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Europe and the People Without History Second Edition Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520268180
ISBN-10: 0520268180
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Editorial Reviews


"In this big and important book, Eric Wolf begins and ends with the assertion that anthropology must pay more attention to history. . . . It is with pleasure, then, that one reads a critical analysis that rejects pseudo- historical oppositions and explores with such care the historical processes by which primitive and peasant pasts have become a fundamentally altered primitive, peasant, and proletarian present." -- William Roseberry, Dialectical Anthropology

"The work of a powerful theoretical intelligence, but one informed by a lived sense of social realities." -- Times Literary Supplement

"Wolf has created a history of connection rather than one of segregation. . . . This absorbing and stimulating book . . . provides a convincing and, dare I say, new perspective. . . . By emphasizing a common past, Wolf moves away from weary polarities of active 'white' centre and passive 'non- white' periphery and suggests both a more complex and a more informed sense of the relationship between Europe and the rest of the world." -- Ben Jay, European Update

"Wolf's empirical knowledge is exceptionally wide. . . . He relies on a skillful selection of phenomena in time and space that are reasonably representative of the totality. . . . The book is very well written and with a profoundly human touch." -- Magnus Mrner, Ethnos

"Wolf's intention is to explain the development and nature of the chains of cause and consequence which linked populations in the post-1400 world. The outcome is a tightly structured and elegant book." -- Oceania

"Wolf's intention is to show that European expansion not only transformed the historical trajectory of non-European societies but also reconstituted their historical accounts of their societies before European intervention. . . . His historical sweep and analytic breadth are astounding, and he gives approximately equal weight to historical 'winners' and 'losers.'" --Michael S. Kimmel, American Journal of Sociology

About the Author

Eric R. Wolf(1923–1999) had an illustrious and influential career as Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at H. Lehman College and the Graduate School of the City University of New York.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 536 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Second Edition edition (September 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520268180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520268180
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Europe and the People Without History describes the very process by which capitalism has spread and permeated throughout the world. Wolf's narrative starts from AD 1400 and ends in the 20th century. He traces the historical events associated with the expansion of European commerce, paying extra attention to the people ignored by traditional history, those who either resisted to the death or toiled under the drudgery of capitalism.
Instead of viewing nations or "tribes" (a problematic term in anthropology) as isolated and coherent entities, Wolf is concerned with the international and intercultural processes that is continually creating new nations, new cultures, new identities. In turn Wolf warns against the reification of complex processes or elements into one seemingly unified term. I find this perspective especially valuable. Generalizations and broad categories must be used with caution, since words and concepts merely reflect aspects of reality, but they themselves are not to be equated with reality.
Another merit of Wolf is his world systems approach. He analyzes world history as a system in which disparate and distant social groups can have important influence on each other. This analytic method rejects the notion that countries are independent and self-contained systems, but instead they are interrelatetd in the larger global processes of change.
Finally, readers should pay extra attention to the concluding chapter. It discusses the nature of ideology, about how it is formed and how it is perpetuated. Wolf reminds the readers that common terms and categories are not innocent words - they are the offspring of constant construction, deconstruction, and redefinition of power relations.
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Format: Paperback
Wolf breaks the paradigm that the world ever was full of isolated pockets of civilized people void of contact with others. By tracing routes of fur trade, slave trade, early movements of people, materials and ideas, Wolf examines the world before Europe "civilized" the world. He is able to show how contact with European traders change the lifestyles of groups of people who already had fully developed cultural, linguistic and political traditions. How trade, bureaucracy, military force and violence influenced the people with whom the traders contacted illustrates the fact that "globalization" is hardly a recent phenomenon.
This provides the background for understanding the current changes in the transition of ideas in the world. Without Wolf's excellent work, it becomes possible to get lulled into the trap that the "Internet" changed the world. In fact, it did not provide contact for people where none previously existed. Electronic media does provide a new medium by which the transfer of ideas can take place. It changes the nature of that transmission, but it does not create a transmission where none previously existed.
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Format: Paperback
This interesting book by a well known anthropologist is aimed at describing and analyzing the transformations wrought by the expansion of European commerce and capitalism in the last few centuries. Wolf is concerned particularly at reconstructing the often ignored history of indigenous groups generally ignored or seen as passive participants in conventional, 'eurocentric', accounts. He also wishes to remind anthropologists that social features are often the product of highly individual historic processes and not necessarily intrinsic or universal features of human existence. Finally, he hopes to escape the sterility of concentrating on abstract social processes by emphasizing the historical nature of events and the key role of political and especially, basic features of economic organization. With respect to these goals, this is a very successful book. The coverage of the transformation of societies all over the world by European expansion is excellent and the product of much judicious reading. In this context, Wolf shows well that a number of classic examples of ethnographic inquiry involve societies whose essential forms were shaped by encounters with European commercial and capitalist expansion. These facts destroy the many of the traditional inferences drawn from ethnographic analysis. This book has some significant flaws. It contains some tendentious chapters and paragraphs devoted to theorizing. Like much social science theorizing, these sections contain a good bit of commonsense dressed up in dense language and a fair amount of argumentation that will be meaningful only to those involved in these recondite debates. Wolf draws heavily on the Marxist (Marxian) tradition. This has pros and cons.Read more ›
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The rather odd name of this book refers to the tendency of many social scientists to evaluate non-western peoples without considering that they have a unique history that needs to be taken into account if we are to gain any understanding of them. Not surprisingly the author attempts remedy this shortcoming in a sweeping analysis of the last 600 years of human history. If you are a person who like myself would like to come to understand why human affairs are what they are today I recommend this book as the single best starting point. This is not to say that I think Wolf is right about everything that he writes, no work of this scope will achieve that, but he covers the field and knows the sources. The bibliography is a great resource, though a little dated. Ralph J. Pledger, Ph.D.
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