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The Origins of Capitalism and the "Rise of the West"

Eric H Mielants

Publication Year: 2008

In this study, Eric Mielants provides a novel interdisciplinary interpretation of the origins of modernity and capitalism in particular. He argues that contrary to popular thinking, the Rise of the West should not be analyzed in terms of the Industrial Revolution or the colonization of the New World, but viewed from long-term developments that occurred in the Middle Ages. A fascinating overview of different civilizations in East Asia, South Asia, and Northwestern Africa is provided and systematically compared and contrasted with Western Europe. This book addresses some of the major debates that have recently unfolded in world history, comparative sociology, political economy, sociological theory and historical sociology.  Mielants indicates how many existing theories (such as Marxism, World-Systems Theory and Smithian Modernization Theory) have suffered from either Eurocentric or limited temporal and spatial analyses, which prevents them from a complete understanding of why the origins of capitalism and citizenship emerged in Western Europe.

Published by: Temple University Press

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

THIS COMPARATIVE STUDY in historical sociology is, as the reader will surely notice, a hazardous endeavor.1 It is more than the result of many years of work conducted by a single individual—I am very much indebted to many scholars upon whose writings I have had the opportunity to reflect, and at times, have had the audacity to criticize...

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Introduction

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pp. ix-xii

WHY, HOW, AND WHEN did capitalism as a system first come into existence? At first glance, these questions may only seem relevant to an audience engrossed in academic (and, by definition, highly theoretical) debates. They are questions that certainly preoccupied the founding fathers of the academic disciplines that emerged in tandem with modernity itself: economics (e.g., Smith), sociology...

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Chapter One: Perspectives on the Origins of Merchant Capitalism in Europe

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pp. 1-46

THERE ARE essentially four major theoretical perspectives on the origins of capitalism in medieval Western Europe. This chapter critically examines the main arguments elaborated in those perspectives and attempts to rethink the history of socioeconomic and political processes. The four major theoretical perspectives dealt...

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Chapter Two: The Political Economies of China and Europe Compared

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pp. 47-85

HAVING LEARNED more about medieval Europe, the curious reader will undoubtedly ask: What about China? China has long been regarded as one of the most ancient and glorious civilizations. In the Middle Ages, China was probably the most developed...

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Chapter Three: The Political Economies of South Asia and Europe Compared

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pp. 86-124

The more traditional gloomy representations of South Asia as a subcontinent that suffered from economic self-containment with trade primarily composed of high-valued luxuries (e.g., Gopal 1965:157; Palat 1988:283, 447), has been increasingly challenged...

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Chapter Four: The Political Economies of Western Europe and Northern Africa Compared

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pp. 125-153

A major problem with many studies of 13th- and 14th-century socioeconomic history is the complete omission of Africa, with the notable exception of Egypt (e.g., Abu-Lughod 1989). One of the misguided notions inherent to Eurocentric historiography is the view that...

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Chapter Five: Conclusion: Was the Western-European City-State in the Middle Ages a European Miracle?

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pp. 154-162

SO, WAS THE Western-European city-state in the Middle Ages a European Miracle? Some have said that Europe embarked upon a unique historical trajectory because of its investment in a “dynamic technological strategy” (Snooks 1996) or because its people were “inspired by a lively curiosity, insatiable greed...

Bibliography

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pp. 163-236

Index

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pp. 237-241


E-ISBN-13: 9781592135776

Publication Year: 2008