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Research Foundation of SUNY

Frank Proves the European Miracle


Author(s): Immanuel Wallerstein
Source: Review (Fernand Braudel Center), Vol. 22, No. 3 (1999), pp. 355-371
Published by: Research Foundation of SUNY for and on behalf of the Fernand Braudel Center
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An Essay-Review

FrankProvestheEuropeanMiracle
ImmanuelWallerstein
"Andthelightshinethso brightitblindethhim."
(Anon,sutra17 of a theological
saga of unknownorigin)
A ndre Gunder Frankhas writtena book ostensiblydevotedto
In reality,
and theory.1
jc\denouncing Eurocentrichistoriography
hisbook turnsout to be thegreatestpaean to Europeancleverness
and ingenuitythathas yetbeen written.Frankhas discoveredthe
trueEuropeanmiracle.You mayhaveheardthatFrankin thisbook
the good fightagainstall the otherswho have neveracis fighting
(well,almost
knowledgedtheEuropeanbias of theirhistoriography
thatFrankbecomesin fact
seemastonishing
never).Itmaytherefore
theleadingapostleof theEuropeanmiracle,makingclaimsforEurope thatare excessiveevenbythestandardsof David Landes.
The centralthesisofFrank'sbook,in thewordsoftheauthor,is
that"therewas a singleglobalworldeconomywitha worldwideditradefrom1500 onward"(1998: 52).
visionoflaborand multilateral
And the centralintentionof the book, he tellsus in the firstsentenceofthepreface,is to "turnreceivedEurocentric
historiography
and social theoryupside down"(1998: xv).So thequestionsforthe
readerare two.Is thecentralthesistrue?And ifitis true,does itactakethesetwoquesLet us therefore
complishthecentralintention?
tionsin turn.
We mustbe clearwhatthe centralthesismeans. It means that,
from1500
accordingto Frank,from1500 on, and mostspecifically
to 1800, sinceafter1800 thereis farless historiographical
dispute,
the entireglobe (and notjust part of it) was linkedtogetherin a
1 ReORIENT: Global
Economyin theAsianAge(Berkeley:Univ. of CaliforniaPress,
1998).
review,xxii,3, 1999,355-71

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355

356

ImmanuelWallerstein

trade,"butthat
singledivisionoflabor.Frankadds "andmultilateral
seemsto me redundant.Ifthereis a divisionoflabor,theremustbe
be multilateral.
The questionto
trade,whichwillalmostnecessarily
if
there
is
is
there
is
rather
the
trade,
necessarilya
opposite:
pose
singledivisionoflabor?
Whathas thisdisputeto do withEurocentrism?
Again,Frankis
to
is that
he
wishes
demonstrate
from
the
outset.
What
clear
quite
Asia and notEuropeheldcenterstagefor
"froma globalperspective
most of earlymodernhistory"(1998: xv). He saysAsia, but in the
texthe reallytalksalmostall ofthetimeabout China.Or to be more
exact,Frankhas a hierarchyof importance:China on top, India
somewherein the middle,Europe down below-and the OttomanArab zones largelyand strangely
missingfromhis accountforthe
mostpart.In anycase,Frankclaimsthat,bydoingthis,he "pullsthe
historicalrug out fromunder the an^-historical/scientificreally
Eurocentrism
of
Braudel,
Weber,
Marx,
Toynbee,Polanyi,
ideologicalsocialtheorists"
and mostothercontemporary
Wallerstein,
(1998:xvxvi).The leastI can sayis thatI am in good company.
There are twomore themesadumbratedin the preface,which
are crucialto theanalysis.One is "thequestionofwhatit means,if
anything,to call the worldeconomyor system'capitalist'"(1998:
xix).The secondis theassertionthat"inhistoricalterms,'theRiseof
theWest'came late and was brief"(1998: xxiv).Capitalism,whichis
describedin theprefacecautiouslyas doubtfully
initially
meaningful
becomesbypage 15 a "figment
of [Marx's]imagina("ifanything"),
tion."Accordingto Frank,thereis no such thingas capitalism,or if
thereis, itis thesystemin whichwe havealwayslived.In short,capitalismis not a distinguishing
featureof onlysome momentsand
in
It
historical
time.
is
neither
a systemnora mode ofproducplaces
tion nor a recognizablereality.We shall have to informall those
benightedsoulswho occasionallydemonstrate
againstthemisdeeds
of capitaliststhatthe villainsdo not exist.Poor GunderFrank:he
wastedso mucheffortin such demonstrations
earlierin his life,to
his seriousregrettoday,it seems.
As for"theRise of theWest,"it turnsout to be a considerable
embarrassment
to Frankbecause,as we shallsee, withintheframeworkof the analysishe has established,thereis no wayto account
forthisrise,howeverlate,howeverbrief.Yet even Frankseemsunable to makeEuropeanwealth,military
and imperialdomistrength,
nance of the worldentirelydisappear,at least between1800 and

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FRANK PROVES EUROPEAN MIRACLE

357

1950. But sincethereis no plausibleexplanation,itbecomes a truly


miraculoushappening.Thatis notto saythatFrankhas no explanationat all. Here itis: "Europeused itsAmericanmoneyto musclein
on and benefitfromAsianproduction,markets,trade-in a word,to
profitfromthepredominantpositionofAsia in theworldeconomy.
Europe climbedup on theback ofAsia,thenstood on Asian shoul(1998: 4-5). But what,praytell,does it mean to
ders-temporarily"
be predominantifan upstartcan "musclein" on you and climbon
yourback?
The storydoesn'tgettoo muchclearerwithanothermetaphor:
seat on
"Mythesis... is thattheWestfirstboughtitselfa third-class
a
whole
leased
then
theAsianeconomictrain,
railwaycarriage,and
onlyin thenineteenthcenturymanagedto displaceAsiansfromthe
locomotive"(1998: 37). A veritableHoratioAlgerstory!Not everyone goes fromragsto riches,onlythose(ifI remembermyHoratio
abstemious,and have a ProtesAlgerright)who are hard-working,
of
tantethic.Butenough metaphors.Let us getdownto brasstacks.
How does Frankdemonstratethat,in theperiod 1500-1800 (he
within
sometimessays1400-1800),therewas a singleworld-system,
somewhat
out
whichAsia was predominant?
pruChaptertwostarts
Global
"The
its
as
the
to
be
title,
seems
pattern-using
dently-this
Trade Carousel, 1400-1800." The chapterconcludes more forthwitha sectionthathas thetitle,"Summaryof a Sinocentric
rightly,
WorldEconomy."We are toldthatthisworldeconomy(alwayswithout thehyphen,sincetherecannotbe morethanone,eithersimultawithits "dense and far-reaching
interproneouslyor successively),
economic
international
world
and
vincial,interregional,
systemic
relations. . . [remained]dominatedby Asian production,competicentury-a
tiveness,and trade"rightup to theend oftheeighteenth
and
balances
trade
of
in
the
"reflected
money
pattern
global
reality
flows"(1998: 126). So thecrucialpieces of evidence,we now learn,
are the tradebalances and themoneyflows.Are we to understand
thatFrankhas thusreturnedto his earlytraining(one thathe once
long ago so spectacularlyrenounced) as a Chicago monetarist
economist?
Whatdoes he argueabout tradebalances?Fourregions,he tells
us, had "built-indeficitsof commoditytrade:theAmericas,Japan,
Africa,and Europe" (1998: 126-27). The Americasand Japan balanced theirdeficitwithsilverexports,and Africadid so byexporting
gold and slaves.Theywerethus,he says,producingcommoditiesin

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358

ImmanuelWallerstein

demand elsewherein theworldeconomy.Europe was,bycontrast,


seeminglyincapable of producingcommoditiesthatanyone anywherewanted.So theincompetent
Europeanssurvivedbymanaging
theexportsoftheotherdeficitary
regions.In thisaccount,however,
bum who
FrankgivesEurope no crediteven forbeinga streetwise
was able to parlaya totalabsence of productiveskillsintoa reasonable income.
China and India,on theotherhand,were "centralto theworld
economy,"(1998: 127) China moreso thanIndia. How so? Well,as
in
a resultof their"outstandingabsoluteand relativeproductivity
manufactures,"
theyhad "favorablebalancesoftrade,"and Chinain
"the 'ultimatesink'of theworld'ssilver"(1998:
became
particular
127). FrankthennotesAbu-Lughod'saccountofthreemajorregions
and eight overlappingregionalellipses in her thirteenth-century
worldsystem,but he is unhappythatshe has stressedthatthevarious regionsplayedmore or less equal roles.Frankprefersanother
one "whichcan be visualizedin theform
versionof regionalization,
ofconcentriccircles"(1998: 129). The circleshe listsseemquiteprecise: theYangziValleyand/or South China in theverycenter,the
tradesysrestof China in thenextring,thentheEastAsiantribute/
retem (as describedby Hamashita),thenan Asian or Afro-Asian
Americas.
the
in
the
band
and
and
outer
finally
Europe
gionalband,
to
All ofthispresumesthatitis a signofgreateconomicstrength
havea favorablebalanceoftrade.Frankdid notalwaysthinkso. Part
of his exercisein thisbook is to demonstratehis intellectualbreakalliesand acceptingguilt
throughbydenouncingformerintellectual
for his own errorsin previouswritings.So it's ratherdifficult
to
knowwhat,if anything,
he stillthinksworthreadingin his rather
voluminouspre-1990writings.
Still,I hope he won'tthrowthemall
out. Some are quite good, in myview,and are stillworthreading.
I call attentionto a debate thatwenton in the 1970's,somewhat
It was about
obscurely,in theJournalofEuropeanEconomic
History.
the relationsof Europe, especiallyGreat Britain,and the "Third
World"in thelate nineteenthcentury.This debate startedwithan
articleby Paul Bairoch. Empirically,
Bairoch and Frankwere in
agreement.Between1880 and 1939,therewas a deficitin European
foreigntradein merchandise(about 20%). Butwhatdid thisimply?
In thefallof 1976,Frankpublishedtwoarticlesin thesame issue of
thejournal,one criticalof Bairochand theothera full-scale
presentationof his ownviews.The titleof thelatterwas "Multilateral
Mer-

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FRANK PROVES EUROPEAN MIRACLE

359

chandiseTrade Imbalancesand Uneven Economic Development"


that"throughout
(Frank:1976). Frankasserts,indeeddemonstrates,
at
thewholeperiodofworldcapitalistdevelopmentand particularly
centutheend of thenineteenthand thebeginningof thetwentieth
ries,"therewasa merchandiseimbalanceoftradebetweenthedeveloping metropolises(and especiallyGreatBritain)and the "underdeveloping,colonialized,countries."He arguesthatthisimbalance
of tradewas fundamental"intheprocessofunevencapitalistdevelopment"(1976: 407).
Imbalancein whosefavor?It turnsout thatGreatBritainhad an
deficitwithnobodyand thatthe underdeexportsurplus/import
velopedregionshad theoppositeproblem;theyhad an exportdefsurpluswithnobody.Everyotherregionin the world
icit/import
showed a picturein-between.From this,Frankdrewin this 1976
articlethefollowingconclusion:
Thismeansthat,in fact,evenwhenmeasuredat worldmarket
prices(and even more so ifestimatedin termsof real value),
the underdevelopedpart of the worldthroughits excess of
merchandiseexportsovermerchandise
importsreallyfinances
and
both
all the restof the world
Specifidirectly indirectly.
countries
the
of
the
(1)
underdeveloped
cally, exportsurplus
merchandise
excess
the
of
much
consumptionof
supplied
Europe representedbythelatter'smerchandiseexportdeficit
or importsurplus,(2) helpedfinancetheexportsurplusofthe
UnitedStatesand Dominionsto Europe,(3) helped domestic
investmentand developmentin Europe, and/or (4) helped
in theUnitedStatesand
Europefinanceitsforeigninvestment
acceleratedwhile
wasthereby
Dominions,whosedevelopment
theunderdevelopedcountriesalso financedmuchofthe"foreign" investmentin themselves,whichhoweveraccelerated
theirunderdevelopment
(1976: 422).
So, it seemsthat,in thispreviousarticle,Frankwas arguingthat
GreatBritainin the late nineteenthcenturywas exploitingunderdevelopedcountriesbymeansof thefactthatitwas receivingmore
merchandisefromthemthanitwas sendingin exchange.But,now,
in his new book, Frank is arguingthat China was economically
strongerthanEurope in theperiod 1500-1800 because itwas sending Europe more merchandisethan it importedin return.I have
nothingagainstFrankchanginghismind,eventurninghisprevious

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360

ImmanuelWallerstein

argumentsupside down.Perhapshe has learnedthathe was previouslywrong.Justone question:does he nowwishto concludeon the
basis of his new theorythat,in the late nineteenthcentury,the
underdevelopedcountrieswerestrongerthanGreatBritainbecause
theyweresendingitmoremerchandisethantheyreceivedin return?
Chapterthreemovesthediscussionfromtradeto money.It is entitled"Moneywentaroundtheworldand made theworldgo round."
subjectto thelawsof supply
Money,Franktellsus, is a commodity,
the
and demand.Indeed,it turnsout to be, in Frank'sview,virtually
both
"Itis thedemandformoneythatmakes
possible
keycommodity.
themarketsupplyof goods and theuse ofmoneyto purchasethem.
or
So, thisuniversalpracticeof arbitragein itselfalreadyreflectsa worldmarketin everysense of theterm"(1998: 137;
helpedcreateitalicsadded). Why,he asks,would Chinawantthemoneyso much?
effective
demand,
Because,he says,"moneysupportedand generated
and thedemandelicitedsupply"(1998: 138;italicsadded). Butmoney
demandjustanywhere,
does notgenerateeffective
arguesFrank-only
whereproductivecapacityalreadyexistsand wherein consequence
toexpanditthrough
investment
and improved
thereis "thepossibility
(1998: 138). This China had, saysFrank.This Great
productivity"
Britainhad, saysLandes (1998,passim).The logicis identical.
Thischapterpurports
toshowthattheworld'sproduction
ofsilver,
whichwasthede factomoneystandardduringthisperiodaccordingto
Frank,endedup in China,whichin turnprovesforFrankChina'seconomicstrength.
do notsupporttheemHowever,Frank'sownfigures
I
will
take
all
his
at
face
value.On page 148,
piricalargument.
figures
he has a chartofworldsilverproduction,
and receiptsforthe
exports,
period 1500-1800.Whatdoes it show?It showsthatin thesixteenth
17 thousandtonsofsilverwentfromtheAmericasto Europe,
century,
nonefromEuropetoChina,and 2 thousandtonsfrom
JapantoChina.
Not so good forthesixteenth
In theseventeenth
it
century.
century,
showsthat27 thousandtonswentfromtheAmericasto Europe,13 of
it (or about half)beingsenton to Chinaand 7 thousandtonsgoing
fromJapanto China.In theeighteenth
54 thousandtonswent
century,
fromtheAmericasto Europe,26 (or againabouthalf)transshipped
to
China,and none goingfromJapanto China. In addition,thereis a
jokerofAmericansilvergoingviaManilatoChina.Itis a jokerbecause
Frankis unsurehowmuchwenttoManilaandhowmuchthenwenton
to China.He tellsus that,for1600-1800,totalestimates
rangefrom3
to 10 up to 25 thousandtons.

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FRANK PROVES EUROPEAN MIRACLE

361

Let us now do theaddition.WhatFrankshowsis thatbetween


1500 and 1800,Europe received98 thousandtonsfromtheAmericas and senton 39 thousandtons to China,keeping59 thousand
tons.China received39 thousandtonsfromEurope,9 fromJapan,
and from3 to 25 fromtheAmericasvia Manila,fora totalof from
51 to 77. How about averagingthisout at 59 thousandtons?Hence,
accordingto Frank'schart,Europe and Chinawereexactlyequal as
"sinks"in thiscrucialperiod.However,at thatpoint,we shouldintrude population figures,especiallysince Frank considers them
terriblyimportant.Frank,in a chart on p. 170, shows that the
Europe/Chinarelationfor 1500 was 68:100; for 1600, 83:150; for
1700,106:150;and for1800,173:315.Crudely,Europe'spopulation
duringthisperiodwas halfthatof China's.Yet it retainedthesame
amountof theworldsilversupply.So, in per capita terms,Europe
did twiceas wellduringthisperiodin preciselywhatFrankputsforwardas a keycriterion.Actually,Frankadmitsthis,but dismissesit
as causinginflationin Europe whereasthe same silverserved"to
increaseproductionand also populationmorein Asia" (1998: 157).
What the figuresshow,in reality,is thatboth China and western
was that
Europe needed silverand had to importit.The difference
thecostforwesternEuropewas thecostofitsmilitary
operationto
of
the
cost
the
then
and
silver
miningoperationusing
plunderthe
coercedlabor. The costforChina was thepreciousgoods it had to
exportin orderto obtainthesilver.I'd saythatwesternEurope got
itssilvercheaper.
As long as we're on population,despitethe figureshe has just
cited,Frankconcludesthat"populationgrewmuch
fasterinAsia,and
especiallyin China and India, than in Europe" (1998: 171; italics
arithmetic,
added). Perhaps Frankis using some non-Eurocentric
faster
China
that
show
his
but I read that figures
grewonlyslightly
thanEurope. And of course Europe as a categorygroupstogether
ratesofpopulationgrowth.The figuresfor
zoneswithverydifferent
betterthanthoseforEurope as
northwest
Europe are considerably
a whole,and mostlikelyat leastas good as thoseof China. Whatis
thenmostshockingis that,fromtheseslender(and debatable)quantitativedifferencesin population growth,if there are any at all,
Frank deduces (yes, deduces) an advantage in growthin total
productionforChina: "Alas,we lackestimatesof totaland regional
productionfor [1400-1800], but it standsto reasonthatthismuch
in Asia can havebeen possibleonlyifitsprofaster
population
growth

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362

ImmanuelWallerstein

ductionalso grewfasterto supportits populationgrowth"(1998:


171; italicsadded).
thebook. "Iftrade
Deductionis a game Frankplaysthroughout
and technoland consumption,based on production,productivity,
in
so
advanced
and
manypartsof
ogywerebothabsolutely relatively
'infrastructure'
Asia,itstandstoreasonthatthenecessaryinstitutional
mustalso havebeenin place thereto permitand facilitateeconomic
development"(1998: 205; italicsadded). UIwillargue,iftheproducand processreallywasas theevidence
tiveand commercialstructure
in
this
book
elsewhere
reviewed
shows,thenwe mustaskwhatkind
to make that
couldormusthaveexisted,
of institutional
arrangement
whatis
italics
added). However,apparently,
possible" (1998: 209;
good forthegoose is notallowedto thegander.WhenFrankwishes
he notes
to disagreewithAnthonyReidaboutIndianimportfigures,
Frank
after
1650."
have
declined
thathe saysthatthey"must
sharply
thathe has no
remarks:"Myemphasisin Reid's sentencehighlights
evidence for this decline ..." (1998: 234). This is of course true
about Reid, and about Frankas wellin all his deductiveassertions,
whichplaybyno meansa minorrole in his argumentation.
Chapterfouris called "The Global Economy:Comparisonsand
Relations."One of the issues underdebate is preciselythe unitof
analysis.Frankwantsto argue thatthereexistsa singleworldwide
economywitha singledivisionof labor in thisperiod.Others,like
me,wantto arguethatthereweremultiplecoexisting
largehistorical
in
this
and
that
the
relations
between
thesesystems
systems
period,
was of a totallydifferent
order thanthe relationswithinthesesystems.WhatFrankdoes in thischapteris assumethathe is right.He
thenfindsit easyto assertthatstatements
whichothershave made
about thecapitalistworld-economy
(locatedin onlypartoftheglobe
in thisperiod) are not trueof hisworldwideunit.But of course,no
one eversaid thattheywere.It is a completelystrawman,scarcely
worthso muchspace and agitation.Look at thispassage:
to theEast,
Europeanswereable to sellveryfewmanufactures
and insteadprofitedprimarily
frominserting
themselves
into
the "countrytrade"withintheAsianeconomyitself.Europe's
source of profitswas overwhelmingly
derivedfromthecarryand
from
trade,
in bullion,
ing
parleying
multipletransactions
money,and commoditiesin multiplemarkets,and mostim-

portantly,across the entireworldeconomy.Previously,no one

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FRANK PROVES EUROPEAN MIRACLE

363

poweror itsmerchantshad been able to integrateitsactivities


betweenall ofthemin sucha coherentlogicofprofitmaximization
One thingis veryclear: Europe was not a major
industrialcenterin termsof exportsto the restof theworld
economy(1998: 177).
Whatconfusionand how muchblurringpoor punctuationpermits.The firstclauseis true.Europeanswereindeedable to sellvery
to theEast.Theydidn'teven try.Whatnorthwestfewmanufactures
ernEurope was interestedin doing,and did verywell,was to sell
to the peripheralzones of the capitalistworld-econmanufactures
omyof whichit was a part,and whichdid notincludeAsia at this
pointin time.Frankknowsthisverywell,as he has documenteditin
a numberof his earlierbooks.
Now, insteadof a period,he uses a comma, thuslinkingtwo
questions,whichactuallyinvolvea non sequitur.Yes, Europe proftrade"
itselfintothe"country
frominserting
ited(butnotprimarily)
withinthe Indian Ocean. At least twogenerationsof scholarshave
werederivedfrom
Andyes,theprofits
aboutthisextensively.
written
And yes,I
the carryingtrade.No one has everargued differently.
a
worldwide
to
traverse
said
could
be
this
network,what
suppose
Frankcalls "the entireworldeconomy."So what?They used the
profitsobtained there to accumulatecapitalwithinthe capitalist
lateron,toincorporatethese
and giveitthestrength,
world-economy
zonesexternalto theirsystemintoit,and thustoperipheralizethem.
The next sentenceassertsthat Europe was the firstpower to
thereweremul(Apparently
operatein all marketssimultaneously.
tiplemarketsafterall,althoughin previouspages thiswas precisely
theassertionagainstwhichFrankhad been arguing.)This statement
constitutes
grudgingpraise forEurope. Frankdoes not tellus how
to do this,and evenmoreimportantly,
able
were
whythe Chithey
sentenceI
the
last
do
this.
nese, so strong,werenot able to
Finally,
quoted saysthatEuropewas nota majorexporterto "therestofthe
worldeconomy,"butofcourse,again,no one eversaid itwas in this
period.Frankis knockingdownan open door.
Lest I bore the reader withfurtheranalyses,sentenceby sentence,of confusioncompounded,let me limitmyselfto one more
strawman in thischapter:
Thus, despitetheiraccess to Americanmoneyto buy themselvesintotheworldeconomyin Asia,forthethreecenturies

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364

ImmanuelWallerstein

after1500 the Europeans stillremaineda smallplayerwho


had to adapt to- and not make!-theworldeconomicrulesin
Asia (1998: 185).
Note thedramaticexclamationpoint.I challengeFrankto nameone
scholarwho eversaid thatEuropeansmade the economicrulesin
whatI
Asia in thisperiod. Whatmostof themhave said, certainly
havesaid,is thatAsialayoutsidethezone inwhichEuropean"rules"
prevailedduringthisperiod.
is no
Chapter fiveis devoted to the thesisthat "simultaneity
coincidence."I agree,or at leastI agreethatwe shouldneverstartby
assumingcoincidencebut thatwe shouldfirstlook forcommonalities.A good deal of the chapteris takenup withthe "seventeenth
centurycrisis,"a subjectthathas been widelydiscussedoverthepast
thatsucha crisisdidnotoccur
40 years.Frankwishesto demonstrate
in China. Perhaps therewere some overenthusiastic
personswho
latchedon to thisthemeand triedto extendit to Asia, althoughI
have neverread any.For mypart,I wouldhavesaid thatthereis no
reason whatsoeverto expect that the seventeenth-century
crisis,
exindeed
did
occur
within
the
which
capitalistworld-economy,
tended in any significant
way beyond its bounds. What is rather
in thisbook (and not onlyin his
is
that
Frank
continues
surprising
previousworks)to accept the realityof this"crisis"forthe EuroAtlanticzone butthentriumphantly
deniesitsreality
inAsia,/would
of
course.
But
how
does
he
this
in termsof
say,
explain
discrepancy
a "horizontally
thetitleof thischapter?
integrative
macrohistory,"
we
come
to
what
is
to
Finally,
supposed be, I guess,thepice de
rsistance-chaptersix,"WhyDid theWestWin(Temporarily)?"
Remember,Frankis theone who has toldus that:
[A]llavailableestimatesofworldand regionalpopulation,and
income,as well as the discussionabove on worldtrade,confirmthatAsia and variousof itsregionaleconomieswerefar
moreproductiveand competitive
and had farand awaymore
and
influence
in
the
weight
globaleconomythananyor all of
the "West"put togetheruntilat least 1800 (1998: 174).
Itwouldseemto requirea miracleforEuropeto pullahead.Dare one
callit "theEuropeanmiracle"?Or perhapswe shouldcallittheFrank
miracle,thathe can derivefromhisanalysissomewayoutoftheboxin
whichhe has puthimself.
Frankstartsthechapterwithhisanswers:

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FRANK PROVES EUROPEAN MIRACLE

365

One answeris thattheAsianswereweakened,and theother


answeris thattheEuropeanswerestrengthened Thischapterinquireswhetherand how theworldeconomicadvantage
of Asia between1400 and 1800 mayhave been turnedto its
owndisadvantageand to theadvantageinsteadof theWestin
thenineteenthand twentieth
centuries(1998: 258-59).
To explainthis,Frankarguesthattheperiod1450-1750was one
long"A" phase for"Chinaand India . . . and othermajorAsianeconomies . . ." (1998: 263)- but not,let us recall,forEurope,since Europe,accordingto Frank,was livingthrougha seventeenth-century
B-phase.This A-phase(forAsia only,in whatwas otherwisesupposed to be an integratedworldeconomy),"gavewayto a succeedinglong'B' phase,especiallyforthemorecentraleconomiesinAsia
between1750 and 1800" (1998: 263). The West could take advanB phase-whichapparentlylasted
tageof thissucceedingAsian-only
untilat leastthe 1970's-forAsia but notforEurope-once again in
a supposedlyintegratedworldeconomy-and "go on to achieve a
(temporary?)period of dominance"in analogyto "whatare now
Economies'(NIEs) in EastAsia . . ."
calledthe'NewlyIndustrializing
(1998: 263).
Let us ignorethefactthat,wheneverit'sconvenientto his arguworldeconment,Frankis readyto dropthefictionofan integrated
in
succeeded
the
West
takingadomy.Let us ask how,nonetheless,
vantageof China when, accordingto Frank,it was momentarily
butmovingthestorythreecendown.BorrowingfromAbu-Lughod,
turieslaterat least,Franksays thatit was the decline of the East
whichpreceded and made possible the rise of the West.What deof therulclineof theEast?It seems thatthemarketopportunities
ing classesof India and China led themto increaseexploitationof
thoseworkingon theland (shades of Dobb's explanationof thedeclineofthefeudalrulingclassin England),and thisincreasedpolarization"resultedin atrophyof the veryprocess thatgeneratedit"
(1998: 266).
Actually,it was probablythe malicious Europeans who were
behindthis:
The growingeconomic and politicalstrainsin Asia may insteadhave been generatedmorebytheEuropeans'supplyof
silverand by the resultantincreasedpurchasingpower,income, and demand on domesticand exportmarketsin the

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366

ImmanuelWallerstein

world economy,and especiallyin Asia. This presumablyincreasinglyskewed the distributionof income,whichcould


demandand growingpoliton effective
haveled to constraints
ical tensions. . . (1998: 267).
had theChinesebeen moreprudentand
So, ifI understandthisright,
less greedy,had theynotgivenawayso muchgood merchandisefor
Europe's silver(or at leastnot forso muchsilver),theymighthave
and twentithenineteenth
remainedon top of theworldthroughout
ethcenturies.Ah,thosesneaky,cleverEuropeans!Ifthey'dhavepaid
lesssilverforChinesemerchandise
(and iftheChinesehad been foreon
insisted
to
have
beingpaid lesssilver),theChinese
sightedenough
mighthaveremainedforeveron top of theworld.
This explainsChina'sdecline.WhataboutthatofIndia?It seems
Eurocentricscholars(likeAmiyaBagchior BurtonStein)
well-known
date India's declineafter1757 (Plassey),or 1800,or 1830. Not at all
the case, says Frank.India's decline began at least in the 1730's.
There is "substantialevidence"(1998: 271) thateconomicdecline
began beforeany colonizationby the Europeans.As forthe Ottoman Empire,it was decliningalreadyin "thefirsthalfof the eighteenthcentury. . ." (1998: 273).
As foran explanationof thesedeclines,forwhichFrankrefuses
to giveEurope anycreditorblame,all Frankcan offeris thenatural
exhaustionoftheA-phaseinAsia,as a resultofwhichtheEuropeans
could seize theadvantage.Buthow?Well,theystoleAmericansilver,
ran some otherplantationsin theAmericas,and benefitedfromthe
(1998: 278). Okay.Nowwe'rebackto theold
"Keynesianmultiplier"
Frank.What thenhas thisto do withanti-Eurocentrism?
Read this
summationof thissectionof thebook:
[W]hile the Europeans were gatheringstrengthfrom the
Americasand Africa,as wellasfromAsiaitself,
Asianeconomies
and politieswerealso becomingweakenedduringpartof the
...
eighteenthcentury-so muchso thatthepathsfinallycrossed
at about 1815 (1998: 283; italicsadded).
What a curious phrase for Frank to use- "the paths finally
crossed." I thoughttheywere on the same, singularpath already
since 1400, if not since 2500 BC One mightthinkthatFrankwere
that had finally
arguingthat theywere distinctiveworld-systems
come intomeaningfulinteractionin thesame arena.

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FRANK PROVES EUROPEAN MIRACLE

367

And now,mostcuriousof all, Frankwishesto intrudeone last


rise.Surprise,surprise-it
elementto explainEurope's(temporary?)
is the "technologicaldevelopmentsof the industrialrevolution."
idea. It is truethat
Now thatis surelyan original,un-Eurocentric
Franktellsus theyare not "onlyEuropean achievements. . . (but)
mustbe understoodmore properlyas worlddevelopmentswhose
spatiallocus movedto and throughtheWestat thattimeafterhaving long moved about the East" (1998: 285). Still,Frankhimself
poses theobviousquestion:
The questionremains,however,whyand how WesternEuropeansand AmericansthenbestedtheAsiansat theirowngame
advancesoftheindustrial
throughrecoursetothetechnological
revolution.How and whywerethesemade thenand there?A
maybe stillbeyondus ... (1998: 285).
fullysatisfactory
Nonetheless,Frankwantsto offerus something.It turnsout to
frontier
be thethesisof a high-wage
economy,whichhas long been
used to explaintheadvantagesoftheUnitedStates,and whichFrank
wishesto argueappliesto Europe as a whole:
[T]he lower European populationbase and its safety-valve
emigrationto theAmericasbothservedto generateincentives
in Europe farmorethantheAsian
forlabor-saving
machinery
populationresourcedid (1998: 286).
Aside fromthefactthattheargumentis notveryoriginalto Frank
(afterall,he citesin his supportAdam Smith),and thatin previous
its
partsof the book one of China's pluses was said to have been
that
be
populationgrowth(buthereEurope'sadvantageturnsout to
itcould getridofpartofitspopulation),we need to know"howand
whytheseweremade thenand there."For thiswe havea moststartlinganswer,it seems thatEurope ran out of silver:
theavailCan itbe shownthatafterthemid-eighteenth
century
decline
relative
a
abilityto Europe of Americanmoneybegan
that threatenedEuropean market(share) penetration?That
forEuropeansto protectand
wouldhave generatedincentives
on theworldmarketbylowering
enhancetheircompetitiveness
instead(1998: 299).
theirlaborcostsofproduction
I confessnow to utterconfusionabout theargument.A fewpages
to China'sand India'sdecline.But
back,Europe'srisewasattributed

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368

ImmanuelWallerstein

here it seems thatEurope's rise is attributedto Europe's decline


Or perhaps
"thatthreatenedEuropeanmarket(share)penetration."
it is not I who am confused.
Aftermultiplesummariesoftheclaimsand evidenceon all sides,
Frankconcludeswiththispithyversionof his argumentabout the
riseof theWest:
In short,changingworlddemographic/economic/ecological
circumstances
suddenly-andformostpeople,includingAdam
made a numberof relatedinvestments
Smith,unexpectedlyrational
and profitable. . . (1998: 317).
economically
The restreads like all the standardtextbooksabout the industrial
revolution.
Franksaves forthispoint in the narrativethe question"1500:
or Break?"We knowbynowtheanswerto expect.There
Continuity
As faras I can see,forFrank,thereis onlycontinuity,
was continuity.
neverbreak. Oh, yes,a smallbreak in 1800, but being quicklyreto returnto
century,
cuperatedin thelast decades of thetwentieth
Frank
takes
on
the
1500
It
be
noted
that
should
periodicontinuity.
a consensualcolossus.In pointof
zationas thoughhe wereattacking
smallminorfact,thosewho insiston a breakin 1500 are a relatively
of
scholars.
The
of
world's
ity
majority worldsocial
overwhelming
scientistshave been arguingfora centuryand a halfnow thatthere
are onlytwomajor discontinuities
in worldhistory:circa8-10,000
BC (the agriculturalrevolution)and circa 1800, or 1760-1840 (the
industrialrevolution).Frankis in consonancewiththisconsensus.
The thesisof thebreakin 1500 has less to do withtheriseof the
West than it has to do withthe rise of capitalismas an historical
system.Frankwantsto denythisperiodizationin orderto pursuehis
In orderto do this,he mustinsistthatcapitalismis a
Sinocentrism.
ofMarx'simagination.Itis a "sacredcow"with"itsallegedly
figment
peculiarly
exceptionalor exceptionallypeculiar 'mode of production'" (1998: 330). ForFrank,"allmannerofrelationsofproduction
wereand remainwidelyintermingled
evenwithinanyone 'society,'
not to mentionworldsocietyas a whole"(1998: 331).
Frank,as itis bynowapparent,arguesbyrunningtogethermany
different
elements,as thoughtheyweretheonlypossiblecombinationofelements.Take theexpressions"allmannerofmodesofproduction."So thereare indeed multiplemodes of production,even
forFrank.Okay,thenthenextquestion?Whatis thatcan be said to

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FRANK PROVES EUROPEAN MIRACLE

369

have a mode of production?Not apparently"worldsocietyas a


whole."Nor anyone "society."So wheredo we locatea mode ofproin a household?
duction?In a town,in a factory,
After30 yearsof debate in whichDobbsian Marxists,advocates
and those
ofmodesofproduction,regulationists,
ofthearticulation
of
in
not
to
manyothers,
analysis,
speak
engaged world-systems
Frank
knows
othera
literature
that
each
facedoffagainst
well,having participatedin the debates-Franksurelyknowsthatwhatever
positionone takeson thequestion,"wheredoes one locate a mode
Itsimplywill
one's entirehistoriography.
determines
ofproduction,"
as he does in theabove quote
notdo to ignorethequestionentirely
butcrucialquestion
thebook. Perhapsthisdifficult
and throughout
is too hard forFrank.In whichcase, one can understandthathe
would say: "Therefore,it is much betterto cut (out) the Gordian
knotof 'capitalism'altogether"and to ridiculethe searchforthe
originsor roots of capitalismas "not much betterthan the alchemist'ssearchforthephilosopher'sstone"(1998: 332).
were partof the learning
Well,actually,the alchemists'efforts
which
method
of
an
paid itsdividendslaterin
experimental
process
even if the theorizingof the alchemists
physicsand chemistry,
turnedout to be not veryuseful.When Franksays,"So, bestjust
forgetabout [theoriginsof capitalism],and geton withour inquiry
into therealityof universalhistory,"
(1998: 332), he is raisinghigh
as
the
of
banner
the
empiricisttruth, "realityof universalhistory,"
theothoughthisrealitywere not perceivedthroughveryspecific
reticalglasses.His own are apparentlyno longerrose-colored.
Havingdiscountedtherealityof capitalism,and havingdemoncontinuouscentrality
stratedwhathe assertstobe theverylong-term
of China/Asia to a worldsystemof trade,thebesthe can offerus is
that
[T]he industrialrevolutionwas an unforeseenevent,which
tookplace in a partofEuropeas a resultofthecontinuinguneven structureand unevenprocessin and of theworldeconomyas a whole(1998: 343).
Perhaps there are some readers who, afterwading through350
pages oftext,are satisfiedwithbeingtoldthatwhatchangedthepatternof themodernworldwas "an unforeseenevent,"but I am not
one of them.On the one hand,all eventsare unforeseen.And on
theother,all eventscan be explained.Franksimplyhas no explana-

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370

ImmanuelWallerstein

tion for the "industrialrevolution"in Europe. He has set up the


pieces so thattherecan be no rationalexplanationforit.Therefore,
it becomes an "unforeseenevent"-not merelyin thattheactorsin
historyare said not to have foreseenit,but in thatthe theorizing
about how theworldworkswhichFrankuses cannotaccountforit.
I said thatFrankemergesas thegreatspokespersonofEuropean
achievement.Franktellsus thatthe currentabilityof the U.S. to
acquire thewealthof theworldderivesfromitsabilityto printdollars and therebybuy up what westernEuropeans and Japanese
and says:
actuallyproduce.He is veryscornful,
This something-for-nothing
strategy[of the U.S. today] is
what
also
essentially
Europe
practicedforthethreecenturies
is thattheU.S. dollar
between1500 and 1800. The difference
. . . (1998:
is at least based in part on Americanproductivity
356).
"Atleast"!-the Europeanscouldn'tevenhave claimedthemeritof
I repeat.One has to admiretheskillof thoseEuropeproductivity.
and apparently
ans who were able to tradenothingforsomething,
could con the Chinese and the Indiansand everyoneelse, despite
ofthe
thethousandsofyearsofeconomicand culturalachievements
Asian peoples. Butwas itworththislong detourforFrankto tellus
thatEuropeanswereessentially
con artists?
In thisexhaustivestudyby Gunder Frank,we are offeredthe
finaldefinitive
proofofwhattheIMF is alwaysclaiming:thatEurodid
ofemulapeans
somethingremarkable,
veryspecial,and worthy
tion.The book is one long hosanna to economicefficiency.
Frank
saysthatEuropeansdid notplaya big rolein Asia, 1500-1800. 1 entirelyagree.He saysthat,on theotherhand,Asia did playa big role
in Europe, 1500-1800. 1see littleevidencein hisbook forthisassertion.Asia certainly
matteredfarless to Europe thantheAmericasin
thisperiod,whetherwe are talkingofcapitalaccumulation,
political
evolutionofvaluesystems,
or thedevelopmentofhistoristructures,
cal capitalism.It comes downto arguingthatChinawas richerthan
Europe duringthisperiod. Perhaps,but whatare we supposed to
deduce fromthis?How manyChinesefactorsweretherein Bengal
in theearlyeighteenthcentury?
It appears thatFrankbelieveshe is the onlytrueanti-Eurocentrist,livingor dead. Even those whom he cites positivelyare reproachedfornot goingfarenough.Man Habib has thereputation

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37 I

FRANK PROVES EUROPEAN MIRACLE

of being a fierydefenderof the significanceof India's economic


structures.
Not forGunderFrank.JosephNeedhamhas become the
classicreferenceofthosewhowishto slaya Eurocentricdiagnosisof
thehistory
ofscience.Not forGunderFrank.For him,JosephNeedham neverescaped his Eurocentricroots.
The weakestsegmentof thebook is theattemptto explainwhy
It is notonlythatFrank'sheartis
theWestwon,ifonlytemporarily.
not in it,but thatthe explanationhe is forcedto giveviolatesthe
In orderto "explain"thisrise,
else he is writing.
thrustofeverything
he is forcedto abandon manyof his previousarguments.Frankrepeatedlytakesviewsthatarewidespreadand drawsperverseimplicationsfromthem.Once upon a time,we wantedto knowwhywealth
betweentheWestand the
and povertywereso unevenlydistributed
rest.Some thoughtit was because Europeanswere more astutein
some way. Others thoughtit was because Europeans were more
successfully
aggressive.This dividedtheworldrightfromtheworld
left,and GunderFrankcountedhimselfwiththelatter.But now he
has a bettersolution.Do awaywiththe problemby claimingit's
incorrect.Tell thatto all thoselocatedin thebidonvillesof
factually
thisworld.
Frankhas discoveredthatChinaand Indiawereregionsofgreat
wealthduringtheperiod 1500-1800. Whatelse is new?Did not all
and rulersrepeatedlyassertthis
merchants,
Europeanadventurers,
all
the
after
It
was
at the time?
principaljustificationof whythey
wantedto go thereand despoil theseareas. One does not usually
rushto despoilpoverty-stricken
regionsof theworld,or in anycase
Gunder Frankset out on a virtuouspath,like
not preferentially.
Dorothyon the yellowbrickroad. Who is theWizardof Oz at the
end of thisroad?
REFERENCES
Frank,AndreGunder (1976). "MultilateralMerchandiseTrade Imbalancesand Uneven Economic
V, 2, Fall, 407-38.
ofEuropeanEconomicHistory,
Development,"/07"1*
Frank,Andre Gunder (1998). ReORIENT: Global Economyin theAsian Age. Berkeley:Univ. of
CaliforniaPress.
Landes, David (1998). The Wealthand Poverty
ofNations:WhySomeAreSo Richand SomeSo Poor.
New York: W. W. Norton.

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