Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Age of the Empire: Europe and American Hegemony

The Age of the Empire first examines the changes that occurred from the eighteenth century to the late nineteenth century in the growing global economy. Both the American and French Revolution took place in the late nineteenth century, and were celebrated by the countries’ educated citizens who competed for global dominance. At this time, the Declaration of Independence had already been signed, the world’s first iron bridge was constructed, railway and steamship routes were mapped and intercontinental, a telegraph could circle the globe in hours, and the world was being traveled in unprecedented numbers by citizens. Advanced communication, infrastructure, and transportation technology was at an all time high, and was making the world geographically smaller and more global.
This transport of people across country lines not only made the world appear a ‘smaller’ place, but also made it demographically larger and created divisions, especially in terms of wealth, among peoples. In the nineteenth century, there was an evident gap between western, industrialized countries and ‘third world’ countries. By 1913, for example, the per capita share of the GNP was seven times as high in industrialized countries compared with third world countries. This gap was due largely in part to the research and technology that already wealthy nations were able to develop. Nations like America and Europe were able to finance science and research, which put them ahead of other nations in terms of communication and technology, and further extended their hegemonic position in the global world. In the 19th century, America was gaining power and Europe was the dominating hegemony. With this dominating powers in one category, the global system as a whole became divided into two sectors: the developed world and the dependent, poor world. The developed, industrialized world was much smaller than the ‘second world,’ and was united by history; whereas the dependent second world nations were united by their relations with the first world.
There was a clear existence of two distinct sectors in the world economy, however the boundaries that divided them were unclear. For example, Europe was a dominating power and undeniably hegemonic towards the late nineteenth century. Despite this, however, there were countries within the continent that lagged behind developed Europe. North-western and central Europe were at the core of world capitalist development, whereas Eastern Europe most specifically was in the ‘backwaters’ and on the margins of the core of capitalist economic development. Do you believe that it was this separation in Europe that lead to its demise as the hegemonic power in the twentieth century to America?

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