[cross-posted on Albion’s Seedlings]
The success of Europe, and especially the Anglosphere, in the last few centuries has kept historians busy, pondering just why and when the Europeans made such an impact on the world.
Not surprisingly, the theories of causality often mirror their times. Way back when, European success was seen as religious and cultural vindication. Later, it was seen as a genetic or perhaps geographic predisposition. At the dawn of the 20th century, as non-Europeans and radical philosophers got an opportunity to make suggestions, earlier “gifts” were turned on their heads and proclaimed as intrinsic “evils.” Thus Europeans, and by extension, the Anglosphere, were successful specifically because they were monstrous in comparison to other human beings — more cruel, more greedy, more lacking in humanity (specializing in anarchy, greed, and heresy … to quote one witty Amazon.com reviewer). European destruction was therefore a solemn obligation and no doubt ordained by higher powers, real soon now.
As the wheels of history ground on during the 20th century, and people (both European and non-European) had a chance to ride the hobbyhorses of fascism, communism (and perhaps socialism) into political and economic oblivion, a more intellectually useful historical theory was needed. Europe and the Anglosphere was showing a distressing tendency toward further prosperity. The intellectual solution, particularly with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and orthodox communism in China, was to claim that the entire question of European success was based on a false premise. The truth was … Europe was never the centre of anything much. And if it was, it was only a relatively recent event that is passing quickly now from the historical stage. Eurocentrism was therefore obscuring both the global achievements of other peoples and cultures and its own transitory significance.
In a nutshell, three views of Europe: (1) Good, (2) Bad, or (3) Indifferent.