Dussel — “Beyond Eurocentricism”

Dussel begins “Beyond Eurocentricism” by distinguishing between two constructed paradigms of modernity.  Eurocentricism is the belief that modernity is exclusively a European phenomenon that originated from within Europe, began with the Renaissance, and spread over chronological time to the periphery of the modern world.  World is divided between ancient, medival, and modern (beg. with Renaissance).  No one more than Hegel perpetuated this myth—“for Hegel, the Spirit of Europe is the absolute Truth that determines or realizes itself through itself without owing anything to anyone” (3).  In this paradigm, Europe is independent system.   What Europe does has universal significance—psuedo-scientific narrative of evolutionary history (barbarism to rational civilization).  European enlightenment represents universality.  It is a knowledge system that is intrinsic to Europe. 


The Planetary paradigm conceives of modernity as the “culture of the center of the ‘world system,’ of the first world-system, through the incorporation of Amerindia, and as a result of the management of this ‘centrality.’” (4).  Modernity, in other words, is the center of the world system; Europe, beginning with Spain, as center, but not exclusive and automonous—a notion of superiority that is the effect of “discovery, conquest, colonization, and integration (subsumption) of Amerindia” (5).  Capitalism, invention, technological progress are also effects of displacement of other countries, cultures, etc. Center is dependent on periphery….


After explaining what these paradigms are, Dussel examines the premises of these arguments.  Dussel begins by explaining how world before 15th century was divided into interregional systems with their own systems.  Dussel identifys the Ottoman-Muslim empire as the third stage of interregional system, which had Baghdad as its center (5).  The switch in world-system  centers from Middle East to Europe occurred in 1492 with the conquest of Amerindia.  Spain, Portugal, or China had the technology and power to become the new center, but Spain succeeded.  China and Poland did not succeed not because they were inferior to Europe but China looked to India in west as center and Poland looked toward India in the east as center.  So did Spain, but as they tried to establish navigational routes for trade to India, they bumped into Amerindia, which instigated global hegemony.  According to Dussel, Columbus had no idea where he was.  Amerigo Vespucci, in 1503, had the brains to incorporate Amerindia into the Asian-Afro-Medieterranean world system (10).  Power dynamics changed and colonization begins. The impetus for modernity (new world system) was the cultural, scientific, religious, technological, political, ecological, and economic horizon, which created space for a world-system of mercantile, industrial, and transnational capitalism and competition to be world superpower (10).  In essence, according to Dussel, the “fundamental structure of the first modernity” is Amerindia because it, especially with the use of free labor derived from forced labor and coerced cash-crop labor, gave Europe the definitive comparative advantage over Muslim, Indian, and Chinese Worlds (12). And as a result, was “the birth of the world-system, the ‘peripheral social formations’” (12).  Modernity is effect of contact with other parts of world rather than being superior because of inherent qualities and the ability to manage the world system. 


            Dussel’s thesis is this:  “modernity was the fruit of the ‘management’ of the centrality of the first world-system” (13).  What are the implications?  Well, Dussel says that two kinds of modernity erupted.  One form, derived from ancient interregional system of Mediterranean, Muslim, and Christian, is a Hispanic, humanist, Renaissance where Spain ‘manages’ centrality as domination through hegemony of culture, language, religion,military occupation, economic and political administrative power, ecological transformation, etc.  A second modernity, occurring in Holland, occurred on a mental, spiritual, abstract level—humanity over nature, new understanding of self and of community, and new economic attitude–capitalism.  Eurocentric consciousness was born !!!  Culture was born!  Thus, while modernity began in 1492, the first paradigm of modernity—Eurocentricism—originated in first half of 17th century.  At the heart of Eurocentricism is simplification  of complexity of life through rationalism (15).  As an effect came the rise of Capitalism, liberalism, and dualism, which totalized itself and allowed Europe to become independent!  This procedure of simplification through rationalizations has no self-regulatory system!  Critics, such as Marx, Nietzsched, Freud, Foucault, Levinas, etc.  started and critiquing system from within.  But there is no escape.  “No debate between rationalists and postmoderns overcomes the Eurocentric horizon.” 


Dussel says modernity began at end of 15th century and went into crisis at end of 20th!  He writes, “if we situate ourselves…within the planetary horizon, [from the notion of Europe as center] we can distinguish at least two positions in the face of the formulated problematic” (18).  1st—are those defenders of reason (Habermas and Apel) who see Europe as center and orignin of modernity.  Also are postmodernists (Nietzsche and Heidegger) who don’t see that their thought systems and admiration of art, media, etc, derives in rationalization and make no effort to contribute valid alternatives from peripheal nations (18).  2nd*** recognizes the rational management of the world-system and is determined to liberated negated periphery.  Ethics of liberation is “transmodern” (19).


Chomsky identifies three limits of world-system that has been in place for over 500 years:  ecological destruction, destruction of humanity, “impossibility of the subsumption of the populations, economies, nations, and cultures that it has been attacking since its origin and has excluded from its horizon and cornered into poverty” (21).   Dussel ends with this quote:  “the globalizing world-system reaches a limit with the exteriority of the alterity of the Other, a locus of “resistance” from whose affirmation the process of the negation of negation of liberation begins” (21). 


Let’s think about our own rhetorical narrative.  Rhetoric = democracy, enlightenment, rationality.


Renaissance = compass, gunpowder, printing press=changed world system


With printing press, we rediscovered ancient rhetorical texts and then we based whole study of rhetorical theory on Greco-Roman knowledges.  How do we think of rhetoric that is not Greco-Roman?????????  If so, what is it?  If not, how do we talk about the persuasive practices of cultural traditions? 



If we think of rhetoric as modernity, what can we do?  We can acknowledge our positionality, admit our complicity in the problem, going back and doing rhetorical analysis of already written texts that our foundation for thought. 


Mitchell  Dunnier—Sidewalk—diagnostic ethnography—we come back with our observations, collect notes, and then forget about initial questions, and try to look at texts on their own terms, and formulate new questions based on their own terms.  Go back to the field with new questions.  We need to uneducate and reeducate. 


Look to other cultures…consult other ways of knowing…broaden definition of rhetoric….


What are other ways of describing and making knowledge that don’t exclude, dominate, master, victimize?


How can we make meaning in ways that aren’t aligned with systems of power? 


What are the limits of rhetoric??  Ecological destruction, destruction of humanity, subsumption of other.


How can we decenter Greco-Roman tradition?


Deconstruction of center, which is not subject to rules of entire structure and is superior to rest of structure.  Derrida says center isn’t really center because it is not within structure; if it is superior, it is not center.


How can we transfer analogy to rhetoric and composition???


Strategic Essentialism—Spivak—use essentialist ideas of reality and identity to disrupt homogenizing power. 


Autobiographical argument is one way to disrupt dominant ways of knowing and articulating in the academy…


Midterm project!  Rhetoric as culture….


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