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  • Global Historical Sociology ed. by Julian Go and George Lawson
  • Sung Hee Ru
Global Historical Sociology. Edited by julian go and george lawson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. 310 pp. £26.99 (paper).

One of this book's great contributions is that it opens up new horizons in historical sociology. So far, research in historical sociology and historical sociology in International Relations has tended to prioritize the state as the unit of analysis, while disregarding, both implicitly and explicitly, connected histories or global dynamics. As a welcome contrast, the contributors to Global Historical Sociology (GHS) problematize this trend under the premise that there is no everlasting and invariable state concept in the historical context. Theoretically and methodologically, they insist that viewing the state and social structures as preconceived underpinnings is indeed ahistorical. Instead, these "entities-in-motion" should be seen in relation to each other.

Although the contributing authors blame state-centrism and a Eurocentric perspective for the relative ignorance about the global context or connected historical accounts, the GHS research project does not completely exclude such perspectives. Rather, it recasts them within a relational framework. For instance, the presentation and analysis of Eurocentric views can be useful for eliciting the hidden motives of European colonialism and justifications for Europe's globalization project. This is a kind of Hegelian dialectical turn. GHS, [End Page 427] in this regard, is a meta-approach that combines theoretical and methodological concepts of historical sociology, international relations, and world history. GHS researchers try to find the missing links of connected historical narratives behind individual cases in historical sociology, IR, and world history, and then reinterpret them within the global historical framework.

In chapter 1, Matthew Norton examines the circulatory networks as an alternative to the state-centered perspective that limits historical sociologists. Instead of state-centrism, Norton focuses on "state effect" as a pattern of social consequences to better frame the nature of European states and empires. For instance, understanding pine tree circulation and slave trade on a transnational context is difficult within a state-centered perspective because these extend beyond the limits of national boundaries.

In chapter 2, Tarak Barkawi argues that European military units in the early modern world were not populated exclusively by European nationals. He contends that Europe's imperialism formed the modern world by deploying colonized peoples for wars of imperial expansion. Given that mobilized colonized people, including local native soldiers and police, were exploited for Imperial powers' military expansions, he believes that, ontologically and conceptually, a transnational approach is necessary to examine the Imperial powers' conduct of wars. As an example, he describes how the American Frederick Townsend Ward's Ever Victorious Army used Filipinos in suppressing the Taiping Rebellion of the Qing. The use of a hybrid army enables us to comprehend the Taiping Rebellion within a trans-national framework.

In chapter 3, George Lawson attempts to reinterpret revolutions in a global historical context. For Lawson, prominent historical sociologists such as Theda Skocpol, Charles Tilly, and Jack A. Goldstone have paid little attention to global dynamics or globalized historical accounts in analyzing revolutions. Although they acknowledge international dynamics in their analyses, it played only a minor role in their arguments. Lawson, by contrast, examines how revolutionary struggles are formed within trans-national contexts. Thus, his analysis of the Haitian revolution notes the salience of three global elements: "its embedding within circuits of capitalist accumulation, slavery, and colonialism; its embroilment in interstate wars; and its impact on the development of uprisings in other parts of the world" (p. 88). As a case in point, global capital accumulation pushed enslaved Africans to work at colonized sugar plantation areas. Labor exploitation of enslaved Africans in turn prompted the Haitian revolution; however, interstate conflicts between England and Spain also ignited during the revolution [End Page 428] because England provided French plantations with military help while Spain gave aid to revolutionary armies. The aftermath of the revolution then exerted a strong influence on other slave societies and anti-slavery movements in the pursuit of racial equality. The Haitian Revolution provided a model for some. Lawson also stresses the importance of an intersocietal approach centered around relations with neighbor countries, various...


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