restricted access From José de Acosta to the Enlightenment: Barbarians, Climate Change, and (Colonial) Technology as the End of History
Abstract

During Spain’s colonization of the Americas and its striving to “civilize” peoples considered barbarians, the idea of a world in which a single way of life was compulsory emerged for the first time. By making European cultural norms a requirement for Christianization, José de Acosta, a 16th century Spanish Jesuit historian and philosopher, diluted religion into civilization and framed the colonial enterprise as a clash between civilization and barbarism, a relationship necessarily mediated by technology. Acosta is a precursor of Enlightenment thinkers (Smith, Gibbon) for whom European technology guaranteed self-preservation and hegemony in a world comprised of nations they still considered barbarian. Even when there were critics of this will to transform the world into a place suited for a European way of life (Herder), or those who saw this transformation not as self-preservation but as an extension of benefits that ought to be universal (Condorcet), uneven development and climate change are the salient consequences of this history dating back to the 16th century.


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