Methodological Eurocentrism and beyond: The Postcolonial Challenges of World Society Theories and the Histories of Empires

Ralf Rapior, University of Bielefeld

The paper highlights five modes of methodological Eurocentrism that characterize the main narratives of globalization and world society studies. First, the container model of European modernity, which assumes that Europe was an isolated entity in world history in which the transformation to modernity took place endogenously. Second, Eurocentric diffusionism, which presumes that modern ideas and institutions were unilaterally spread from the West to the “Rest of the World” and were only passively received there. Third, singularization of European modernity, which presupposes that Europe’s progression towards modernity was unique and unprecedented in world history, emphasizing sharp discontinuities with “pre-modern” or “traditional societies” unparalleled by other major civilizations. Fourth, historical universalization of European modernity, which retrospectively implies that Europe's modernity was the teleological endpoint of all social histories in world history and according to which other societies are rendered into earlier developmental stages on a path to modernity. Fifth, global totalization of European modernity, which, following the narratives of progress and modernization, takes for granted that European modernity has been globalized and has become a global society today. The paper shows that these modes of methodological Eurocentrism stem from the imperialist and Eurocentric ideology of the 19th century and argues that the social history of global modernity should be written as a world history of the globalization, modernization und decolonization of empires instead.

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 Presented in Session 195. New Frontiers in Social Science Historical Methods