Journal Reco: Globalization and Global History in Toynbee

ArnoldToynbee1961
Image by cesarharada.com via Flickr

Abstract

This article traces the intellectual history of Arnold J. Toynbee. It centers on early twentieth-century British social thought and its synthesis of idealism and evolution. Toynbee used this framework to interpret imperial and international affairs, and, like his mentors, he focused especially on the unprecedented, progressive possibilities of global integration. With the failure of the Paris Peace Conference, however, Toynbee began to regard globalization as a contradiction between social unity and spiritual disjuncture. A Study of History, his endeavor to bring historical writing into its global present, followed from this opposition, which he sought to explain and hoped to resolve. By the mid 1930s, world events finally overwhelmed Toynbee’s commitment to the old conceptual synthesis. He returned to such thinking after World War II, but his brief declaration of methodological limitations illuminated for historical study the antinomy of the global scale.

Universal history must be construed and denied.

To many world historians today, Arnold J. Toynbee is regarded like an embarrassing uncle at a house party. He gets a requisite introduction by virtue of his place on the family tree, but he is quickly passed over for other friends and relatives. For much of the twentieth century though, Toynbee was perhaps the world’s most read, translated, and discussed living scholar. His output was enormous, hundreds of books, pamphlets, and articles. Of these, scores were translated into thirty different languages. In 1947, Time magazine considered his historical significance to be on par with Marx.2 Among intellectuals, response to his work was de rigueur. Indeed, the critical reaction to Toynbee constitutes a veritable intellectual history of the midcentury: we find, for example, Aron, Frye, Huxley, Kennan, Kracauer, Kroeber, Morgenthau, Mumford, Niebuhr, Ortega y Gasset, Popper, Ricouer, [End Page 747] and Sweezy, as well as a long list of the period’s most important historians, Beard, Braudel, Collingwood, and so on.

A survey of these responses consistently reveals odd contradictions between positions. In recent historical work, for example, Reba Soffer aligns 1930s-era Toynbee with Britain’s “radical right,” while Christopher Brewin describes his politics of the same period as “progressive liberal.”3 In Toynbee’s own time, two of the most sustained attacks came from E. H. Carr and Pieter Geyl, each in a certain way the inverse of the other. Carr translated the Marxist critique of bourgeois moralism into his study of international relations; he assailed Toynbee’s “utopian prescriptions” as so many alibis for British national interest. And as in Marxism, spotlight on the furtive particular in turn revealed a sturdier universal, in this case, what Carr called “the nature of politics.” Geyl, on the other hand, read Toynbee’s “impossibly universalist system” not as façade for a specific concern, but as its disintegration; he deemed Toynbee’s world history as an attempt to “escape” the uniqueness of the West. Toynbee’s “passion for unity,” Geyl wrote, was “fundamentally antagonistic to history, the guardian of the particular.”4 So which was it: the camouflage of self-interest or an ecumenical hallucination? And which was the corrective to Toynbee’s grand failure? Naturalism or historicism? Siegfried Kracauer shook his head: “There is something schizophrenic about Toynbee.”5

One approach toward understanding this contradiction can be found in Karl Löwith‘s brief comments on Toynbee in Meaning in History. All modern temporality, according to Löwith, was an “inconsistent compound” of ancient Greek cyclicality and a Christian theology of history. In addition, the latter’s eschatology endowed the historical process with “universality,” evoking above every smaller narrative the single, imagined identity of “mankind.” With this broad phrasing, Löwith fittingly characterized the two-sidedness of Toynbee’s thinking,[End Page 748] but he left unattended Toynbee’s struggle against a categorical universalism.6 Löwith’s high degree of abstraction offers little to the historiographer assessing world history and the varied circumstances that have contributed to its diverse formulations. My own reading stays considerably closer to the text. For in understanding Toynbee, philosophical generalization, like a quick dismissal, misses the struggles and contradictions in his attempt at world history. These break points help elucidate the history of the field, as well as the history of global thought and twentieth-century intellectual currents more generally. Perhaps too, they present to contemporary world-historical thinking an insight of value, even as Toynbee’s system has long stood in ruins.

The basis for Toynbee’s historical logic, and the source of its core difficulty, derived from a set of ideas which are best described as “evolutionary idealism.” One of the dominant trends in early twentieth-century British social thought, evolutionary idealism sought to combine Darwinian naturalism and teleological purpose, two positions hitherto locked in debate. Writers applied this synthesis to questions of imperial affairs, and it underscored much of the era’s thinking on the globe and its history. From this conceptual framework, Toynbee reckoned that the single most significant feature of his age was world integration, a “unification [that] . . . has caught in its meshes the whole living generation of mankind and all the habitable lands and navigable seas on the face of the Planet.”7 Indeed, Toynbee’s entire career as historian and political analyst can be read as a massive reflection on what came to be called globalization. His earliest such writings fully mirrored the evolutionary idealism of his educators. Yet this outlook faced a serious challenge in the immediate aftermath of World War I. The strains of colonial violence and worldwide turmoil fragmented teleology into a multiplicity of beliefs and interests. Toynbee persistently and loudly emphasized this problem of difference. At the same time, and throughout the interwar years, he remained committed to evolutionary idealism and strained to refashion it for the new, polycentric world. Both his rationale and his method for a history of the globe followed from that effort. The contradictions, however, could not be contained, and by the late 1930s, internal adjustments appeared inadequate. With the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and the attendant fiasco at the League of [End Page 749] Nations, Toynbee renounced his previous position. For a brief but significant moment, he neither synthesized nor hybridized the unity of the globe and its diversity of ideals. World integration rendered the universal and the particular into categories at once interdependent and irreconcilable, at once complementary and contradictory. After World War II he returned to the principle of synthesis with ever new and ever unsatisfactory attempts at reconciliation. Across Toynbee’s reception then, as in Carr and Geyl, his key concepts hopelessly chased each other in circles. Yet this indetermination anticipated in a uniquely interrelated way some of the major philosophical and historiographical currents of later years, expressing the irresolvability of postmodernism, the renewed interest in religion, and world history itself.

Read more: Michael Lang. “Globalization and Global History in Toynbee.” Journal of World History 22.4 (2011): 747-783. Project MUSE. Web. 25 Nov. 2011. <http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_world_history/v022/22.4.lang.html&gt;.

Article: Global Migration, 1846–1940 by Prof. Adam McKeown

via Flickr”]Port

Rudolph Vecoli introduced his edited volume A Century of European Migrations, 1830–1930 with the statement “[w]e need to move beyond the framework of the ‘Atlantic Migration’ . . . It [has] blinkered us to the global nature of [migration].”

And indeed, that is what Prof. Adam McKeown planned to demonstrate in the article “Global Migration, 1846–1940”.  The article is a great tool to understand the role that global interconnectedness, industrialization and increase in trade meant for the world. McKeown explains how was it that millions of migrants during the period of his study enabled for the population of America, Southeast Asia and Manchuria to increased more quickly than world population.

Read it:Global Migration 1846-1940. McKeown, Adam, Ph.D. Journal of World History, Volume 15, Number 2, June 2004, pp. 155-189 (Article)

Full Access HTML Version | Full Access PDF Version (421k)

NEW PhD in Global Studies, Roskilde University

Roskilde, a detail of the University Library
Image via Wikipedia

I am currently enrolled in the MA in Global Studies 2013 at Roskilde University and I am very happy to share this news with you;  Roskilde University is a very new (founded in 1972) and leading University in a new focus on Education that is hard to find in Europe.  The focus of the courses in the University is not based upon traditional lectures but in group orientated methods and projects. It currently has more than 8,000 students and offers BA, MA and PhD degrees.  Now, they are offering a new PhD scholarship in Global Studies at the Department for Society and Globalisation: http://www.ruc.dk/en/jobs/phd/

The research topic is within Global Studies and the focus of the proposed research projectshould fall within one of the following themes:1. New actors and alliances in North-South relations
2. The Arab Uprisings and the global changes
3. The squeezed middle classes: Europe and Asia compared

All the best,
Kennet Lynggaard
Associate Professor, PhD.
Department of Society and Globalisation
Roskilde University, Bld. 25.1
Universitetsvej 1
P.O. Box 260
DK-4000 Roskilde
Denmark

Rendez-vous with History. Weimar, Germany (4-6 November, 2011)

City hall of Weimar

“Hatred is something peculiar. You will always find it strongest and most violent where there is the lowest degree of culture.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Today I’ll be traveling to Weimar, Germany to participate in the Festival “Rendez-vous de l’histoire”.  The theme of the 3rd. Year of this “Rendez-vous with history” in Weimar is: Human Violence, Human Violence.

AS the website of the conference reads,

‘Violence’ is complex and disturbing. It is a historical, present and future threat. “Violence” in all its forms, including counter-violence and non-violence as a deliberate departure from the traditional and new power relationships will be discussed at the Weimar festival. Human societies as always dream of peace – but at the same time, violence is a constant and seemingly unavoidable part of our personal and political relationships.

Weimar’s international history festival will address not only the cruel dimensions of violence in history, but also ask for their anthropological origins and its liberating potential.

In about 20 panel discussions and lectures be at Weimar history festival tensions between freedom and violence, beauty and violence, explored “legitimate” and “illegitimate” violence – the relationship between media and violence, language, literature and violence, violence and reconciliation presented. The spectrum ranges from the Middle Ages to the year 2011, and is not geographically limited. But the focus is primarily on Europe – in particular the countries of the Weimar Triangle – and also to Weimar and Thuringia.
A film series and cultural evenings will complete the program.

Some of the lecturers are:

And many other wonderful lecturers!

I hope to share with you news and insights from this interesting event!

Concorde’s last day in Global History

Video: Concorde’s last flight.

There are moments in history in which the World Order changed and historians are always trying to get them accepted and applauded by their colleagues. Those specific moments in history may be not seen immediately but until enough time has passed to understand the direct and indirect effects that shaped the course of History.

Many of these moments are the product of technological innovations that changed the way humans lived. One of them could be October 24, 2003 when three BA Concordes made the last commercial flights in history: G-BOAG flew from New York to London; G-BOAE made a return flight to Edinburgh; and G-BOAF flew around the Bay of Biscay. All three circled over London before landing within minutes of each other at Heathrow Airport.

The relevance of this event may not yet be so evident. However, we can be certain that the impact that had the catastrophe of a Concorde near Paris in July 2000 is going to determine the future of space flights. Specially after the last flight of Atlantis (the last Space Shuttle of the United States) in July 21, 2011.

The blog The Modern Historian posted a great/short overview of Concorde’s history and here is it:

During the late 1950s, aircraft manufacturers around the world started working on designs for supersonic passenger jets. The costs for such projects were so prohibitive that few of them progressed beyond the design stage. In the early 1960s, the British Aircraft Corporation, which had inherited the Type 223 supersonic transport (SST) project from the Bristol Aeroplane approached the French Sud Aviation, who were working on the Super-Caravelle SST, with an offer to co-operate on a joint project.The result of this co-operation was Concorde, which made its maiden flight in 1969. By this time, Concorde only had one compettitor, the Russian Tupolev Tu-144, but cold war tensions and the crash of a Tu-144 at the 1973 Paris Air show meant that it was Concorde that attracted orders from the major airlines. Nevertheless, the oil crisis of late 1973, environmental concerns about nervousness about sonic booms (the noise the aircraft made as it broke the sound barrier) resulted in the cancellation of all the orders except those from the national airlines of France and the United Kingdom. These orders for ten aircraft each still required substantial government subsidies to keep the project alive.In spite of these setbacks, Air Franceand British Airways (BA) started scheduled flights using Concorde in 1976. Although other airlines occasionally leased the aircraft, the high operation costs meant that supersonic travel was only feasible for the most profitible routes. Nevertheless, to continue running the services required high ticket prices, the continued government funding in the case of Air France and the sale of the British fleet of aircraft to BA at a knock-down price.All this changed following the crash of a Concorde near Paris in July 2000. The year long grounding of all the Concordes contributed to the decision taken by both airlines to withdraw the aircraft. On 27th June 2003, an Air France Concorde flew for the last time and on 24th October that same year three BA Concordes made the last commercial flights by the aircraft: G-BOAG flew from New York to London; G-BOAE made a return flight to Edinburgh; G-BOAF flew around the Bay of Biscay. All three circled over London before landing within minutes of each other at Heathrow Airport.