FARAVID 33/2009


Olavi K. Fält, East-West relations during the growth of globalization

In this article I consider why Western culture achieved a position of hegemony in global development in the 1800s and why non-Western cultures, particularly the Arabic, Indian, and Chinese cultures, did not reach the same position. I examine the question via the growth of globalization by assessing the political, cultural, and economic factors affecting it during different periods. I have placed the starting point of my analysis at around 200 B.C., when the growth of globalization began to clearly accelerate.

In my analysis I utilize Robert P. Clark’s entropy theory, which is based on the second fundamental principle of thermodynamics. According to Clark, cultures have flourished by extending their sphere of influence, whereupon disorder and loss of energy have been moved elsewhere. The more complex the system in question, the more it needs resources, like energy and material, to grow or to even maintain order. In order to endure, a complex system requires a continuously expanding network through which it can move lurking disorder elsewhere.

In East-West relations, the West became a periphery as a result of the fall of the Roman Empire. The two other earlier centers, India and China, preserved their positions. The thousandyear period beginning in the 500s was a period of so-called southernization in the history of globalization. During that time the Islamic world, India, and China led the process of globalization to such an extent that by the 1400s it appeared nothing would be able to undermine their dominance, even in the future.

Nevertheless, Western Europe had been able to adopt enough technical inventions produced by southernization that when population pressure in the 1400s forced it to search for external resources in order to survive, it had the prerequisites to do so. On the other hand, there was no need to utilize external resources to the same extent in the core areas of southernization. In practice, this gradually led to a situation in which Western Europe, which had very successfully utilized the resources, rose to a leading position in the world in the 1800s. At the same time Europe also served as a model for other cultures in the utilization of external resources. Japan was the first to implement the model already in the 1800s, and it is currently being implemented by India and particularly China.


Faravid 33/2009