Term paper: Eurocentrism Then and Now
West is considered to be the pioneer of the modern world. West itself considered to be grand, superior and pristine than the rest of the world. This notion brings in the concept of Eurocentrism. Though the term was coined much later in the late twentieth century with the advent of decolonization, Eurocentrism could be traced to the early Renaissance where classical works of Greek and Roman were revived. The Renaissance movement fostered the growth of European civilization. Europe became more self-centered with the advent of imperialism which took place around the fifteenth century, then the scientific revolution and the commercial revolution followed the imperial conquest, finally the colonizing mission which reached its peak in the nineteenth century followed by the industrial revolution heightened the sense of European superiority. Eurocentrism runs deep in colonialism. The West used science, religion or culture and philosophy to establish its superiority. As Rajiv Malhotra points out “During the colonial era, the naive assumption of Western superiority was given authority by thinkers such as Hegel, who developed a ‘universal’ theory of history, which was in essence, a theory of European history in which the rest of the world was taken to be objects rather than subjects”1. Hegel’s idea of history is purely Eurocentric. As Rajiv Malhotra further points out “Hegel saw the evolution of human history as a unified totality, proceeding via the evolution of ‘world spirit’. The ‘world spirit for Hegel was Western, with other cultures subsumed to the dustbin of history, forced to adapt to the West or be trampled underfoot by the ‘world spirit’2”. All non-European civilizations were seen as barbaric, savage and as objects. Further to support Hegel’s ideology, nineteenth century scholar Herbert Spencer propounded ‘Social Darwinism’ which stated that the strongest or the fittest should flourish in society. He claimed that the powerful and the strongest should rule as they could easily adapt to the changing environment, be it political, economic or social, he used the concept of Darwin’s natural selection to argue that it was normal and natural that the strong should prosper at the expense of the weak. Likewise colonization was seen as inevitable and proper, thus holding the notion that the natives were unfit to thrive and survive. The theory tried to justify that it was right to exploit the natives and their resources. But it would be wrong to support Spencer’s argument because what is natural is not always morally right. Hegel’s ideology is a fallacy because by propounding he is suggesting the weak has no right to live. Spencer’s Social Darwinism has been misused in the World War Two where Adolf Hitler (Nazi) killed millions of Jews and other race in order to create a superhuman or master race. Social Darwinism only creates imbalance. But scholars and writers have come up with arguments and ideas to defend the East from the false conception of Eurocentrism.
As Kenneth N. Edison says, “Eurocentrists believe in the centrality of Western civilization to human history, a belief that for them warrants the same conviction expressed by the Italian philosophers, mathematicians, and astronomer Galileo Galilei, when he declared for point of fact, not copernician speculation –that the planet revolved around the sun”3. Further he states that “Historically, Eurocentrists have shown little concern for the fact that colonialism and slavery served as primary vehicles of Western ascension”4. The ‘East’ or the ‘other’ played a pivotal part in the development of the West. Europe flourished partly through the resources of the colonies and the natives. This idea...
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