Revisiting Imperial China’s trajectory in the context of the 'rise of the West'. The Eurocentric legacy in historical sociology

Turgeon, Nancy (2016) Revisiting Imperial China’s trajectory in the context of the 'rise of the West'. The Eurocentric legacy in historical sociology. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis proposes a theoretical and historical reconstruction of the ‘Great Divergence’
between Europe and China. In contrast with both the dominant narrative on the ‘Rise of the
West’ and its main detractor, the California School, the dissertation enquires critically into
the categories of ‘China’ and ‘Europe’ and contests their temporal and spatial homogeneity.
In this, the thesis proposes a unique way to overcome Eurocentrism in International
Relations and to sociologically understand similarity and dissimilarity in development.

The thesis reveals facets of Eurocentrism which are overlooked in all approaches engaging
with the issue of divergence and informing the IR literature (neo-institutionalist economic
history, neo-Weberian Sociology, World-Systems Theory, mode-of-production analyses,
and the California School). These Eurocentric conceptual anachronisms are: the
naturalisation of the European international system; the understanding of Europe as a
homogenous entity; the postulate of a universal rationality; and the ontologising of
analytical categories derived from the Western experience. The thesis’ methodology,
informed by Political Marxism, overcomes such Eurocentrism through its unique reading of
Marx, leading to a socialising of geopolitics and rationality, and theorising the specific
nature of developmental trajectories, thereby enabling the productive transfer of its method
to non-European contexts.

From this anti-Eurocentric standpoint, the thesis submits an alternative narrative on the
trajectory of Imperial China from the 7th to the 19th Centuries. Re-problematising the
contested and changing nature of China’s authority relations and political geography as
stemming from social conflicts around politically-constituted power challenges the Realist,
English School’s, and California School’s assumptions of its stability, hegemony, and
immutability widely held to have prevented take-off. Such a convergence between
Continental Europe and China until the 19th Century, contrasting with the IR assumptions
of a series of Chinese absences and European structural exceptionalisms, highlights the
Anglo-Continental 17th Century divergence as a unique resolution of social conflicts,
essential to Europe-China comparative strategies.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic history and conditions > HC0426 China
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 14 Mar 2016 14:21
Last Modified: 14 Mar 2016 14:21
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/59890

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