European Universalism

The Rhetoric of Power

How ideas such as civilization and progress have been used as a smoke screen for Western dominance, by the world-renowned sociologist

Ever since the Enlightenment, Western intervention around the world has been justified by appeals to notions of civilization, development, and progress. The assumption has been that such ideas are universal, encrusted in natural law. But, as Immanuel Wallerstein argues in this short and elegant philippic, these concepts are, in fact, not global. Rather, their genesis is firmly rooted in European thought and their primary function has been to provide justification for powerful states to impose their will against the weak under the smoke screen of what is supposed to be both beneficial to humankind and historically inevitable.

With great acuity Wallerstein draws together discussions of the idea of orientalism, the right to intervene, and the triumph of science over the humanities to explain how strategies designed to promote particular Western interests have acquired an all-inclusive patina.

Wallerstein concludes by advocating a true universalism that will allow critical appraisal of all justifications for intervention by the powerful against the weak. At a time when such intervention—in the name of democracy and human rights—has returned to the center stage of world politics, his treatise is both relevant and compelling.



“Wallerstein’s ideas are compelling, a new explanation, a new classification, indeed a revolutionary one, of received knowledge and current thought.”
—Fernand Braudel
“A prolific, provocative, ‘big-picture’ theorist.”
“Lucid, informed, and insightful.”
The New York Times

Books by Immanuel Wallerstein

The Cold War and the University
Toward an Intellectual History of the Postwar Years

Noam Chomsky, Ira Katznelson, R.C. Lewontin, David Montgomery, Laura Nader, Richard Ohmann, Ray Siever, Immanuel Wallerstein, Howard Zinn

The Essential Wallerstein

Immanuel Wallerstein

Or, Historical Choices of the Twenty-first Century

Immanuel Wallerstein

After Liberalism

Immanuel Wallerstein

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