Let's be Frank about Marx?

Wed, 4 Mar 98 13:07:07
Manjur Karim (mkarim@moses.culver.edu)

Andre Gunder Frank's article is indeed quite impressive in its scope
and ambition. While the manifesto is not the central organizational
focus of his article, its has meaningful theoretical and
empirical relevance for the way we read the manifesto as part of the
totality of Marx's understanding of capitalism.

Frank made his rather spectacular entrance in the social scientific
analysis of development/ underdevelopment in the sixties not
only by challenging the dominant modernization paradigm of that
time, but also, relatively lesser known to the North American
audience, by challenging the "dualist" thesis (coexistence of
capitalist/modern and feudal/traditional modes of production in Latin
American societies) of the offical Communist Parties of Latin
America. Initally fascinated with Frank's point of view,
I later on became more interested in the Mode of Production critics of
the Frank-inspired dependency approach. But that is a
different story, which I will not address now.

It is extremely difficult to keep track with a prolific writer like
Frank (I don't remember the exact figure, but is it not something
like 36 books, a few hundred articles, being more cited than some
Nobel Laureate economists etc. etc. ?). However, in last few weeks
I tried to read about the latest turns in Frank's analysis of
the world system (note that while Wallerestein writes world-system
with a hyphen, Frank writes it without one; and there is apparently
a theoretical justification for that, something that Frank might
focus on).

I will use a rather long citation from "Let's be Frank
about World History" by Albert Beresen in *Civilizational and
World Systems: Studying World-Historical Change*, edited by Stephen
K. Sanderson, Altamira Press, 1995 to summarize Frank's position
as it relates to the present article. I hope Frank endorses this
interpretation of his work.

" Frank does not have the new model; no one does. But he began to
open some new avenues of thinking about how the world might work that
may point toward a new model of world-historical develpment.......

...First, and most generally, Frank is beginning "post-world system
theory." What Frank did to Modernization theory he is now doding
to world-sysetm theory. It is an amazing feat, hardly realized by
many world system practitioners. From saying developing
countries did not get that way through their own internal
development but as being part of a larger system of world
economic relations, Frank has now placed that Europe-based
world-system in a larger world-historical context, saying that
the development of the Wallerestein/Braudelian world-system is
conditioned by, is part of, develops in accord with, its global
position within a still larger world-historical system that has
had Asia as its center for a long period of time...

...A corrolary of the first point is the contention that the
world-system does not bubble up out of the feudal west
because of an endogeneeous "Eurocrisis" of feudalism and then
go on to incorporate th rest of the world, but is part of the
larger world web from the very start....

..The Asian hegemony idea also prompts very macro materialist
versions of human history- the most people, production, and
wealth over most of the world's history are in the East.
This makes the rise of the West a short interlude of
perhaps a few hundred years from AD 1750/1850 to 2000, as
productive advantage is again returning to Asia. So, a new
model of world centers and peripheries; up to 1750/1850 an
Asia-dominate dworld system, then until 2000 a Euro-North
American-dominated system, and then from the year 2000
onward the action swings back to where it has been most of
the time- Asia. Speak of decentering. The rise of the
West is now a hegemonic blip in world history...

..Marx fits the "Eoroideology" model; in theorizing that
capitalism rises out of "Eurofeudalism" he gives no
acknowledgement of relations between the semiperipheral
West and the Asian core as having anything to do with
producing the West's upward mobility in world production
after 1750/1850. Marx has always been the most radical of
thinkers, but from this perpsective Marxism is a form of
"Euroapologetics" providing a rationale for
"Euroexceptioalism....."

I am particularly curious how Kevin Anderson or David Smith
(David, are you on this list?) respond to this stage of
Frank's theory. I personally have some question for
Frank. But I have to take care of some other business now. I
will write again either this evening or tomorrow morning.

Manjur Karim