Friday, October 2, 2009

Hobsbawn 1

Finally we’re on to the modern world system! Not that there was anything wrong with the world system of the 13th century, but I thought it was a bit exhausted and I just find the Eurocentric world more interesting. Hobsbawm introduces the world system of the late 19th century prior to the first World War as one of advancement and imperialism. It begins with the centennial of the American Revolution (1876) and the French Revolution (1889) where major technological innovations took place like the development of railways, steamships, and the telegraph which assisted in a smaller more interconnected world by a much more rapid movement of goods and communication. At the high point of this innovative time, the entire world was advancing and instead of major competition, all the countries worked together to maximize each other’s gains. But as the system began to depress, the system became more competitive and opened way to imperialism. For developed core nations, imperialism became a symbol of patriotism and power. Colonial expansion caused white Europeans to develop a sort of superiority complex when they traveled abroad, being respected no matter what their status at home was, just for the fact of being European. Europeans looked down upon the people of the peripheral nations since they weren’t as wealthy or developed, but Hobsbawm made clear that the perception of wealth was only relative and what these peripheral nations lacked in economical wealth and empire, they made up for in culture, food, etc. The major effect of imperialism was the westernization of the world.

This is in stark contrast from the world system of the 13th century in which the East was more dominant and the West was only just joining the system with little influence. It’s clearly much more similar to today’s world system in that the West dominated in wealth and culture. I know that the end of the 13th century world system was marked by the decline in Eastern hegemons and the rise of Western with the Portuguese Man O’ Wars invading the Indian Ocean but I’m curious as to what happened in between these two events. What happened in the three centuries between these two world systems that caused Western domination – particularly with Great Britain. Many things can be assumed from the differences between the two systems as well as how the power was distributed in the more modern system, but it’s still such a large gap in time, I’m curious of what happened during it. I think without any sort of discussion it doesn’t really relate these two world systems well and I’d like to make more relevant correlations.

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