Friday, September 18, 2009

The Elementary Effect on Subsequent World Systems

The information that I found most striking throughout this reading was the overall lack of real knowledge of the general population during the Pax Mongolica era. It is even more interesting to think that a world trade system had the ability to sustain itself (for however short a time) with almost complete misunderstanding of the cultures being traded with. Specifically, we see both sides of the spectrum (West & East) not knowing. This mutual failure to understand the most prefatory things about their fellow trading partners, in my eyes, ultimately was one of the heaviest blows to future systems.

Many of the Europeans believed that in India "people" were fused with dogs, had no heads and walked with single feet. They knew not how the Chinese made silk, and classified all Mongols as Tartars (which was an unfortunate bout of luck for, most honestly, both Europeans & the Mongols). Europeans, who had not had much exposure to the world beyond, were malleable in their beliefs. But without at least a basic understanding of the cultures they were trading with they brought about their own end to the world system. While their irrevocable crusades may have opened the doorway to the East, they ultimately closed it. I believe that the Crusades, though they did sporadically abate, created, or at least perpetuated, a non-necessary and extremely hindering belief of the world outside of Europe.

The path to destruction was walked by not only the Europeans, though. The East, conjointly, joined in. By not furthering their knowledge of where their products were going, to whom they were going, and general such knowledge of culture; the fate of the system was furthermore sealed. From reading, and the general vibe that Abu-Lughood writes about, the East (much like the West) seemed to a bunch of small children playing around- though not quite ready to understand the world at large. It seems as if one child told another that in the West they get wool from combing water sheep. Thinking this was true the latter-child turns and tells another. And another. And the chain perpetuates and it is then common belief that wool does indeed come from combing water sheep. And so the elementary effect has occurred. Or, rather, was occurring across the world at the time.

Now, to clarify, I do not believe that because the West and the East failed to acquaint or, at the very least, amass basic facts about one another than the death of the world system occurred. I fully accept that there were a plethora of reasons for this world system's collapse. My fundamental belief though, after this particular set of reading, is that the subsequent world system may have been entirely different if the two [East & West] had gained some common ground. I believe that a new trade route could have been formed via land and port if basic knowledge for the opposite culture existed. This would have amplified not only people’s desire to trade, but also to converse with and further peruse a culture. I think, if that desire in addition to that of trade, was intrinsically installed within both the Europeans and those in the East, the resulting world system would have been a renewed version of its former self; albeit slightly altered.


  1. Your allegory of the trading nations of the world to playing children is quite interesting, especially in this sociology class. Looking at nations from that perspective, as opposed to a historio-critical one, can be an insightful view. Perhaps the reason the nations behaved in such an immature and gossipy way was that they were simply at this time less developed than they are now. If a nation can follow the path of a maturing human, then perhaps it can be expected for the citizens of nations new to global trade to behave in a way biased against the citizens of other nations. I am curious as to how this idea can be applied to other nations in other situations.

  2. That's a really interesting point. The idea that as humans mature, so do nations (or even socities and cultures). I guess it's kind of a basic idea. The longer one exists the more mature they become, just as our
    own nation has over time morphed into what is now. Immature
    things, like thinking one race was greater than another for example, have diminished. I may just be reiterating your thoughts, but I'm curious to learn of
    any other applications like this in history.

  3. I really liked reading your post because it took a different approach from most of the others. Instead of just summarizing, you explored deeper and provided a more thoughtful answer. After reading your post, I do agree with you in that the world system could have been completely different if the East and West had 'gained some common ground,' as you put it. I found that I could relate to your thinking when you said you believe that a new trade route could have been formed via land and port if basic knowledge for the opposite culture existed. I believe that if this happened, people would find it easier to act with another culture and want to trade with them, instead of seeing the opposite culture as animals and less superior.

  4. I'm not going to lie, I only really read your post because of the alliterative title, but I'm glad I did. I found your point on the lack of understanding of the various parts of the world system by its participants to be particularly interesting. Even today, a lack of understanding of other cultures is what gets many nations (or individuals) into conflict. In this sense, society still (to a degree) fits your idea about children playing, understanding basic facts, but assuming (or making up) crucial details. It is possible that understanding other cultures and societies may help to end the conflicts that have plagued the world and that ended this first world system under the Pax Mongolica.