Why China Failed to Become Capitalist

James M. Blaut 70671.2032 at SPAMcompuserve.com
Wed Sep 15 15:17:34 MDT 1999

I don't agree with Carrol about vol. 2 of BLACK ATHENA. Classical
archaeology is something I know very little about, but the fact that the
people who attack Bernal's theory so angrily are mostly conservatives is a
good reason to suspect that he's right!

Here's an excerpt from a review I did -- sorry: a response to a reply by
the authors to a review I did previously -- of Lewis and Wigan's THE MYTH
OF CONTINENTS for the J. of World History (in press):

    " Bernal is described by Lewis and Wigan as a proponent
of "racial essentialism" although they "eschew" the term
"racist." In fact, he is called a racist in so many words
(pp. 119-120 and 255-258). They also ascribe to him "an
environmental determinism that would make geographers
blush" (p. 119). Both charges are absurd, and readers of
Bernal's Black Athena will confirm this fact quite easily.NOTE 5
In fact, Bernal hardly ever mentions ecology and
environment. He is somewhat of a diffusionist (in a non-
Eurocentric way) -- his theme is the influence of Egypt and
western Asia on early Europe -- but he does not assert, as
Lewis and Wigan claim, that all civilization stems from one
or two culture hearths (p. 120). Lewis and Wigan may
disagree with his arguments, but they have no call to
describe his work as "shoddy," "disingenuous," "recycled
fantasies." This is unworthy.

     NOTE 5 In The Myth of Continents a very few insignificant
quotes are taken wholly out of context to convey the false
idea that Bernal -- who has done more, perhaps, than any
other scholar to uncover the racism and Eurocentrism in
19th-century classical scholarship -- is a racist. ("[The]
main thrust of my whole project has been against the
influence of racism and anti-Semitism on scholarship":
Bernal 1991:522 -- THIS IS BLACK ATHENA VOL. 2 -- JB.)  And that he was an
determinist, "embracing both racial essentialism and
environmental determinism with an enthusiasm rarely seen in
American social science since the 1920s" (p. 119). Lewis
and Wigan refer us to long footnotes in their book (pp.
257-258), which dismiss, indeed mock, three of Bernal's
arguments, each of which is stated with proper caution and
backed with massive evidence from modern scholarship and
ancient sources. One concerns an Egyptian expedition that
may have left an African population in Colchis (Abkhazia).
Lewis and Wigan deride as incredible Bernal's
"extraordinary claim that 19th-century Black Abkhazians
were descendants of Ancient Egyptian troops"; and that (p.
257) "a "pure racial essence" survived for 4,000 years.
Bernal says nothing of the kind: see in Bernal (1991)
pp.31-32 and 245-257. They mock him for suggesting that the
mild climate of Colchis may have seemed familiar to the
Nubian soldiers; this
proves that Bernal's knowledge of climate is "woefully
limited" (p. 257) because Nubia is a desert.  But Bernal
(1991:253) is talking about Upper Nubia, probably modern
Sudan, and mentions its slight but reliable rainfall and
its oases. Lewis and Wigan label "bizarre" (p. 119)
Bernal's argument, again shared by many scholars from
Europe to China, that the eruption of Thera in c.1600 BC
had profound world-wide effects, extending to ideology and
politics ("but there is little reason to suppose that
natural catastrophes on their own could bring dynasties
down": Bernal 1991:315). Regardless of whether or not Bernal's view is
correct, it is hardly environmentalistic
to argue that one of the world's most destructive volcanic
eruptions had significant historical (and ecological)
effects. On Thera, see in Bernal (1991) pp. 274-319.

Jim Blaut

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