the East" in world economic and demographic terms, in which the economies of Asia played a major role. My explanation has the following related parts. A combination of demographic and micro-/macro-economic analysis identified an inflection of population and economic productivity growth rates that led to an "exchange" of places between Asia and Europe in the world economy/system between 1750 and 1850. My more recent studies suggest that the real inflection seems not to have occurred however before 18501870. Microeconomic analysis of world-wide supply-and-demand relations shows how they generated incentives for labor and capital saving and energy producing invention, investment and innovation, which took place in Europe. On the other hand, macroeconomic analysis of cyclical distribution of income and derivative effective demand and supply in Asia and the world illuminated how the opportunity to do so profitably was generated by the global economy itself. The combination of these processes and of their analysis above cut the Gordian knot of Kipling's famous saying about the East and West never meeting.


The nineteenth and twentieth centuries GREAT DIVERGENCE [to use the title of Kennth Pomeranz 2001] and even more so the great reversal of place between Asia and Europe [and later the United States and other 'regions of recent settlement] occurred within "the single world-wide system" of the global economy. Therefore, it would seem as obvious as it is neglected to inquire if and how these changes may have come about at the very least also through the transformation of the system, which would therefore also require an analysis of the structure and functioning of this global political economic system itself. The work in progress intends to re-examine the nature of the global system at the end of the eighteenth century as laid out in ReORIENT, and to identify and delineate the structure and process that would seem to have been the systemic causes of the apparent reversal of place and role of the various parts of this system during the nineteenth [and eventually also the twentieth] century.


The argument will be based on and developed along two main conceptual red threads that run parallel, or nearly so, and yet are also so intimately related as to intersect at important junctures. These to main concepts should be as obvious and are as simple as they are neglected or if they are rarely recognized, it is only to deny them. One of them is multilateralism and the other is entropy. Entropy is dissipated from the more 'ordered' regions and sectors of the global world economy to other therefore less 'ordered' ones that are obliged to absorb the entropy dissipated in their direction by the more 'ordered' ones. Therefore, as per the epigraph above, much of the order can continue or even be constructed among those who have it if they can dissipate and transfer the disorder that they generate to others who are obliged to absorb and thereby themselves become less orderly than they were. This process of dissipation occurs along lines that are both more and less easily visible. The more visible ones are unidirectional along a single vector from A to B. A glaring but illustrative example [and this has happened!] is the export of the nuclear waste sub products from the nuclear power stations of A in Europe and Japan, which therefore and otherwise have relatively much power, to B in Africa who have little power [in more than one sense of the word] and are paid a pittance [for the North but not for the South] to absorb this entropy from the North.

Other perhaps less obvious but more frequent examples are how the consequences and costs of global warming and depletion of the ozone layer generated by A's burning of coal and oil [much of it now from imported from B] are in turn [re] exported to B, where they cause flooding, soon perhaps also to sink low level areas into the rising sea, and massive destruction of virgin rain forests to maintain industries and consumption in A. These examples become even more glaring of course if part of the higher income in A is the result of prior or present transfers of income from B to A.

However, dissipation of entropy and the transfer income from A to B also occurs as along multilateral paths and networks. These may be less obvious or even invisible, but they are even more used and important. Regarding world trade [incorrectly often still called 'international' trade], in the second epigraph above Folke Hildgert observes that "cases of triangular or multilateral [not to mention bilateral] settlement within small groups of countries were relatively unimportant and ... almost all balances belonged to a single world-wide system which also provided the transfer, along round about routes." The same can go for the dissipation and transfer of entropy from A to B, but via C,D,E and so on. As Hildgert put it, "the development of the system of multilateral trade...was similar to the unfolding of a fan: more and more countries became involved, and their insertion took place in a given order, each country being farther way from the United Kingdom on the transfer routes to that country from its debtors." I would add that countries need not have been inserted into the for Britain charmed circle one by one but also as participants also of previously existing bi- or tri- or other incipiently multi-lateral systems.

The long existing 'triangular trade' - in reality itself already composed of several sets of intersecting triangles, [diagramed in Frank 1978, 1998] - was joined by the China-India-Britain opium based triangle at the end of the eighteenth century, which survived through the entire nineteenth century into the twentieth. This triangle, which as we will further observe below, was vitally important to Britain; was soon complemented by a China-United States-Britain triangle, and so on to other triangles, all of which had a common angle in Britain. Hildgert [1943:88] makes another very important observations: "for these and other reasons, the significance of such trade can by no means be gauged by its percentage share in total trade." The same must be said for the dissipation and adsorption of entropy, which can also take a circuitous route around the globe. Each of these observations taken singly and their intersection and combination all the more so underline the vital importance of inquiry into the nature and causes of how this 'inadequately understood system', as per the epigraph above, in turn contributes vitally to the nature and causes of the wealth and poverty of nations. Therefore as we will also see below, the umpteen calculations of why the percentage and importance of bilateral exchange between B and A 'proves' that A did quite well thank you without B and C and so on are not only completely wide of the mark but don=t even address the central issue.

Better to visualize this multilateral system, imagine a global game of multiple chairs in which players sit around a circle that chain links A,B,C,D,E,... n around the globe. However relations among the players are also established criss-cross among players sitting on and scurrying from chairs in different paces around the circle. Moreover, some chairs are visibly better and others worse, and even among the latter some chairs are more equal than others. However the quality assigned to the chairs is in only small part due to the 'essence' of their construction and appearance. Instead, the goodness or badness of the chairs is measured substantially by their position or location in the global circle, which in turn also generates much of the observed and/or real quality of the chairs. Now imagine additionally that this game of musical chairs is played, as are most real world games, on a NOT 'level playing field'. So when the music stops, the players scuttle not only around the circle but also criss-cross through it. They also move on paths that emerge out of previously established bilateral but also multilateral strategic or simply momentary tactical relations of alliance and conflict among the players. Indeed, the alliances conflict among but also within themselves and are formed to further accession by each member to a better position in the overall conflictive game of musical chairs. Or the other way around, the whole game is a Hobbesian game of all against all in which, even if each player is only out for him/herself, the formation and membership of bi- or multi- lateral alliances can be of advantage to member players relative to those who play only on their own. So now everything is set up for the temporal [cyclical?] and temporary cessation of the music. Then, the scuttle and shuffle results in somebody being likely not only to get a better or a worse chair, but also none at all, while perhaps the rest of the players end up in this round again to sit on chairs some of which are more equal than others. [Also important, but for now disregarded here, is that any 'domestic' musical chair supports more than one also unequally seated real live player, and how the 'international' inequalities and the 'domestic' ones are in turn interrelated].

The principal point is that world economic development is a global game in which the players scuttle around and some manage to change positions when the cyclical music stops. Moreover, the PLACE that each player has in the game is probably the most determinant factor in the players= wealth and income and their opportunities of placement for and in the next round. Any player=s location also determines his ability or not to pass his entropy off, not just to his neighbor in the circle, but to one or many on any of many possible chairs around or across the circle. And they in turn are more often than not obliged to absorb this entropy to their own cost. And all that and even more is so, as Hildgert explained in the epigraph above, because we are living in a "world economy which functions through a system of multilateral trade of a specific pattern that embraces the whole world...[and its] much less adequately understood system of multilateral settlements of all classes of international accounts." Moreover, this round world of ours is anything but a 'level playing field'. The 'specific pattern' and one's all determinant place in the 'less adequately understood system', translated into understandable plain English, is LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.


Received theory attributes the industrial revolution and the "rise" of the West to its alleged "exceptionality" and "superiority." The source of the same is sought in turn in the also alleged long standing or even primeval Western preparation for take-off. This contention mistakes the place and misplaces the "concreteness" of the transformation by looking for it in Europe itself. Yet the "causes" of the transformation can never be understood as long as they are examined only under the European streetlight and must instead be sought under the world-wide global illumination in the system as a whole.

For the comparative and relational real world historical evidence examined above shows that, contrary to received historiography and social theory, it was not the alleged prior European "development" that poised it for "take off" after 1800. That is, the rise of the West after 1800 was not really the result of the its "continuous" European preparation since the Renaissance, let alone thanks to any Greek or Judaic roots thereof. Instead, the industrial revolution was an unforseen event, which took place in a part of Europe as a result of the continuing unequal structure and uneven process of 'development' in and of the world economy as a whole. That process of world development, however, also includes new departures in some of its regions and sectors that may appear discontinuous. It may indeed be the case that the industrial "revolution," like the agricultural one before it, was an inflection in a continuous global development, which marks a "departure" in a vector and direction that is different from the previous one and is perhaps irreversible -- short of total cataclysm, which may itself lie at the end of that vector. Thus, the systemic global structure and continuity that generated the "rise" of the West marked a departure in the West, which did not continue its earlier marginal position. Instead, there was a discontinuous departure of the global economy into a more industrial direction and a shift in the position of the West within the world economic system as a whole.

The argument - and the evidence! - is that world development between 1400 and 1800 reflects not Asia's weakness but its strength, and not Europe's nonexistent strength but rather its relative weakness in the global economy. For it was all these regions' joint participation and place in the single but unequally structured and unevenly changing global economy that resulted also in changes in their relative positions in the world. The common global economic expansion since 1400 long benefited the Asian centers earlier and more than marginal Europe, Africa, and the Americas. However, this very economic benefit turned into a growing absolute and relative disadvantage for one Asian region after another in the late eighteenth century. Production and trade began to atrophy as growing population and income, but also their economic and social polarization, exerted pressure on resources, constrained effective demand at the bottom, and increased the availability of cheap labor in Asia more than elsewhere in the world.

Perhaps it would be better to refer to two major early modern "inflections" in an essentially continuous historical process and dynamic within the same world economy and system: One was the "Columbian exchange" after the incorporation of the "New World" into the Old one after 1500. The other was the "exchange" of demographic and economic productivity growth rates and perhaps of ecological pressures on resources between Asia and Europe, which generated the "industrial revolution" around 1800. Both, however, were [only] inflections in and generated by a process of world economic development. In both cases, Europeans were acting more as instruments than as initiators of global development.

Nonetheless, the argument here has been instead that global historical continuity has been far more important than any and all its dis-continuities. The perception of a major new departure in 1500, which allegedly spells a dis-continuous break in world history, is substantially [mis] informed by a Eurocentric vantage point. Once we abandon this Eurocentrism and adopt a more globally holistic world or even pan EurAsian perspective, dis-continuity is replaced by far more continuity. Or the other way around? Once we look upon the whole world more holistically, historical continuity looms much larger, especially in Asia. Indeed, the very "Rise of the West" itself then appears derived from this global historical continuity.

Another region, Europe and then also North America [and if we wish to separate it out, also Japan at the other end of Eurasia] were able to take advantage of this pan-Asian crisis in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They managed to become Newly Industrializing Economies, first through import substitution and increasingly also by export promotion to and within the global world market. Yet this success, which was based on their previous marginality and relative "backwardness" in the global economy, may also prove to be relatively short-lived. These new, but perhaps also temporary, world economic centers are now experiencing absolute and relative social and economic atrophy analogous to that of the previously central Asian economies, while some of the latter seem to be recovering their economic and social impulse.


East Asia's rise to world economic prominence makes it all the more urgent to focus on the long historical continuity of which this process is a part. It began in Japan some eighty years ago and then in its former colonies in Korea and Taiwan, but also included Hong Kong and Singapore among the first set of the East Asian NIEs or "four tigers." Since then, revived economic growth has been spreading also to other "tigers" or "little dragons" elsewhere in Southeast Asia and to the "BIG Dragon" on the China coast. That is the same South [and East] China Sea region, also with its "overseas Chinese" diaspora, which had been so prominent in the world economy in the previous long political economic phase of expansion from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries.

It is well conceivable that in the course of eighty years around the world West and East will again have traded places in the global economy and in world society. The now supposed dis-continuous but really renewed rise of the "East" must be seen as part and parcel of the fundamental structure and continuity in global development. Recognizing and analyzing this continuity will reveal much more than myopically focusing on the alleged dis-continuities, like the newly discovered "globalization" and "new emergence of the East" of the 1990's, or indeed also like the wholesale misinterpretation that already sees a renewed "meltdown" in 1997.

The contemporary economic expansion in East Asia may spell the beginnings of a return of Asia to a leading role in the world economy in the future as it had in the not so distant past -- with 'Middle Kingdom' China again at its 'center'. These contemporary developments and future prospects demand new and better historiography and social theory to comprehend them and to offer at least some modest guide to social policy and action.

East Asia's rise to world economic prominence makes it all the more urgent to focus on the long historical continuity of which this process is a part. It began in Japan some eighty years ago and then in its former colonies in Korea and Taiwan, but also included Hong Kong and Singapore among the first set of the East Asian NIEs or "four tigers." Since then, revived economic growth has been spreading also to other "tigers" or "little dragons" elsewhere in Southeast Asia and to the "BIG Dragon" on the China coast. That is the same South [and East] China Sea region, also with its "overseas Chinese" diaspora, which had been so prominent in the world economy in the previous long political economic phase of expansion from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries.

It is well conceivable that in the course of eighty years around the world West and East will again have traded places in the global economy and in world society. The now supposed dis-continuous but really renewed rise of the "East" must be seen as part and parcel of the fundamental structure and continuity in global development. Recognizing and analyzing this continuity will reveal much more than myopically focusing on the alleged dis-continuities, like the newly discovered "globalization" and "new emergence of the East" of the 1990's, or indeed also like the wholesale misinterpretation that already sees a renewed "meltdown" in 1997.

The contemporary economic expansion in East Asia may spell the beginnings of a return of Asia to a leading role in the world economy in the future as it had in the not so distant past -- with 'Middle Kingdom' China again at its 'center'. These contemporary developments and future prospects demand new and better historiography and social theory to comprehend them and to offer at least some modest guide to social policy and action.

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