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New Left Review I/231, September-October 1998

Gregor McLennan

The Question of Eurocentrism: A Comment on Immanuel Wallerstein

In his critique of Eurocentrism, Immanuel Wallerstein has provided a useful discussion of a major issue for contemporary left politics and critical social science. [1] Immanuel Wallerstein, ‘Eurocentrism and its Avatars: The Dilemmas of Social Science’, nlr 226, November–December 1997, pp. 93–107. By contrast with the higher-profile subject of ‘multi-culturalism’, to which it is of course related, the Eurocentrism question has received less considered debate. Wallerstein’s contribution is therefore very welcome, providing a proper delineation of the problem and some firm steering away from false solutions towards a better approach. In this brief analysis, I want to draw attention to an important line of argument that would see Wallerstein’s own position, in spite of its crusading tone, as one which has insufficiently broken with Eurocentric thought patterns. However, I also want to suggest that such a critical line tends to promote an excessively moralistic climate of political debate, and also fails itself to escape the Eurocentric dilemma. In that context, it may be appropriate for social theorists of Wallerstein’s sort to step forward more boldly in acknowledgement, and perhaps even in defence, of those ‘universalist’ aspects of ‘Eurocentrism’ that are unavoidably part of their explanatory and political projects.

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Gregor McLennan, ‘The Question of Eurocentricism: A Comment on Immanuel Wallerstein’, NLR I/231: £3

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