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Some Economic Results of the Civilizing Mission

December 30, 2006 No Comment

By M. Shahid Alam, Northeastern University, Boston

There exists no general history – at least one that is available in the English language – explaining the origins, sources, language, uses, and variations on the theme of the Civilizing Mission, the central myth that Europe has employed to misrepresent its depredations around the globe, starting with the Spanish conquests in the Americas.

However, even in the absence of such a general history, some general propositions regarding Europe’s Civilizing Mission can be advanced safely. By its nature, the Civilizing Mission demands a protagonist who is superior to his subject, beyond the advantage of brute force. This superiority has been variously located in divine choice, genes, climate, institutions, and attributes of the mind. In the past, most European thinkers have preferred to locate the basis of Europe’s cultural advantage in race, biologically construed, and certainly, by the nineteenth century, this form of racism had became the dominant mode of constructing European superiority.

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