Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Challenging or Reinforcing the Reigning Paradigm? The Paradox of Conventional Anti-Eurocentrism

Gary Blank


Most ―mainstream‖ accounts of the West-East divergence gain theoretical inspiration from Max Weber and/or Karl Marx, and have therefore traced the ―rise‖ of the West to the unique social processes that apparently fostered capitalism in Europe. Critics have labelled these accounts ―Eurocentric‖ insofar as they imply the inherent superiority of the West over the East,1 and they have offered alternative ―anti-Eurocentric‖ narratives which ostensibly avoid such analytical and normative pitfalls. These critics have succeeded in directing our attention to experiences in the non-European world. However, they have sought to validate these experiences by simply extending (in space and time), rather than transcending, the problematic concepts and assumptions that plagued the ―Eurocentric‖ Weberian and Marxist accounts of the origins of capitalism. This paper argues that a truly non-Eurocentric approach requires a definitive break with these assumptions and the adoption of an alternative historical materialist understanding of the origins of capitalism pioneered by Robert Brenner. While not explicitly conceived as non-Eurocentric, Brenner‘s concept of social-property relations offers the surest foundation for understanding ―the great divergence‖ without doing violence to history or succumbing to European triumphalism.

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