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Talking among themselves? Weberian and Marxist historical sociologies as dialogues without 'others'

By Gurminder K. Bhambra


Historical sociology is divided between two broad approaches, Weberian and Marxist. The first utilises a methodology of ideal types, presenting a largely endogenous examination of Western history in its account of modernity. The second acknowledges capitalism as a ‘world system’, but also identifies its central dynamic with processes having a European origin. Within the Weberian tradition, theories of multiple modernities allow modernity to be understood as culturally inflected and diverse in its instantiations, but retain the idea of a distinctive European modernity against which other forms are measured. Similarly, within Marxism, the emphasis on a distinctive capitalist mode of production allows space for uneven development globally, or the contingent association of non-capitalist forms, but retains an account of the logic of capitalism derived from European experience. Although the social relations of colonialism, imperialism and slavery are coextensive with capitalism, each tradition renders them peripheral to the development of capitalist modernity. This article discusses the limitations of the two approaches, arguing that any model that posits a world historical centre from which developments diffuse outwards is problematic, especially when such a model does not address the ‘others’ with which it comes subsequently to engage. What is needed is a ‘connected histories’ approach counter to the otherwise dominant forms of historical sociology

Topics: HM
Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1177/0305829811401119
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