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RETHINKING WORLD HISTORY: ESSAYS ON EUROPE, ISLAM, WORLD HISTORY (MARSHALL HODGSON)

Thesis:  Argues that the line which connects the Ancient Greeks to the Renaissance to modern times is an optical illusion, and that a global and Asia-centered history can better locate the European experience in the shared histories of humanity. 

Afro-Eurasian civilized zone not static historical context—had characteristics as set of interrelations.

First mill B.B. an age w/ differentiated cultures w/ deep interregional interchange, sometimes religious.

Western Europe played peripheral and ‘till well into Middle Ages a backward role; its evolution depended on course of development of Afro-Eurasian historical life as a whole.

“World History” Europe-centric for three reasons—1) European and Chinese exclusiveness 2) Europe more influential on China in Industrial Revolution than vice versa 3) our ethnocentric viewpoint.

Author avoids 1) elevating Europe to a continent 2) “East” and “West” 3) Euro-centrism.

Same generation that saw Industrial and French Revolutions saw establishment of European hegemony.

Western Transmutation in three fields: economic, intellectual, and social; traditional to rational society.

Well-known cultural superiority of Islamdom, was not absolute, but was relative to Occidental; Far Eastern and Occidental traditions equally resisted Muslim expansion.  After defeat of the Crusades, Occidental culture was confined to its own peninsula.

Central event for Christians—Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, loving God; for Muslims was descent and preaching of Quran, God’s majesty, thus reflect and submit.  Mark of matured Christian is vital joy; mark of matured Muslim is human dignity.  Christians—hierarchal corporativism, corporative formalism; Muslims—unitary contractualism, communal moralism.

Muslims found little to learn from Occident, while Occidentals absorbed Muslim cultural practices; despite conquest failure, Occident culture became independent of Islamicate resources and pulled abreast; blocked Islamdom expansion and ascended.

In the period of the three empires, Islamic culture fractured—Shi’a, Sunni (Ottoman), Mogul; by 17000 social and institutional structure of the three weakened, and soon after evidence of decline.

Some Muslims presume they can avoid Westernization and thus modern Western problems; presupposes traditional Western ethnocentric division of civilized world into West and East, in which West smaller, but equivalent of rest of world—indicates how some Muslims accept Western view.

Seventeen centuries, transformation occurred in Western Europe, which put Occidentals on different historical basis from neighbors with whom they had til then shared broad, slow development.

Challenge for Islamic development is its identification of modernization w/ westernization; tensions between Islamic heritage and demand and hopes of modernity remain unresolved.

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