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Journal of World History 7.1 (1996) 134-136

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Conceptualizing Global History. Edited by Bruce Mazlish and Ralph Buultjens. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1993. Pp. viii + 253. $63 (cloth); $14.85 (paper).

This book deals with theoretical and practical aspects of globalization processes. Written by eleven different authors, the book consists of ten chapters grouped into two parts. After theoretical discussion in chapters 1-5, the next four chapters look at some specific large-scale developments. The last chapter seeks to provide an overview of the possibilities and limitations of "global history."

In the introduction, Bruce Mazlish explains the program. Why is there a need for "global history," and what makes it different from world history? Global history is contemporary history. It deals with current earth-spanning processes. Global history includes the formation and development of global communities; ideas and concepts such as universal time; values with universal aims, such as human rights; planetary identities; and widely understood forms of communication, such as international language and music.

In a theoretical sense, global history is rooted in a great number of intellectual developments, mostly of European origins, ranging from universal religions and universal science—including economic theories of both capitalist and Marxist nature—to universal political pretensions. The great European sea voyages led to the first world maps and thus produced the first global view, although a strongly Eurocentric one. Especially the images resulting from modern space exploration, including the world weather maps now shown on television every day, stimulated a planetary sense of identity.

Global history has political implications. For instance, it could es- tablish an international forum within which nongovernmental "trials" would judge the actions of state leaders from the perspective of global interests. Although their effectiveness would rest solely on the force of public opinion, such trials "would have to be undertaken on the basis of serious historical scholarship—global in perspective and consciousness and conducted in a sober and somber vein."

In chapter 5, Mazlish poses "the question of whether global history is simply an aspect of modernism or postmodernism, or instead, a way of conceptualizing history that goes beyond them and in the process transcends their basic Eurocentrism?" His transcendent answer defines global history as "a history with which all peoples can identify, without being particular to any one of them."

Neva Goodwin emphasizes that the increasing awareness of growing [End Page 134] global ecological problems should lead to a global view of history. In her opinion, which is not shared by all the other authors, it will deal with general themes and "by and large, will not be about individuals."

Wolf Schäfer argues that in contrast to world history, "global history does not attempt to give a total account of ourselves, our world or times past, present and future." While taking the planetary view, global historical studies "must be of limited—that is less than total—scope, and they have to be research oriented." We should "resist the temptation to create a new narrative for our time which lurks in deep ecology, new wave holism, the 'comprehensive self-organization paradigm' and other currents of thought."

Ralph Buultjens takes a moral view by arguing that to stave off future disasters, global history must contribute to global consciousness moving in the direction of higher civilization. Considering Third World issues helps to achieve a less Eurocentric viewpoint.

Manfred Kossok distinguishes between universal history, which began with the European expansion and domination, and global history, which started with decolonization.

Wang Gungwu discusses various forms of resistance to types of migration. He sees pre-global-era mass movements of people as radically different from the forms of migration that began to take place with the onset of globalization, most notably streams of economic migrants and refugees.

Richard Barnet and John Cavanagh look at the globalizing economy. "The emerging global order is principally the creation of large industrial and commercial institutions and their transnational networks of suppliers and customers. By operating across borders, they are integrating a new world economy that bypasses all sorts of established political arrangements and conventions....National governments are losing...


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