The East in the West 1st edition
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"This book should be read by every social scientist and historian who is concerned about the problem of Eurocentrism. It should be assigned to students in a wide range of courses in history, sociology, geography, and of course anthropology. This book is important." Science & Society
"This book should be read by every social scientist and historian who is concerned about the problem of Eurocentrism." J.M. Blaut, Science & Society
- Item Weight : 1.09 pounds
- Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0521556732
- ISBN-13 : 978-0521556736
- Product Dimensions : 5.98 x 0.76 x 8.98 inches
- Publisher : Cambridge University Press; 1st edition (November 18, 2010)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,242,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top review from the United States
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This has the downside of sometimes making the work somewhat slow, although Goody is a remarkably cogent and crisp writer on a subject (economic history) so often seen as dry and abstract. In "The East in the West", the specific claims he engages and refutes are the ideas of greater rationality in the West than in the East, a better or earlier development of bookkeeping (itself often used as an example of the former), differences in family life and size, and differences in mathematics. Although these are important issues because of the way they are used to solidify the thesis of inherent European cultural superiority or the early development of the same, Goody's analysis of matters like details of bookkeeping in late medieval Italy go on too long and are sometimes simply boring.
This is unfortunate, because both the rest of the book and the general theme are important and interesting. Goody again shows, as Eric Wolf, A.G. Frank, Wallerstein etc. had also done, to what great extent the differences between West and East in development during the Middle Ages has been exaggerated: until roughly 1600-ish, India and China were clearly ahead both in living standards and technology, and mercantile capital was as developed in Asia and the Middle East as it was on the European continent. The poorly conceived ad-hoc explanations for later European dominance, from Weber's Protestant ethic to Malthusian claims about Chinese overpopulation, are easily refuted by Goody simply by making the comparison. It is indeed amazing how poorly scientifically undertaken many such studies are, even mainstream ones like Landes: there is barely any attempt at actually first checking whether something claimed as the unique cause for European advancement over Asia wasn't actually present in Asia during the same time as well!
Particularly excellent and worth reading are the last two chapters, which deal with the main issue underlying these claims: the difficulty of integrating our new knowledge of economic history with the traditional ideas about the successive modes of production, influenced by Marx and Weber. Indeed it is clear that the traditional scheme of successive modes as described by Marx has to be rewritten, since we now know vastly more about the matter than Marx did and it is clear that the stark differences in historical development between for example India and England, which Marx assumed true based on the knowledge he had in the late 19th Century, are simply false. However, there is also no reason to abandon the concept entirely and revert to confused and unexplained bourgeois assumptions equating development with trade volume, as André Gunder Frank does, correctly criticized for that by Wolf and Goody both. It is a pity that in this book as well as others Goody is not much inclined to offer a solution himself, preferring to analyze the discussion so far and emphasizing the incorrectness of the traditional views. Clearly the work of systematizing the new information into a newer and better model of successive production systems is a task science still has to undertake.
Not in the least because of Goody's pleasant, friendly tone and his excellent writing skills, this book is much recommended for everyone interested in economic history.
Top reviews from other countries
This book deals with very different topics intertwined with each other in order to explain and introduce those elements that were fundamental to the creation of differences in the development of the history of these two distinct parts of the world (east/west).
I strongly suggest it to those students who need to prepare exams on sectors such as Asian studies/area studies.