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Chapter Summary

From the Enlightenment until about the 1970s the liberal idea that human history could be comprehended in a progressive way commanded wide credence in the West. The idea that world history and Western civilization were synonymous was no longer taken for granted by scholars in the United States in the 1960s. As William McNeill was revising his ideas, the author of world-system theory, Immanuel Wallerstein, was busy writing essays turning his critique of modern Western imperialism into a complete rejection of the assumptions underlying the concept of development. The materialistic approach advocated by cultural relativists was so humanistic indeed that its proponents felt compelled to downplay the role of those genetic traits which seemed to obviate this outlook even though these traits could be seen as characteristic of a common species.

Keywords:Immanuel Wallerstein; multicultural world history; Western civilization; William McNeill



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