Millennia of Moral Syndromes, World-Systems and City/State Relations
Chapter 6: Making the modern world- system: Western Europe’s great creative interlude
In a thorough review and evaluation of how scholars from different traditions have identified the distinctiveness of capitalist or modern societies, Wallerstein (1992, pp. 566–80) finds among myriad conflicting ideas that: The one thing that seems unquestionable, and unquestioned, is the hyperbolic growth curves – in production, population, and the accumulation of capital – that have been a continuing reality from the sixteenth century. (p. 580) This is an excellent starting point for considering the modern worldsystem from the perspective of this book because I argue that such growth can only be generated by dynamic networks of vibrant cities. Thus I would add the urbanization hyperbolic growth curve to Wallerstein’s three curves as the one that links the process together. In this chapter I deal with two substantive issues. First, Europe is considered as the world region where modernity was created; where Normal History was superseded. What does a focus on cities add to the myriad treatments of Europe as midwife of modernity? Or, as more commonly phrased, what was the role of cities in the transition from feudalism to capitalism? I hope to clarify some key mechanisms of transition through my commercial city/guardian state toolkits.
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