‘How the West Came to Rule’: Why the Disavowal of Eurocentrism is Insufficient

Gurminder K. Bhambra

This is an important book on an important topic; the significance of the issues it raises are attested to by the vigour of the responses it has generated. It is hard to dislodge longstanding disciplinary formations and sometimes difficult to see how they continue to operate even when being disavowed. It is especially difficult when disciplinary formations are associated with canonical figures, such as Weber or Marx. From at least the time that Weber first set out the need to account for the ‘world historical’ significance of the ‘Rise of the West’, social scientists have been focused on variants of that question – from normative attempts to account for the ‘miracle of Europe’ to, more descriptively, seeking to account for the ‘miracle in Europe’. Both forms of the question, however, maintain an exceptionalism of the West as something that needs explanation in its own terms, thereby incorporating Eurocentrism into the understanding of the ‘capitalist modernity’, which was the very ‘world historical’ outcome that Weber believed to be bequeathed by Europe.

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