chapter  6
20 Pages

The imperial form and universal history: some reflections on relativism and generalization

ByJohn Gledhill

A great deal of theorizing about the origins of the modern world has emphasized the contrast between the system of multiple competing national state units characteristic of the Occident and the encompassing imperial state systems of other arenas of civilization. This is, indeed, a point of common ground between Wallerstein and theorists who reject the economism of his explanation of European development in terms of the logic of uneven accumulation within a ‘capitalist world economy’, such as Skocpol (1979) or Mann (1986). What might be termed the dominant ‘Anglo-Saxon’ perspective on the transition to capitalism, with its focus on the role of the individualistic entrepreneur and market freedom, also faces an increasingly determined challenge from theories that emphasize the role of the state in producing the conditions for capitalist development (Holton 1985).