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Tunnel vision, black swans and the ecological narrative
on January 19, 2012
Robert Marks' textbook narrates the flowing, interrelational nature of world history. From his ecological narrative approach history happens from a global (rather than Eurocentric) and processual(rather than event driven) scale. He tells the story of East meeting West, hating it; pulling back; lone traders, barbarians and militaries reopening trade relations; skirmishes; wars and cultural and technological systems advancing (or not). In all of that--nature and people live life.
Marks' generates his logic from a wide assortment of sociology, history and scientific sources. His ecological narrative is a synthesis of Andre Gunder Frank's and Kenneth Pomeranz' inclusion of China in global modernization. The global scale of the narrative counters the Eurocentrism that has propagandized most scholarly efforts in world history. Oddly I do not find a reference to Klaus Krippendorf's "Ecological Narratives" (Krippendorf, 2000). Krippendorf was my inspiration to investigate the potential for ecological narratives to tell of the enduring power of human agency to create global change rather than the classic historical methodolgocial tunnel vision on political and military events.
Your students will gain from this interrelational global history. The historical narrative provides a clear framework to place people and events in the great stream of human network expansion and integration. This book made history interesting to me. Since I read this book I have been on a historical biography and documentary film binge. Political Science courses will gain from the clarity of the integrated systems of trade development, technological advancement and political change. Although, Comparative Politics may need to consider a new scale. Comparative Politics could jettison the fragmented state centric resarch approach to focus on Comparative Global Networks that impact other global and regional systems and in turn shape national politics. A prime example would be the recent international economic restructuring that has since 2008 moved power away from the G8 state executives. The movement of global decisionmaking to the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of the G20 happened only with technological advancement and finanical networking. The unforeseen impacts of economic networking and restructuring created vulnerabilities at every level of political, distributive, and financial systems (derivatives, mortgages, employment, labor rights...). The personal tragedies brought on by the financial "black swans" are telling examples of the potential value of conceptualizing global history from the scale of the ecological narrative.
Krippendorf, K. 2000. Ecological Narratives:Reclaiming the voice of theorized others. In Ciprut, J.(ed).2000. The Art of the Feud: Reconceptualizing International Relations. Praeger Publishing. Connecticutt. Pp 1-26