IV Congreso Internacional
Historia a Debate
Santiago de Compostela, 15-19 de diciembre de 2010
Sección II. 5. Historiografía de paradigmas
Yasir Yilmaz (Purdue University, Colorador, USA)
New Paradigm in Economic Historiography What is ‘Economic Success’ in Historical and Historiographical Context?"
This paper will argue that though generating an admirable scholarly synergy to excommunicate the assumptions on the economic/material superiority of the West from the literature, the recent critique of Eurocentrism in the modern historiography, particularly by the global historians, did not yet lead to a genuine transformation in the writing of economic history. By referring to the Industrial Revolution with designations such as "the gap," "the great departure," or "the great divergence" the global historians have eventually reproduced the connotations associated with the so-called "rise of the West." Therefore, in the final stage, such classifications became stylistic historiographical euphemisms, if unintended, and did not go beyond previous Eurocentric assumptions.
In the same regard, the paper will also argue that in the light of the existing data on the wastefulness of the modern production and consumption cycles the veneration of the Industrial Revolution in the Anglo-Saxon historiography should be re-questioned. Yes, the Industrial Revolution made remarkable contributions to the development of the modern civilization, and the humanity still collects the harvests of it. In the meantime, however, the last several decades have seen the intensification of ethical discussions on the human and environmental costs originating in the industrialization in all fields of life. The inherent balance of Nature has been terribly damaged, and some of the natural resources are on the edge of extinction.
Indeed, in the twenty-first century, the human communities and the decision makers more than ever need a new perspective that prioritizes the unselfishness, altruism, and contentedness with what one possesses. Correspondingly, the historians need a new paradigm that re-interrogates the worldwide historical existence of the Economic Man, or the so called homo-economicus. This should then take the historians to a new viewpoint, skeptically re-examining Adam Smith’s argument on the "propensity [of people] to barter, truck and exchange one thing for another," already much criticized by Karl Polanyi half a century ago. In this way, the scholarly celebration of the Industrial Revolution may become a historiographical falsification while an intellectual chance emerges to re-interpret in what ways the Industrial Revolution was an ‘economic success’ and whether it was a deviation from the natural course of a human centered history.