Immanuel Wallerstein, NLR 226

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Tue May 29 19:46:48 MDT 2001

Has anyone in recent discussions cited this article:

Immanuel Wallerstein, "Eurocentrism and its Avatars: The Dilemmas of
Social Science," NLR 226 (Nov/Dec 1997), pp. 93-107.

It opens as follows:

Social science has been Eurocentric throughout its institutioal history,
which means since there have been departments teaching social science
within university systems. This is not in the least surprising. Social
science is a product of the modern world-system, and Eurocentrism is
constitutive of the geoculture of the modern world . Furthermore, as an
institutional structure, social science originated largely in Europe.
                P. 93

It concludes as follows:

This conceptual split has enabled the modern world to put forward the
bizarre concept of the value-neutral specialist, whose objective
assessments of reality could form the basis not merely of engineering
decisions . . .but of socio-political choices as well. . . .

In the last twenty years or so, the legitimacy of this divorce has been
challenged for the first time in a significant way. This is the meaning
of the ecology movement, for example. And this is the underlying central
issue in the public attack on Eurocentrism. The challenges have resulted
in so-called "science wars" and "culture wars" which have themselves
often been obscurantist and obfuscating. If we are to emerge with a
reunited, and thereby non-Eurocentric, structure of knowledge, it is
absolutely essential that we not be diverted into side paths that avoid
this central issue. If we are to construct an alternative world-system
to the one that is today in grievous crisis, we must treat
simultaneously and inextricably the issues of the true and the good.

And if we are to do that we have to recognize that something special was
indeed done by Europe in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries that did
transform the world, but in a direction whose negative consequences are
upon us today. We must cease trying to deprive Europe of its specificity
on the deluded premise that we are thereby depriving it of an
illegitimate credit. Quite the contrary. We must fully acknowledge the
particularity of Europe's reconstruction of the world because only then
will it be possible to transcend it, and to arrive hopefully at a more
inclusively universalist vision of human possibility, one that avoids
none of the difficult and imbricated problems of pursuing the true and
the good in tandem.
                        pp. 106-07

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