Gregor McLennan says he is replying to my article on ‘Eurocentrism and its Avatars’. It seems to me what he is doing is taking off from my article to criticize ‘post-colonial theorists’, who are also characterized as ‘maximal anti-Eurocentrics’. The justification seems to be that ‘in places Wallerstein seems to agree’ with them. I leave the real targets to make their own reply if they wish. I shall restrict myself to clarifying my own position.
I plead guilty to the charge that I characterized Eurocentrism in two seemingly contradictory ways: ‘as an all-embracing epochal Weltanschauung’ and as a ‘dominant but optional western ideology’. I am afraid that I unrepentantly believe that contradictions are a central inescapable social reality and that we must live with them. Hence, none of us can escape reflecting the epochal Weltanschauung—including non-Europeans—and yet all of us can make serious efforts to analyze the world in a non-Eurocentric manner. My article suggested how I try to do the latter, and McLennan has correctly pointed out that, in doing so, I have not totally escaped the Weltanschauung.
On capitalism and science: I believe that the attempt to pursue the objective of accumulating capital is widespread, perhaps universal, in all known historical systems, but that only in the modern worldsystem—that is, the capitalist world economy—has it become the structurally-ensconced, socially-determining normative priority. How this happened is an important and interesting question, which I cannot pursue here.footnote1 That it had consequences that I regard as morally and socially negative is a position I will defend. I believe that the attempt to understand the world—science—is also widespread, probably universal, in all known historical systems. Its technical flourishing within the capitalist world economy can easily be explained, and often has been. But it has flourished at a price, a scientific price. I believe that today our present world-system closes off more avenues of scientific advance than it opens up, and that a differ
Finally, what is the relation between the true and the good? No, they cannot be ‘fused’ as concepts, but yes they can be pursued ‘in tandem’. More than that, it is impossible to pursue the one without affecting the pursuit of the other. They can be pursued in tandem, but they have not been for some time now. And this too is a negative aspect of our current historical system, one that can be overcome, and should be. It is in this sense that it is useful to be ‘questioning Eurocentrism’.