Alain Gresh on Eurocentricism

    Japan Focus is one of my favorite Asia-related blogs. It's kind of like Slate and The Economist rolled into one, but with an Eastern focus; many of the writers are academics, but the writing isn't dry in the least.

    I read a great article on the site today about Eurocentrism, titled "The West’s Selective Reading of Eastern History and Values: From Thermopylae to the Twin Towers." It basically attacks the Western thought for tracing democracy, civilization, and industry in a linear, entirely Western path back to the Greeks, ignoring the contributions of and exchanges with China, Persia and other Eastern countries. In setting itself as the reference point for defining a 'civilized' or 'developed' country, the West impedes cross-cultural understanding and cooperation.

According to John M Hobson: “Eurocentrism errs by asking wrong
questions at the outset. All Eurocentric scholars (either explicitly or
implicitly) begin by asking two interrelated questions: ‘What was it
about the West that enabled its breakthrough to capitalist modernity?’
and ‘What was it about the East that prevented it from making the
breakthrough?’” But these questions assume that western dominance was
inevitable, and lead historians to scour the past for the factors that
explain it. “The rise of the West is understood through a logic of
immanence: that it can only be accounted for by factors that are
strictly endogenous to Europe.” East and West come to be regarded as
distinct entities separated by a cultural Great Wall of China, which
protects us from barbarian invasion.
You can read the full article here. The author makes his point pretty well, but it should also be said that attitudes in the Far East are pretty sinocentric themselves. Whether it's Japanese people sure that theirs is the only country with four seasons, or China's idea of itself as the only country that has the power to overcome Western imperialism with "great harmony." Basically, the whole world needs to get a little perspective, but that's been the story for a while now.