Week 3 Discussion Prompt: History, Colonialism, Globalization

In your own words, what is the central argument Marks makes in The Origins of the Modern World? How do his concepts of contingency, accidents, and conjunctures help build that argument? Use at least one example from the chapters to illustrate this argument. And finally, how can we understand the article about the World Cup in relation to what Marks argues?

Your post is due by 1pm, Wednesday, 2/4. Your replies to your classmates are due by 1pm, Wednesday, 2/11.

75 thoughts on “Week 3 Discussion Prompt: History, Colonialism, Globalization”

  1. Robert B. Marks’ introduces his book, The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative, with a captivating introductory phrase of the date in which the G7 summit was held in Italy. Marks’ then shifts his audience to questioning how the G7, which he describes as ‘major industrialized countries’, came to dominate and shape the present world economy and yet, history reports that eastern countries, for example, China and India were the largest economies 200 years earlier. He wonders how the Asian economy lost its dominance to the western countries and Japan. He further questions ‘what actually led to the reversal of the change in economic dominance’. In order to answer these questions, Marks embarks to investigate this shift in economic power.
    Mark begins by tracing the stages through which international trade developed and how it impacted the world economy in the years between 1400 and 1850 by considering the various industrial revolutions, rise of empires and the linkages used in the trade. He then uses each element in the trade during this period to draw how the ever-growing economic disparity came to influence the present economic power position.
    In his introduction, Mark argues that the industrialization activities witnessed during the nineteenth century period led to massive deterioration of the environment. He says that through this new processes, people stopped relying on renewable energy sources. The change in reliance to renewable energy sources resulted in the world shifting its priorities in trade thereby changing the manner in which the world treated the environment. Since production of raw materials in large scale could now be achieved using non-renewable energy sources, the environment was no longer considered important leading to its deterioration.
    Marks attempts to outline the industrial background of China and relates it to the transitions of Indian Ocean trade when the Portuguese entered the trade in the late 15th century. He explains that because the Portuguese lacked valuable goods to trade with the Asians, they decided to fight them in order to dominate and control the Indian Ocean trade. Mark views this war as the center stage that defined the world’s shift in economic power in where European countries competed economically. In achieving economic advantage, these countries destroyed productive regions and routes of trade in the east.
    The use of demonstrative conjunctures such as ‘black death’, accidents and contingency are concepts Marks uses to illustrate his argument of how the world’s economic dominance shifted from Asia to western countries. For instance, in his use of the conjuncture of the ‘black death’, he narrates of how the ‘accident’ of the bubonic plague in the mid to late 1300s was used by the Mongolian empire that was collapsing to take over some parts of China. It is believed that the Mongolian troops introduced a rodent or flea infected with a bacillus, the bacteria that causes the bubonic plague, to a densely populated area of China killing many Chinese. The ‘black death’ is later witnessed in Europe after the Italian ships dock in Europe after leaving the Mongolian territory. This, to Marks view, is evidence enough that the West had gone to conquer the Asian territories in order to dominate the world economy.
    Comparison to The World Cup Article
    Mark argues that western countries took dominance of the world economy from the Asian economy through several strategies that maimed the Asian economy. The western nations had their own interest in mind not caring of what would happen to the eastern states. In the article, it is argued that FIFA and IOC do not care about the economy of Brazil. All they want is to have the events hosted and make their profits. Dave Zirin argues that the timing of these major sporting events are ill-timed and meant to disturb the Brazilian economy so as to ensure the western economic block continues to dominate (Winship, 2014). This angle of argument by Zirin agrees with that of Marks in the ‘black death’ conjuncture.

    References
    1-Marks, R.B. (2007). The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative (illustrated, revised).Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
    2-Winship, M. (2014). Dave Zirin: “FIFA’s World Cup is for the wealthy, not for the people”. The author of “Brazil’s Dance with the Devil” on the corruption fueling one of the world’s biggest sporting events. Retrieved from http://billmoyers.com/

    1. Hi! I agree that FIFA does not care about Brazil and its people. I think they are only concerned with having the game there in the specific location. I don’t think they are taking into consideration about the affects it’s going to have on the country and people. I liked how you used the Black Death as an accident. Great job!

    2. This is a great summary of the readings that we did in Marks’ The Origins of the Modern World! It definitely expresses the point that he was trying to make: the exchange of power from Asia to the West. The example that you used in reference to the three concepts were well executed and described. I agree with your statement about FIFA. They are determined to only make profits and does not care who gets hurt in the process. The World Cup is suppose to bring countries together and not exploit the country hosting.

  2. In The Origins of the Modern World, Marks uses the concepts of conjuncture, accidents, and contingency to explain how the West rose to its powerful throne today. He does this by referring all the way back to the 1400’s. Since then industrial capitalism, democracy, social inequalities, and nation states have all emerged. Marks also refers to the term “Eurocentrism,” stating that it is a western myth. Europe is deemed to be unique and far more superior than the rest of the world but this does not mean that all the developments made in Asia were not just as significant as those that were made in Europe. There were just certain institutions and money put in certain parts in Europe that lead it to the high esteemed reputation that it still carries on today.
    When Marks refers to the term ‘contingency,’ he refers to the idea that nothing is inevitable. Marks sums up to say that people’s actions shaped our history and our actions will shape the future as well (p.11). Nothing is inevitable. That is why “the rise of the West” was contingent and the future still is too. He also refers to the term ‘accidents,’ which refers to events that are out of our power, that we cannot control such as environmental phenomenons. An example Marks gave was the coal deposits found in Britain which lead to a major economic boom. However, coal deposits were not found in Asia or in the Netherlands which did not accelerate their economy as it did Britain’s. Mark’s final term, ‘conjuncture,’ refers to several independent developments come together and interact with one another, which then creates a unique moment in history. An example of this would be in the 1400s, when China was using silver as their monetary system. Europe then in the 16th and 17th centuries discovered huge supplies of silver in the New World. This began a new trade pact between the two worlds; The New World would send over silver to China and India and in return, Asian silks, spices and porcelains flowed into Europe. As the book defines it on pg. 13, conjuncture is when things happening in different parts of the world for reasons having to do with local circumstances that then became globally important.
    In FIFA’s quest to demonstrate that it was a global power, it was contingent on the fact that Brazil was still in the midst of economic development however this comes at a moment of conjuncture due to the fact that upon rewarding the FIFA World Cup to Brazil, the country had to massively improve its infrastructure. These infrastructures would later be deemed to be excessive as Brazilians would never be able to use these infrastructures to their fullest capacity. Also, to improve the image of the developing nation of Brazil it meant improving the image of the cities, thereby it was contingent of eliminating the favelas and crime associated within them to assure a safe event and ensure Brazil as more marketable to tourists.

    1. Hey Leticia,

      I was reading your post. I liked how you summarize everything in a simple way. Also, I think there must have been a typo error from your side, if you read your example about conjecture, I think you meant to write “16th” instead of 26th. Just pointing it out there. Other than that, good post.

    2. This is a great summary of what Marks wrote. It is very simple and easy, which makes it a joy to read. You sum up the three concepts perfectly while also providing examples. I definitely agree with you in reference to the World Cup. Brazil wanted to improve its image so it eliminated many people’s homes to make way for World Cup infrastructure.

      1. I like how you clarify the Brazil part that FIFA must be judge upon by international community and states won’t do it but working people everywhere in Brazil will be accomplice to their crimes in Brazil. I was impressed by the way you explained your respond in steps and in a very simple English. I also was informed by the words Contingency, Eurocentrism, Accident, and conjuncture with examples. Thank you so much

    3. In your post, you mention the movement of Brazil to make its cities a better place for tourists by removing the favelas and removing crime from the cities. This is an interesting practice that has been done by many other nations who have held major sports events. However, the media does not cover the inhumane actions done to prepare for these events very well. I think that it could be done to both keep ratings high on these events and because the games do represent unity, which the media wants to protect.

    4. Great post Leticia, I agree with the Brazilian portion. It’s unfortunate an already impoverished country has to be taken more advantage from by their very own Government. It’s thought that FIFA generates money, yes to the local stores, but the investment money ought to be spent to improve the social lives and infrastructure. Germany hosted the winter Olympics and many people complain how it left the country in ruins instead of helping it!
      Great post and very well written!

    5. Hi Leticia,
      Your take on FIFA in terms of Marks’ approach is very clear and identifies well with the principle of Marks’ theory. I had trouble at first linking the two but you set out a great example of how FIFA as a global power projection is contingent upon Brazil’s economic growth and its various endeavors to make it’s country reputable.

  3. In The Origins of the Modern World, Marks talks about how the modern world was shaped. He brings us back to 1400.In his book ,he is pretty much telling us that around the beginning of the industrial revolution, Contingency, Accidents and Conjunctures shaped the world we are living in today and not really the idea of Europeans surpassing other countries based on my understanding in Marks’ Eurocentrism section found on page 8. Marks does a great job in helping us see history in a contingent way because he does not look at history from a eurocentrism point of view. I believe that Marks’ belief on some of the doubts on eurocentrism sparked his idea of determining the rise of the West and this is where his three concepts come in. He states that nothing is inevitable and this is what he means by contingency. In page 11 he makes us understand why the West is not inevitable, why it’s rising was not unavoidable by explaining to us that actions that we take here and now will have the possibility of changing the world because the actions that take place now will shape our future. For example, Marks explains that the West rose to power only because England had a lot of coal and were able to apply that to their military so that they could pretty much spread out and conquer. But before that, Asia was the more developed part of the world. So if England had not have found coal, Asia might have come out ahead. Also, us finding a lot of silver and having slaves to develop America helped us to get ahead of Asia. So the West’s success was contingent upon all the coal and silver we found. If it was not for those things Asia might have remained more powerful. From this example we can talk about Mark’s next concept he describes as “accidents”. From the word itself, accidents are occurrence that just is; it’s not something we can control. On page 12, Marks explains that the distribution of coal deposits was an accident that just so happened to be sitting near Britain which helped their economic growth instead of China, not that they did not have the ability, they just weren’t lucky enough to be near the coal deposits laid down hundreds of millions of years ago. The last concept or idea Marks explains is conjuncture and he defines it as things happening in different parts of the world for reasons having to do with local circumstances that then became globally important. A very obvious example is the flow of silver into China and the flow of Asian silks, spices and porcelains into Europe and the New World which was a result of the global impact in the 16th and 17th centuries when the Europeans learned of the huge supplies of silver in the New World and an even larger Chinese demand for it. This all came about during the 1400’s in China when the government decided to use silver as the basis for their monetary system. (Page 12).As for the article about the World Cup, Brazil was accepted to host the World Cup but only if they improved their infrastructure(metros so people can get around) and lowered the crime rates (robbery etc.). Their hosting the World Cup was contingent upon those factors.

    1. Hi! I agree that the coal was an accident, you can’t control where it is deposited. I agree that the west was powerful because of England and its coal. I enjoyed reading your post. Great job!

    2. I agree with the Contingency, Conjectures, and Accidents and that’s well written. For instance in the middle east some countries have so much oil it spews from the ground and actually have geysers that shoot oil out because there is so much. Yet, here in America its not as easy nor accessible. Sometimes those ‘accidents’ are some of the most lucrative and beneficial things a big nation has to offer.
      Great article, well written!

    3. Your review of the examples given by Marks are very well written. It clearly reiterates the sort of “accidental” and contingent rise of the West on various factors which helps us readers understand that it was not inevitable as most people believe. As for the FIFA case, I think World Cup was contingent upon many factors including the ones you mentioned but broadly speaking, FIFA’s power was contingent upon how easily Brazil took on the overwhelming responsibility of hosting the World Cup at a time where their economy had plateaued. It was easier for FIFA to exploit Brazil for accepting its role and doing whatever they could (ex, cutting public spending on social programs) to build superfluous stadiums.

  4. Marks’ central argument in The Origins of the Modern World is that Europe came to prominence not because of Protestant work ethic or democracy but because of a series of accidents and mitigating circumstances. He uses the concepts of contingency, accidents and conjunctures to illustrate his point. For example, in his discussion of the “discovery” of the New World by Spain, Marks’ comments that unless there had existed a market for the goods that the Spaniards discovered in the Americas, it would not have been a big deal. But, because the Chinese had silver currency, Spain found itself with a massive windfall of an incredibly valuable resource (one that was totally contingent on the existence of a market that craved silver).

    What resonates about the Zirin interview when viewed through Marks’ paradigm is this idea of accidents that can have profound global implications. Brazil’s economy was in fantastic shape, was growing exponentially and then when the global recession began, the World Cup and the Olympics were already committed projects and there was little anyone could do to change that. I don’t think that the full ramifications of these projects can even be seen yet (the Olympics hasn’t even happened) but I do think that this is a turning point for Brazil. Zirin stresses that Brazil hasn’t been out of a dictatorship for long and I think that these large scale projects have led to a coalescence of public discontent that would have taken much longer to come together had they not had the focal point of this glaring inequality. The World Cup was particularly formative because it brought together a coalition of rural/urban people that might not have otherwise had a common issue (given how strong the states are and how regionalized the politics are within Brazil).

    When comparing the Zirin piece with Marks’ chapters, I liked that neither author tries to oversimplify these issues. I think that it is very easy when discussing global issues to use these monolithic blocks like “Europe” or even “Brazil” and treat these entities as if they control every aspect of their own outcomes when in reality every action is interconnected and interdependent on outside circumstances. Part of what is interesting about Marks’ history is that he shows that globalization began when trade occurred and because of that, no one country/empire/group of people has existed in a vacuum. He shows that every group of people is affected by the outside world whether they realize it or not (ie. the devastation of the Incas by smallpox before their contact with the Spaniards).

    1. Maggie I agree with you saying that the full ramifications have not yet been seen given that the Olympics have not yet taken place. I also like that you pointed out that that the problems brought on by Brazil hosting these large expensive events brought together the urban and rural populations.

    2. Hi Maggie,
      I like your comments on the World Cup of Brazil since you compared the Zirin piece with Marks’ chapters. You did a really good job on making connections between the theory and facts happening in our real life!

  5. Sofia Kalaitzakis
    2-4-15
    Cult 320
    Week 3

    Mark used conjuncture, accidents, and contingency to show us how the west became powerful and how it advanced to what it is today. Contingent mark states it was not an accident it dominated the west for the past 20 year it was from development (pg # 12 Marks). For accidents he uses the story of the coal and deposits were laid down hundreds of millions of years ago and were they were in terms of where people lived is purely accidental. It had a dramatic impact on which countries industrialized and which did not ( pg # 12 Marks).Conjuncture happens when several independent developments come together in ways that interact with one another creating a unique historical movement (pg #12 Marks).
    Europe is supposed to be very advanced with development and advancement. I believe this happened from money being dumped in Europe which allowed it to get globalized and advanced quicker than different parts of the world. Mark believed there was a shift in the economic power. I like how he stated what each country could trade with each other. He went into detail about how the black plague started and spread all around the world. I believe this would be an example of contingency. He states the rodents were infected with the disease and the fleas that bit the rodents were biting humans which infected them with the disease. Coughing also helped spread the disease. The Black Death killed ten million people in the 1300’S. It originated in China. A rodent ended up in Europe with the disease and wiped out a majority of the population. The plague was spreading to Sweden, Moscow, and India. The disease was going all over the world killing people. The article states that the summer Olympics wouldn’t be held in Rio Janero causing people to be very upset. Brazil has a very corrupt government and crime is skyrocketing. People are going to strike and it seems the economy of Brazil has shut down. The economy was booming in oil and real estate in 2008. Since then the economy has slowed down. The problem in Brazil is there is inequality, he says he doesn’t see flags or patriotism in Brazil. The people of Brazil don’t think the world cup is their world cup as they believe that the world cup is for rich people. FIFA does not care about the economy, environment, or people of Brazil. They want the event in Brazil even though it’s affecting the lives of its people. They want to turn the stadium into a jail once they are done using it and that is not settling well with the people. Brazil has only been a democracy for about 30 years and they want their voices to be heard. I think this can be compared to the Black Death because FIFA is like a flea coming from an infected rat biting people. They are going to destroy the lives of Brazilians and the country. The economy has shifted from doing very well to not so well.

    Marks, Robert. The Origins of the Modern World. 2nd ed. N.p. Print.

    1. I like how you correlated the Black Death and FIFA being hosted in Brazil, because FIFA is corrupting and damaging Brazil and its people. The fact that they want to turn the stadium which cost billions into a prison is ridiculous. The money that was poured into hosting FIFA could’ve been used for housing, education, healthcare, and jobs. Although Brazil was once booming in economy it no longer is and it’s sad to see that FIFA is unsympathetic to the needs of Brazil.

    2. In regards to the coal surplus in Great Britain, it is interesting that history textbooks (or at least the ones that I read from) did not mention this fact at all. Usually, the books mention that during the industrial revolution the British rose to power through their industrial power, but they never mention why they rise to power. This is a strong example of Eurocentrism that is found in our history text books.

    3. Hi Sofia,
      I really like how you compared FIFA to the Black Death and explained it. I definitely agree that the world cup has destroyed the Brazilian people’s lives and honestly I believe with the Olympics right around the corner, it will continue to do so. This is something that mainstream media must cover. Thanks for sharing.

  6. In The Origins of the Modern World?, Robert Marks establishes the argument that the western world rose to power through his concepts of contingency, accidents, and conjunctures. Historically, China and India were the largest economies in the world. While China has returned to the top and India is increasing its economic output, the modern trend was major western nation grew to power in the economy, especially around 1400-1850. While many people attribute this success to ethnocentric views or racist beliefs, contingency, accidents and conjunctures are the reason for the rise in European power, rather than any sort of European superiority. One example that Marks highlights is the contingency involved in using the valuable metals in the Americas. While the other resources found in the Americas were important for increasing power, the abundant silver and other metals gave the nations that colonized this area an abundance of wealth. Without the increased income of wealth, the major European nations would not have industrialized as quickly as they did. Accidents also influenced the faster development in nations like Great Britain, who had a large coal deposit. This was useful for the industrial revolution, which made Great Britain the world power that it was during the time. These factors, not any genetic superiority, caused the rise of the west.

    In the Zirin interview, the economic ramifications of the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics being held in Brazil are having an impact on the people and the environment. Brazilians are looking at the lack of social programs that the country and questioning why their government can afford two expensive events in a row while income inequality is 121st of 133 countries. Furthermore, the stadium locations bring many environmental issues, while forcing people out of their homes. This has caused protests and forced tear gas to be released on civilians. This situation relates to the Marks reading because they both show the quick turnings that economics can have, one in the positive sense and the Brazilian issue in the negative sense. When Brazil made the bids for both the World Cup and the Olympics, Brazil was in an economic boom that grew even during the 2008 economic crisis. Brazil had hoped that hosting these events would show the world their economic power and encourage investment. Despite their gains, the Brazilian economy began to turn, and now many are questioning if they can afford to create the necessary stadiums for both events. This is similar to China and India’s fall from power. They both had economic growth, but then suffered when their economy did not grow rapidly enough.

    1. Hi there! I love how you compared the fall of China and India to Brazil’s economy today.It fascinates me that events like this from way back when are still happening today but in a modern sense.

    2. Hey Matthew,

      While I liked that you tried to compare the economic decline of China and India to Brazil’s current situation, I didn’t really feel like it was the most effective example. Brazil’s economic woes were the result of a worldwide recession, while China and India were nation-specific issues (weak governance leading to economically exploitative relationships with the European powers for India and opium/growing population/overly restricted trade with China). But, I still did enjoy your analysis of the Zirin interview.

    3. Hi Matthew,
      I really like the hard data you provide for readers when you mention that Brazil comes in 121st out of 133 countries for income equality. It shows how unbelievable a country that is so poor in this aspect can be hosting the two largest sporting events in the world. I think this is outrageous because it will leave struggling Brazilians worse off.

  7. The central argument that Robert Marks is trying to make in The Origins of the Modern World is that our idea of the origins, and our historical perspectives are rooted in a Eurocentric idea of our world (Marks, 2007, p. 08), and while he does show in the book that some key facets of the modern world have European starts, he also seeks to shirk the Eurocentric historical view through the book to show other elements of global history (largely overlooked) that fall outside of the Eurocentric paradigm to paint a more complete and hopefully unbiased picture of how this modern world came to be.
    His idea of contingency revolves around refuting the ethnocentric perspective of those in the West that their rise was the only way that history would have played out anyway – that the rise of the west and its global domination were inevitable. He undermines the perspective by noting that “it was contingent on other developments that happened independently elsewhere in the world” (Marks, 2007, p. 10). He notes that some of the events that European success was contingent upon, for example, includes the economic stimulus that Asia created in the entire Eurasian continent. He also notes that the rise of Islam, and the blockage of the Islamic empires against Europeans in being able to trade with Asia, which drove Europeans to the oceans to look for new routes, which led to the landing in the Americas, the subsequent drive to utilize the resources there, and so on with other events that were highly contingent (again, not inevitable) in how they culminated to help the West rise.
    He also notes how accidents also worked to shape history – with accidents being such in the “dual sense of being unpredictable and beyond human control” (Marks, 2007, p. 12). He notes climate change to be an example of this, and the uneven distribution of key resources – for example, coal being luckily distributed in easily accessible areas in Europe. Coal-fueled steam-powered machines, he describes, “freed human society from the limits imposed by the biological old regime, enabling the productive powers and the numbers of humans to grow exponentially” (Marks, 2007, p. 95.) This led to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
    The idea of conjecture is described as happening “when several otherwise independent developments come together in ways that interact with one another, creating a unique historical moment” (Marks, 2007, p. 12). While the location of the deposits of coal and the invention of the steam-powered machines may help explain some of why the Industrial Revolution came to be – there is a culmination of events, interacting with each other, a conjecture, that all together impacted why the Industrial Revolution took place. I can think of another example of contingency/ accidents/ and conjecture – which is to do with the mass spread of diseases in history- such as smallpox in virgin countries that had not seen such epidemics. The agricultural lifestyle of the Europeans made them live closer to their livestock, including cattle. Smallpox was a disease that initially transmitted from cattle to people – and living in close conditions to the livestock helped Europeans develop somewhat of an immunity. When they landed on distant shores, with their different immune systems, germs, and imported livestock, they created an accidental epidemic that raged through local indigenous populations. This accident – is part of a conjecture – a culmination of events, that helped the Europeans dominate the indigenous populations. Their accidental realization of how the smallpox epidemics raged the indigenous people – is knowledge that their later (purposeful) use of the disease in infested blankets to decimate another native population in the Americas – knowledge that was contingent upon the earlier epidemics and how it had affected local populations.
    Finally, in the article about the World Cup – the FIFA World Cup is really about capitalism – and Winship illustrates this point when he discusses that there wasn’t a lot of nationalism surrounding the World Cup, because “it doesn’t really feel like their World Cup. It feels like FIFA’s World Cup, a World Cup for the wealthy, not for the people” (p. 4). To this point, I certainly see why there wasn’t a grand sense of pride in the world cup, when families were evicted from their homes to build stadiums or parking lots – classic exploitation of the poor by the wealthy – and part of the rainforest was exploited to build a stadium there. Then the author also talks about what happens to every state that hosts the World Cup: “the imposition of a surveillance state, that this represents the abrogation of democracy [ . . ] ”(p. 7). In summary, it shows the similar ethnocentric ideas that are behind FIFA and the World Cup – as in the Eurocentric ideas of the West – in validating to themselves that they are bringing a good thing, and a good event to a place – but are really just bringing subjugation and exploitation under the same guise that the European colonists did, all the while justifying to themselves that they are bringing something better to other parts of the world.

  8. In the “Origins of the Modern World?” by Marks, the author discusses how European countries became the center of the world industry, not China and India, and how parts of the world are rich while others are in poverty. This resulted in the idea of Eurocentrism, a sense of superiority to other nations and races. Marks central argument is that Eurocentrism is a paradigm and that the domination of Europe was not an inevitable event. To believe that it was inevitable would be reifying the idea of European supremacy. The author claims that the world needs to be looked at from an alternative narrative to truly understand the development of the world. He looks at three concepts in particular, contingency, accidents, and conjuncture to help put in perspective the alternative narrative. Contingency is the idea that events are dependent on other developments. Accidents are events that are out of human control that change the outcome of other events and conjuncture is when several independent events come together and create another event.
    The main example used in the chapters to demonstrate these concepts is the rise of the west in power. Originally Asia was dominant, but its decline and Europe’s rise was not inevitable, it was contingent on several accidents and events that would happen. The huge growth of civilizations led to a need for a new source of energy. Britain happened to be located on huge deposits of coal where China was not. This accident gave Britain an advantage over China in future development. China began to have some economic problems and decided to change to silver for their monetary system which created a large desire for silver in the country. Another independent event, Europeans were looking for new trade routes which led to their discovery of the new world and large deposits of silver which in turn allowed for a lot of trading between Europe and China. Not long after China began to have massive fleets explore, the country called back its fleets and focused on internal problems. The sudden halt of China’s expansion was another event that allowed for the rise of the west. European rise to dominance was contingent on the finding of the new world and silver, China switching to silver, China stopping their expansion, and many other events that spanned way back in time.
    Another good example of contingency, accidents, and conjuncture that was not from the book, but can easily apply to other subjects is the evolution of humans, even larger than that is life on Earth. These events were dependent on so many independent events that were put in place since the big bang including formation of stars, planets, the atmosphere, the distance the Earth was from the sun, the ability for life to even form, and the specific line of evolution it took to go from prokaryote to eukaryote to eventually humans. Natural accidents if they had happened any differently could have resulted in humans never happening as well as many other species. To believe that the evolution of humans was inevitable can only reify the belief of human superiority and entitlement which would only serve as further justification for the actions taken by humans on the environment and each other. While this does not pertain to culture or the book, this applying of the concept to this topic really puts into perspective the general point the author is trying to make.
    In relation to the article on the world cup, the concepts used apply in the same way. The ability of Brazil to host the event was contingent on the countries growth which depended on many factors including the current state of the economy. “At a time when Rio de Janeiro has a chance to show the world that it can overcome the social inequality that has marked its history, it is instead reinforcing that inequality,” in an opportunity to prove their power they could effectually be diminishing their power and only creating more inequality and further adding to the gap between the global north and global south (Winship). In essence, it’s a catch 22, further demonstrating the western dominated power structure of the world.

    1. I enjoyed reading your comments, i like the part where you talked about a different perspective of the accident concept. Your thoughts on evolution and the distance of the sun from the earth really got me thinking and put into perspective Marks concept.

      1. I agree with the part you discuss as a natural phenomena which is so true about planets, sun, and earth the ability for life to even form. This part about Big bang reminds me of my Geology class. You also made me aware of the part that if natural accidents if they had happened in a different way it could have resulted in humans never happening as well as many other species.

    2. Though your analogy between Marks’s historical accidents and a larger cosmic view of the universe might make sense for those who believe in that view, I would be hesitant to bring it into a conversation of historical analysis. The underpinnings of belief that support that analogy might drive away people whose view of cosmic history is different and would detract from a discussion of the main point, historical analysis.

    3. Hey Ryan,

      I liked how you gave an example that is outside the historical aspect of the book. Since this is a globalization and culture class, I think that looking at different aspects of why things have happened can only be beneficial for everyone.

    4. I really liked your idea about the idea that if humans believe their evolution was inevitable, that it can be used to justify our beliefs of human superiority and justification for the things that we do – I think it paints a pretty good picture of what eurocentrism is, and how it would come to be, in a different light. (Humocentrism maybe?: ) ) I think it was a good application of the concept outside of the box.

  9. According to Robert Marks in The Origins of the Modern World, Marks introduces three main concepts to explain in detail of how the West came to rise. Initially back in 1400s, West, as in Europe, was not superior rather China and India had more power and many goods for survival and clothing, making them the powerful countries in their time. Mark introduces the concept of contingency on page 10. He explains that nothing is inevitable and the way the world turned out was the only possible way, which meant that after many ups and downs, West rise in power was inevitable due to the historical events that eventually led up to its power. Therefore, West rise in power was contingent. In addition, this sums up the fact that Marks initiates that future, too, is contingent. Another concept he discusses is the concept of accident on page 12. He gives two examples to explain how in any such historical or present day event, accidents are bound to happen and hence are not in control of any human being. One example he gives us was the climate change, and any climate phenomena that results in destruction in the agriculture growth or otherwise is an accident. Another, example he gave us was when in the 18th century, Britain’s economy was sky high, due to the fact that they had coal deposits near their area, whereas, the two unfortunate countries, Netherlands and China, had their economy slowed down because there was no sign of coal deposit which would immensely help to enhance their economy. This was pure accidental. It seemed Britain was lucky one to find coal deposits, and enrich their economy. The next concept is conjecture on page 12. In a simple definition, it means when developments occur between one another creating a unique moment in the history. One example explained by Marks is the flow of sliver in China. In the 16th and 17th century, European discovered massive supply silver in the New World, and the demand from Chinese was even larger. Nonetheless, the silver flowed into China and India, and other goods such as spices, Asian silks and porcelains flowed into Europe and the New World.
    The FIFA article, it was said that Brazil does not have strong economy, and that holding major events such as FIFA was not a good idea since it really did not benefit them. The Brazil and their government should focus on improving their image as a country for other tourists and their infrastructures because some of these infrastructures would be used as prisons later on, and will not have any events held in them.

    1. Brazil had such little time to improve so much infrastructure to meet the demands. From what Ive read before they barely finished in time and a lot of it was not even completed properly. I think the World Cup did more harm than good, they shouldn’t have accepted the bid. I enjoyed reading your paper, well written.

      1. I agree with you that holding major events like FIFA was not a good idea because it really did not benefit them. Brazil was a growing economy at the time and they should try to improve their infrastructure first.

    2. Seemaab I like the examples that you list from the readings that point to the rise of the West coming from historical events. Also, I agree that the infrastructures that are built specifically for these special events (i.e. FIFA world cup or the Olympics) should serve a greater purpose for the economy in the future.

  10. In his book, The Origins of the Modern World, Marks’s main argument is to describe how West has gained its power and this power was contingent to be gained. This means that it was not sure in the history if Europe will come up as main power; however, due to various factors Europe was able to gain this success. Moreover, Mark does not only provide reasons to support that Europe has gained the power; however, he discusses about Asia as well. He does not compare Europe and Asia; however, to support his argument, he provides reasons for Asia’s reasons to be unsuccessful.

    Furthermore, he mentions about three main concepts. The first concept is “Contingency”. There are many reasons for West’s dominance that Mark provides us with. One of them was the finding of silver in the new world. If Europe did not have this silver to buy slaves for work in West from Africa and goods from Asia, then Europe would not have been able to progress. Moreover, Marks also provides us with another example that explains that Europe’s success was not sure to happen if this event would not have contributed. He talks about 1750’s when countries were restricting their production due to climate protection. However, this did not affect Europe’s production because Europe had the storage of coal which came in use for the production.

    Second, Mark explains about “accidents.” He explains that accidents do occur and shape the events. He gives an example of Chinese and Dutch whose coal deposits were used by their people who were near the coal deposits. They could have used this coal while they were decreasing their productivity due to climate protection. Lastly, Mark talks about the concept of “Conjunctures.” Conjuncture is when events take place independently; however, they interact with each other and create history. Mark again provides us with an example which is of the Silver that Europe found and used it to buy goods from China. The second event was of China allowing to use Silver in their monetary system. When these both events combined, we saw an increase of silver in China and an increase of goods in Europe.

    We can relate the World Cup’s article with Marks argument. As the West’s success was contingent and not inevitable, we can conclude that Brazil’s decision of agreeing to host FIFA was not inevitable. There was a reason for it that Brazil was convinced that they will be able to host FIFA. This reason was Brazil’s economic boom due to oil exports to China. However, we can also see that accidents happen, which in this case was going down of the economy.

    1. From the books viewpoint I considered that the coal deposits were not to China’s advantage but to Britain – maybe you mentioned them here in the context of being disadvantaged in not having major coal deposits? . . . Overall, it’s a good summary though.

  11. In Robert Marks book The Origins of the Modern World, the author talks about the “rise of the west”. He goes as far as the 1400’s to the present to illustrate how the modern world came to be. Mark raises the question how did the modern become what it is today and why is the world split between rich and poor countries. He also raises the question why did China and India not rise to the status of Europeans when they made up for two thirds of the worlds economy 200 years ago. He explains this facade the west boasts that the modern world came to be because of European superiority. This idea that European culture and citizens paved the path for progress and have an advantage over everyone because of their history, he calls it Eurocentric prospective. Marks believe that Eurocentric perspective is a myth the west uses to look down upon the rest of the world not up to par and justify the political and economic decisions the west makes.

    Instead Marks believes that his concepts of contingency, accidents, and conjunctures are what made the modern world what it is today. From the development of nation states and implementation of a democratic system and the rise of a capitalist world from industrialization Europeans believed they are the forerunners. Marks makes a point that coal was a geographical advantage at the time for Britain (pg12), an accident that nobody could control that benefited Europe immensely. Another accident was the “black death” it killed millions of people in the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Conjectures were the events that occurred because of individual factors unknowingly linked to other events creating a large historical event. Contingency is used to explain the unavoidable events that occur that change the course of history and without them it would be a different world. For example what if Europeans never found silver, they wouldn’t have been able to exploit slavery in Africa. All of which sums up to the current order of a select few leaders of the industrial world who make the rules and control the world economy for everyone else.

    The World Cup is giant profit frenzy and organizations such as FIFA and IOC along with nation states only want to make money. They had no regard for the fragile state of Brazils economy even though it is developing it needs support not events that could destabilize the country. It was hidden from the world that at the same time the world cup was going on mass riots and protests regarding the peoples basics needs were taking place. People were pushed out of favelas, which make up a large population of Brazil’s working force. The daunting contingency to improving so many things in a short period of time caused Brazil to topple a lot of progress they had made in the past 30 years. The timing to conduct the events and the choice to hold the event in Brazil was a big mistake.

    1. I agree that it was a big mistake for Brazil to host the World Cup. I think the government should have done a careful cost and revenue analysis to see if World Cup would be profitable or not. I also think that government was too ignorant of their citizens. Instead of hosting the World Cup and wasting large amount of money on building the stadium, Brazil should have used that money to support social programs for their citizens.

    2. It was indeed a financial mistake for Brazil to host the World Cup and the Olympics, much of the blame lies with the government, however FIFA and developed nations should be blamed as well. There is a pressure with these developing countries to prove that they can be developed, and yet there are still forms of neocolonialism going on that take advantage of these countries. Furthermore, the countries participating in the tournament should have some part in helping pay for it to take some pressure off of the host country.

    3. Financially speaking, yes, hosting the World Cup was a huge mistake made by the Brazilian government. While hosting such an event might boost a country’s economy in the tourism aspect, a government should be more careful and weight in their pros and cons before making such a decision.

  12. Marks talks about three ideas that could possibly be the true reason for the rising of the west and how it is shaped today. He talks about contingent which we can define as the opposite of inevitable. Earlier in the book we read in Eurocentrism that Europeans believes themselves to be above all countries, they had this superior mentality, and that the formation of the west was unpreventable, but Marks argues that the West is formed by incidents. The point is, if the West were inevitable, why are there changes today? Everything we do will have to a change and this is contingency. The future will keep changing depending on every action we make.
    Let’s take Asia’s loss to England. For example Asia started as a much powerful country, but England had coal and they used it to become more powerful because china did not have coal, the fact that Britain used all these resources is contingent, but if China had these resources as well, they would still be above Britain.
    Marks next idea is accident. He believes that events happen accidentally. Nothing else is involved in something just happening on its own. For example the British were closer to a coal deposit form millions of years ago and China was not. This “accident” worked well in Britain’s favors as it was useful to them for developing their economy. If china was near this deposit, there is no doubt their economy would be greater than Britain since China was in the lead. According to Mark third idea is Conjuncture so the example of conjuncture is “in the early 1400s by the government to use silver as the basis for their monetary system arose out of circumstances particular to Chinese history. But this Chinese decision had global impact in the sixteenth centuries when Europeans discovered both huge supplies of silver flowed into China (and India) , and Asian silks, spices, and porcelains flowed into Europe and the New World, inaugurating the first age of globalization.”(Marks, 12)
    Brazil needed to lower their crime rates and make sure there are roads so people can get around, thousands of people watch the world cup in a place with high crime rates. The Contingency here is that one thing has to happen first before the next. If criminal rates are low and important event can be held in that country.

    1. I agree that they should lower their crime rates first. Foreigners consider these type of things as a danger to themselves and they become hesitant to go there. That ruins Brazil’s plans because their goal was to show themselves to the world somehow and encourage foreign investment which was a failure.

  13. Marks’ central argument is that there is no single reason or cause that explains how our World came to be the way it is right now. The modern world, as it continues to change, was caused by a series of events; he mentions 3 concepts in which these events can fall under: contingency, accidents and conjunctures. Under contingency, he implies that the rise of the West could be seen as inevitable. He uses the historical advantages that the Europeans had, such as the Greek and Roman examples, as bedrock for future successes and that the West would eventually rise, regardless of present struggles. Contingency was not only applied as a concept coming from within Europe, but also from the outside. By this, I mean that outside events, such as economic and political issues outside of Europe, also made it possible for them to become more influential in their expansion. The second concept Marks uses is accidents, which are unfortunate events that occurred unexpectedly and unintentionally. Marks mentions agriculture and coal as examples of accidents that would allow the West to become more dominant. Most societies were driven economically by agriculture and with the climate change that was experienced during the seventeenth-century, if these societies were not able to adapt then their harvests were impacted thus hurting them economically. Coal deposits played an important part in Europe’s success it allowed nations such as England to industrialize, while others such as China were not able to develop a coal industry to supply energy. Finally, the last concept used by Marks is conjuncture, which is when independent events interact with one another to create another historical moment. The example given in the text is China’s decision to use silver as their economic currency. While this reason came about because of particular Chinese reasons and history, it had global impact in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. As the Europeans discovered huge supplies in the New World, the Chinese demand for silver grew (through trade) and with this the first age of globalization began. I think that the concepts introduced by Marks can be related to the FIFA article through different ways. For me, the main thought that I got from reading the article would that of the balance of power and issues of sovereignty. While in this case, sovereignty was not an issue between nations, but between Brazil and corporations (like FIFA), it does not make it any less relevant. Brazilians were reluctant to accept a foreign corporation demanding things from their government; however, I would not call this an ‘accident’, but more of a conjuncture. There were many events that placed Brazil in the situation that it was when the World Cup occurred, being an international corporation, and Brazil, a newly formed democracy, FIFA had the upper hand and was able to persuade the government into doing what they wanted. The ‘accident’ concept presented by Marks could be related to the geographical location of Brazil and how that heightened the discontent among its citizens. An examples of this, would the construction of the Manus stadium in the forest. The location was accidental, Brazil did not choose where the Amazon forest was, but it did choose to build a stadium there. The ‘contingency’ aspect presented by Marks can be associated with the fact that FIFA is an international organization, built based on Western European ideas, however, they are still influential on non-European nations, such as Brazil.

    1. Julia,
      I agree with what you wrote about FIFA being a largest organization that Brazil was reluctant, but nonetheless I feel the Brazilian government had the option to host or not host the World Cup. And I also believe that doing so they could have put the money to a better use for their people and citizens.

    2. I concur with your application of Marks’s notions of contingency, accidents, and conjectures to the case of FIFA and Brazil. Many other posts seem to focus on how FIFA, the West, and elements of Brazil’s elite are exploiting Brazil at the cost of its poor. This does not tell us much about why the situation arose in the first place. I think an analysis can be formed through the lens of these three concepts.

  14. In the Origins of the Modern World, Robert B. Marks’ proposes that what people have concluded today as the rise of the West, which views the West as progressive and the rest of the world as backwards, is not specific to Europe and the West. It encompasses different factors throughout the world history to produce the rise of the West. Marks’ central argument is that the rise of the West was not exceptional in its own right. There were many developments around the world, through time, that can be associated with the rise of the West. His concepts of contingency, accidents, and conjunctures help build this argument. Marks’ concept of contingency is that the rise of the West was chance when looking at other developments around the world. Historical accidents also determined the rise of the West due to many natural factors, like certain mineral deposits found in Europe and the Americas, that were unforeseeable and beyond the ability of human development. Finally, conjuncture was a part of Marks’ argument due to the fact that different individual moments in time affected and interacted with one another, which resulted in a specific historical development. All three of these concepts were able to connect and produce the concept of the rise of the West. An example to illustrate this argument is the silver deposits found in the Americas. Since China was using silver as their monetary system and to promote economic growth, it was less expensive in the Americas in relation to China. Even if this silver export was exported to elsewhere in the world it was essentially all brought to China, one way or another. This example encompasses Marks’ argument in reference to his three concepts. The discovery of silver was contingent because it was not inevitable to happen. The silver boom was due to the fact that the New World was exporting silver, and Europe was getting, in return, exports from China and India such as silks and spices. The finding of the silver deposits in the Americas was simply an accident where people could not determine the type or existence of a mineral. Also, the individual development of silver that was valued in China and the discovery of silver in the New World were two individual developments that interacted with one another thus producing the possible beginning of the rise of the West.
    We can understand the article about the World Cup in relation to what Marks argues due to the fact that FIFA awarded the World Cup to be in Brazil due to their economy rapidly increasing, but when it was time for the remake of the Brazilian infrastructure, the economy in Brazil had slowed down. This was contingent due to the World Cup in Brazil was based on the building of the infrastructure, although many would not be used after the World Cup and the economy has slowed down. The protests that happened before and during the World Cup were due to conjuncture. Brazil used money that was needed for the people and even displaced thousands, just for the building of stadiums and other infrastructures. This was all to improve the reputation of Brazil and to introduce to the World an entirely new country. Although, because of many of the issues that coincided with the World Cup, people protested for a bigger idea, the idea of democracy that was not particularly shown in Brazil before and during the World Cup.

    1. I think you did a really good job of expounding upon what each of the terms mean, and were really clear in demonstrating that in your example of the discovery of silver in the Americas.

  15. Robert Marks argument of conjuncture, accidents and contingency explain the United States influential power and rise in the modern day. Mark also pointed out that it isn’t so much that it’s the ‘rise of the West’ but more a progressive growth. Also if the west is going to be progressive then the Asian markets that once dominated must be retracting, or rather not growing. He explains that early in Europe the inherited thoughts of Greek culture and Roman religion influenced the way Europeans lived, thus, creating a lot of wealth. He explains conjuncture, accidents, and contingency worked together, not separately to develop the modern world. For example, the west’s power now and coming to be was contingent. Meaning, no one anything did shaped our current future, then there is nothing we can do now to change the future of what will come to be. No body could’ve changed what was going to happen and there isn’t anything now that we can do to change the future of what will happen. Accidents result from simply practicing agriculture and learning things that can preserve food for many people, straying away from the hunt and gather mentality lifestyle. The conjuncture of all the wars, both won and lost shaped a lot of the power shifts in the last 1000 years. This is essential in understanding the population, technology and power distribution in the modern world. Marks does a good job in explain past wars and how people influenced by religion, money and power live today.
    The FIFA organization has a huge history with not caring about the host countries issues but rather only that their stadiums and security are at organizational standards. This makes the host countries people angry because for one even they spend billions but decades go by and the poor people never see any money. A sense of betrayal is felt by those people and they protest. Zirin does a great job explaining how people react in the country due to the lavish spending and carelessness of the population. He points out in Sochi and London how the people also reacted the same way. It’s said that sometimes hosting those events causes more damage than good, roads broken from construction not fixed and the cities littered with trash that’s never cleaned. Brazilians living in the slums felt the reality of the lack of compassion from their government. They spent billions on infrastructure but not a dime to help with their slum neighborhoods.

    1. Well said! I completely agree it’s depressing to see how a country can neglect the priority of its people and pour billions of dollars into building a soccer stadium. I found it also interesting and surprised that millions rioted and protested, the largest demonstration Brazil has witnessed since its dictatorship. It shows that the people do have a voice! Although 700 people were displaced because the government was trying to build a parking lot, which ironically didn’t get built. The first 100 people were removed at gunpoint and the other 600 fought back and sued the city. They were able to be displaced a couple of miles away and given rent vouchers, but it’s sad to know that not everything is justified.

    2. Good job on the last part of your post! I love how you put in full detail why Brazil is the way it is,the way you listed all the factors of how this problem came to be and why it is still this way gives me more of an idea of how life really is in that country.I did not know much about Brazil until after this assignment as I like doing more research outside of school work.My point is the last part of your work caught my attention because it is well explained and gives me a better understanding of the topic.

    3. You bring up an interesting point by noting that technology is itself a conjuncture that leads to new developments. It can even be said that new technology is a result of accidents and conjunctures, in fact science has a firm basis on discoveries made by accident or by luck. I believe the continuing progress of technology will have the largest effect on how the world will change in the future, whether it be for better or worse.

  16. Robert Marks argues in The Origins of the Modern world the rise of the West by introducing three concepts: contingency, accidents, and conjunctures. Europeans believed that they were the leaders of modernization and were economically successful through industrialization. Thus introduces the idea of Eurocentrism, the idea that emphasized the superiority of Western culture. Mark further explains that the rise of the West was contingent upon historical events such as the valuable resources of silver and metal found in the Americas, which allowed for the West to acquire great wealth. Mark gives an example of historical “accidents” by explaining that climate changes have an impact on the harvest and economy of a country. “Climate changes are unpredictable and beyond human control” (Marks, 12). Another example is the coal deposits that were in Britain which allowed for the West to rise, whereas the Dutch or Chinese didn’t have the supply of coal deposits for the demand. It was a mere accident but allowed for the West to further industrialize. “Conjuncture happens when several otherwise independent developments come together in ways that interact with one another, creating a unique historical moment” (Marks, 12). China changed their monetary system to silver in the early 1400s which had a global impact when Europeans discovered silver in the New World during the 16th and 17th centuries. The first age of globalization occurred as silver flowed into China and India and Asian spices, silk, and porcelain flowed into Europe and the New World.

    Brazil hosting the World Cup was contingent on Brazil making changes to their infrastructure and eliminating the favelas that was outside of the stadium. It’s actually very depressing and harrowing once you think about the measures Brazil took to host the World Cup, because many people were displaced from their homes and Brazil poured billions of dollars to host FIFA when that money could’ve been used for education, healthcare, and housing.

    1. I also think that Brazil should have used the cost of building the stadiums for social programs which will help the lives of their citizens. I think that Brazil made a wrong choice to host World Cup in that they did not have the capacity to do so and many citizens of Brazil were strongly against it.

    2. Sharon,

      I think you’re right that Brazil should have used to money to fund education and health care. They should not have disregarded their citizens so easily because without the citizens, there would be no tax money, no source of labour, and no jobs for the government. If they’re SO willing to spend billions of dollars and go over budget without a care, they could have just as easily helped the people living in favelas or help reduce pollution.

    3. I agree with you on your thoughts on Brazil and hosting the World Cup, especially since FIFA has had a history of forcing countries to make drastic changes to their economy and infrastructure to accommodate, as evidenced in what happened in South Africa the World Cup before. I think Brazil was too enamored by the spotlight the World Cup, and subsequent Olympics, would put on the country, not thinking about the actual cost, economic and social, that they would put on the country.

  17. In The Origins of the Modern World, Mark uses three concepts of contingency, accidents and conjuncture to explain how the Western World rose to the power. These concepts showed how the west became powerful and advanced today being the center of the world industry. This resulted in Eurocentrism, which is a belief of Europeans being superior to other nations; however, Mark states that it is only a western myth. As in contingency, Mark refers to the rise of the West which he states that it could be seen as inevitable. Mark says that nothing is inevitable and he means contingency by this. Therefore, the rise of the West is contingent now and in the future as well. He gives examples of historical advantages in parts of Europe by showing the advancements and successes they had. The concept of accidents is defined by Mark as events occurring unintentionally and without an expectation. An example Mark gave was the coal deposits found in Britain. Britain’s economy was on boom because of the fact that the coal deposits were found in their area. At the time, Netherlands and China’s economies slowed down because they were lacking coal deposits. It would help them greatly if they could have coal deposits. This is an example of accident because the coal deposits just happened to be near Britain. The third concept Mark explains is called conjuncture which is defined as several independent developments coming together to interact with one another while creating a unique historical movement. All of the concepts connected to the idea of the rise of the West.

    Brazil was in an economic boom when the bids for the World Cup and the Olympics were made. Brazil wanted to show their growing economic power to the world and hoped to get a great turnout from these events. They were trying to encourage foreign investment which would make them even stronger economically. They were basically hoping for a better economy with investments. After some time, Brazilian economy slowed down, it was a question to see if Brazil would be able to afford these events. FIFA and the Olympics do not look at the economy of Brazil. They need their events to be hosted and it does not matter to them if the economy of a host country is good or bad. They want their events to be hosted and make profits.

  18. I

    I think the argument make that Marks makes is that most of history is taught from a Eurocentric view, but there is more to history than just that. Europe wasn’t the only civilised geographic region. Asia had a vast history also. Contingency, accident, and conjunctures help his argument. The idea that the way the world turned out was inevitable; that Europe was destined to be the centre of everything is how history is commonly portrayed. However, the idea of contingency is that Europe only became successful due to developments elsewhere. They were contingent upon those developments. This contingency also weakens the idea of Eurocentric history. It implies the future is still contingent and thus subject to change. Accident is the implication that contingency is not the law of the land. Nature is beyond the control of man. Accident could happen that would change the course of history. Marks makes the example of a “Little Ice Age.” The one that happened in the seventeenth-century put financial strain over many parts of the world. Britain had favourable conditions, which led to a rise in industry. They were sitting on top of coal. China and Holland’s economies slightly faltered because they needed something like coal for fuel but were not in a geographically advantageous position. Conjuncture is kind of like a mix of contingency and accident. It is when different societies come together based on random local happenings. In China, silver was the main form of value and currency. The fact that the Europeans stumbled upon huge silver reserves in the New World brought the two together and the import/export business was created between the two (including India also).

    In Brazil, FIFA held the World Cup in 2014. The Olympics will be held there in 2016. While I don’t know how to explain the relationship in the context of Marks’ text, I can explain my understanding of the situation. While FIFA and The Olympic Council do not really care about the future of Brazil or its citizens, I don’t think Brazil should have bitten off more than it can chew. The corporations only care to increase their revenue, it seemed from the reading. It didn’t seem to matter that construction would lead to deforestation or hurt Brazil. They only care about the bottom line. The government is displacing its citizens by force or by giving them some financial support. According to an article by BBC, Olympic athletes were encountering dead animals and all kinds of waste products in the Guanabara Bay. There are health advisory warnings against swimming in the bay. The mayor of Rio De Janiero annouced that the bay would not be clean in time for the Olympics (Brazil).

    “Brazil Olympics: Rio Bay ‘will Not Be Clean for 2016.” BBC Latin America 7 June 2014. BBC. Web. 3 Feb. 2015.

    1. Hello Zahrah,

      I have to say that making connection between the article and the book was a bit difficult for me as well. Also, you are right that Brazil trapped itself with agreeing to hold these two famous events!

  19. In the Origins of the Modern World, Robert Marks argues that the origins of the western world rose to power not because of its inevitability but rather through the concepts of contingency, accidents and conjunctures. He explains why China and India, although thriving hundreds of years ago, did not become as dominant as did Europe. While the term “Eurocentrisim” defined Europeans as superior and the formation of the western world inevitable, Marks argues that incidents throughout history have made the western world become what it is today.
    First he defines contingency by explaining that developments and actions in the past have caused certain events to unfold as they have and developments and actions in the future will have the same results of inevitable causing something to happen. An example Marks provides is silver in the new world. China began using silver as a means of monetary exchange. So when Europe found silver in the new world, they have the means to buy slaves from Africa and goods from Asia. This allowed Europe to progress at a level it would not have been able to prior. The second concept Marks credits to western power are accidents, which are events that occurred unintentionally. Marks gives two examples to explain this concept. The first is climate change that affected agriculture and the second was the geographical advantage Europe had with coal. Coal deposits allowed Europe to industrialize at a faster rate in comparison to, for example, China. The last concept Marks introduces is conjuncture, which occurs when two independent events or developments come together and create a “unique historical moment” (Marks, 12). We can see this with the same example explained earlier. China used silver for monetary uses and Europe found silver in the New World. Though independent developments – as Europeans did not go search for silver – the two events caused the first signs of globalization, as there was a way for the world to interact.
    The article about the World Cup can relate to Marks perspective as well. This article presents FIFA and IOC as organizations that did not take into consideration the economy of Brazil. Though growing at the time, when FIFA decided the infrastructure of Brazil needed to be updated, the economy had slowed down. This was contingent of the World Cup being held in Brazil and the demand to change the infrastructure – even though much of it would not be used post World Cup. People were displaced, money was lost, and protests happened to bring to light the power that the west had in the World Cup happening in a country that did not benefit from.

  20. In The Origins of the Modern World, author Robert Marks challenges the status quo (Eurocentric) approach to world history. He rejects the notion that the “rise of the West” was due to cultural superiority and that “more democracy and free markets” are the answer to any and all problems. Marks asserts that this idea that Western institutions and values are universal is simply “a political agenda” (Marks 7). Thus, he argues that one must develop a global view, broadening the narrative of how the modern world – comprised of an industrial capitalism, nation-state structures, interstate wars, and massive economic divides both locally and internationally – arose. This is captured in his statement: “Those on the inside really do not have an independent way of knowing whether they are inside a matrix…unless they can get a look at it from the outside” (Marks 9). Marks makes his argument through highlighting contingencies, accidents, and conjectures that took place since 1400 – a time shortly before the circumnavigation of the world, which ultimately led to the creation of our ever-increasing globalized world.

    According to Marks, nothing in history is inevitable; there are many possibilities: this is the idea of contingency. For example, instead of believing the rise of the West was inevitable, Marks points out how the establishment of institutions and sources of wealth and power in Europe was highly contingent upon many other world developments i.e. China’s economic growth in 1000 C.E. which was the source of manufactured goods and spices. Next, accidents pertain to unpredictable events which are beyond human control. Common examples are environmental and geographical. For example, the “Little Ice Age” caused economic peril for agricultural societies; no one could have prevented it. Britain also happened to be located near huge, accessible coal deposits which accelerated their industrial development. Lastly, conjecture relates to independent developments that intersect with one another, creating a globally important occurrence. For example, China’s monetary system was based on silver, so when Europeans discovered silver in the New World, it initiated trade between the two regions.

    Michael Winship’s interview with David Zirin explores the corruption in Brazil’s government regarding the FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. Despite being 121 out of 133 countries on income inequality, Brazil was selected in hosting these highly expensive events due to the expectation that their economy would continue to grow after the success of 2008. Most Brazilians felt their needs were being ignored, as a government that invests billions in a sporting event while slashing social services (education, housing, healthcare, public transportation) is surely something to rage about. Additionally, indigenous tribes are threatened due to development without any consent, as well as people living in favelas that are forcibly displaced. All in all, this article connects with Marks’ ideas about the growing inequalities that globalization has brought to the world. While a large majority of Brazilians live in poverty, the few elite have access to the bulk of the wealth and possess power over decisions which should belong to the people. Themes of capitalism, rich-poor divide, and the role of the nation-state are all captured.

    1. Tabatha,

      If there’s anything that really upset me about Brazil, its that they are hurting the indigenous populations. You explained the text very well. It makes a bit more sense reading your post.

    2. I like that you pointed out the displacement of people. This is definitely an important factor that seems to be overlooked in the broad scheme of things. There was not consent among the people that were directly effected which seems extremely unfortunate.

  21. The central argument of Marks in his book The Origins of the Modern World is that the rise of the western world to its longstanding dominant position in the current global paradigm was more based on circumstances rather than any specific traits of the West. He attempts to prove this by examining world history, beginning with a time where he contends that the civilizations of Asia were superior to those of the West. From there he asserts that the relative successes of the West and relative failures of Asia were by not means guaranteed by any superior qualities, but were rather the result of “Contingency,” “Accidents,” and “Conjectures.”
    For the concept of “Contingency,” Marks argues that certain developments in the West were contingent on events in other parts of the world. For example, if countries of the West had not come across silver in the new world they would not have been as able to effectively exploit the slave markets of Africa, thereby slowing the development of the colonies that would help feed their industrialization. For the concept of “Accidents,” Marks explains that certain circumstances of history were merely the luck of the draw so to speak. He uses the example of the fact that England sat on large coal deposits, an accident that allowed them to meet the energy needs for industrialization. No trait of the English predisposed them to have coal, it was just how things happened. Finally, Marks uses “Conjectures” to describe how a confluence of independent events leads to a larger historical event. Going back to the discussion of silver, the finding of it by the West at a time when China had decided to use it as the basis of their monetary system created a system of trading that would ultimately be very detrimental to China and beneficial to the West. These separate developments aided the emergence of a larger historical pattern.
    The article about the World Cup is relevant to Marks’s argument in that the situation of Brazil in relation to FIFA and the Olympics could be described as a present day version of Marks’s theory. A series of examples might make what I mean clearer. The 2008 economic meltdown in the United States led to the contingent event of Brazil having a significant slowdown in economic growth. This just happened to occur at time when Brazil had decided to take on the massively expensive Olympics and World Cup in order to showcase what had become a defunct growth pattern, placing them into a precarious situation that they could not back out of. The development of these events along with Brazil’s dependence on commodity exports to fund social programs, the influence of its real estate sector, its need for investment in infrastructure, corruption, and a number of other factors all lead to Brazil becoming a poorer, more economically stratified country as compared to the West. Thus, as Marks asserts, it was not some trait of Brazil that made it relatively more successful or unsuccessful, but rather a series of contingencies, accidents, and conjectures.

    1. Mason, I found your application of contingencies, accidents, and conjectures to the FIFA-Brazil situation excellent. It helped me to better understand these concepts, particularly regarding contingency and the 2008 economic meltdown. Great post!

  22. In The Origins of the Modern World by Robert Marks, the author explains how the modern world has formed. Mark reinforces his central argument through three concepts of contingency, accidents, and conjectures. First of all, the idea of contingency argues that the future can be changed by the actions made in the present. He writes, “If the past could have been different, then so too can the future.” Moreover, the idea of accidents points out that sometimes accidents happens that leads to developments. For example, climate changes had a great impact on the development of economy. When the climate is favorable for agriculture, it is more likely that the harvest will be successful and there will be more crops to sell. This lowers the price of food and encourages economic growth as there is surplus to sell and food is cheap to buy. However, when the climate is extreme or poor for agriculture, the food price increases and it slows down the economic growth. Thus, climate change which is accidental has large impact on the development of economy. Finally, the idea of conjuncture explains that when several independent developments merge together, it can result in a historically important moment. For example, in the early 1400s, China decided to use silver as their money. Later, in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, Europeans learned that there is a large supply of silver in the New World when there is high demand for silver in China. As a consequence, the first form of globalization took place where the silver from Europe and New World was traded for Asian silks, spices, and porcelains from China. Therefore, the decision that was independently made by the Chinese government to use silver as the basis of their monetary system resulted in a global trade important to Europe, New World, and China. In conclusion, the ideas of contingency, accidents, and conjuncture illustrates that there are various causes interacting with one another that led to the development of the modern world.
    The article about the World Cup illustrates Marks’s idea of conjuncture in that the Brazil’s decision to host the World Cup had great impact on many individuals and created a sad historical moment of economic downfall and large protests in Brazil. First of all, the economy of Brazil slowed down due to large construction costs and security costs. These costs could have been used to support education, housing, healthcare, public transportation, and other social services which truly need the money. This brought large protests and many people went on strike which slowed down the economy even further. Moreover, 700 families were removed from their houses to build a new parking lot. 700 people lost their homes without enough compensation when the parking lot construction was not successful. On top of that, the government decided to build a stadium in the middle of rainforest which is not only disruptive to the ecosystem but also a waste since there is not use after the World Cup. Finally, Brazil imported the stadium materials from Portugal which benefited the Portuguese but it meant a lot of cost for Brazil. Thus, the World Cup event became the sad historical moment for Brazil as various factors interacted with one another in a negative ways which puts a break to the Brazil’s economy.

    1. Julia, I really like how you included Mark’s quote: “If the past could have been different, then so too can the future.” This really stood out to me, too. Also, I appreciate how you applied Marks’ idea of a conjuncture to the whole FIFA-Olympics-Brazil situation. I personally still get confused over it, so it was nice to hear your analysis!

  23. In the book, Marks’ central argument of The Origins of the Modern World is that nation-states, which are regarded as “major industrialized countries”, and industry came to shape the modern world. However, we will find that only a new, global storyline—one not centered on Europe—will have adequate evidence to explain the origins of the modern world. In fact, it is surprising that the book is written from a global view and talks about how it is necessary to achieve a “polycentric” world view instead of Eurocentrism. He believes that “no longer do all historian picture the world as merely a continuation of universal and necessary trends that began centuries ago in Europe. What many are seeing instead is a world in which population, industry and agricultural productivity were centered in Asia until 1750 or 1800”(p.7). No one can deny the fact that the rise of the western countries has greatly contributed to the modern world. However, Marks argues that China and India in particular are still playing significant roles from historical narratives in today’s society.

    In addition, in order to get outside of the rise-of-West-matrix, he mentions three key concepts that help to build his argument: ones of historical contingency, ones of accident, and ones of conjuncture (p.10). First of all, he states that the rise of the West was not inevitable, but was highly “contingent”. For example, the economic engine driving global trade and the center was in Asia, and European fortunes had not found both vast quantities of silver in the New World with which to buy Asian goods and a supply of African slaves. Therefore, a few advanced parts of Europe established dominance over the rest of the world was contingent upon these. Secondly, climate change could be a great example for illustration of “accident”. It is obvious that climate change could have major impact on the size of the harvest, lasting not just one year but over decades. From the perspective of human history, climate changes are accident in the dual sense of being unpredictable and beyond human control even if they are triggered by many reasons. The last idea of “conjuncture” refers to a unique historical moment created by several independent developments. For instance, silver flowed into China and India, and Asian silks, spices flowed into Europe and the New World, forming the first age of globalization. Marks summaries it like that “things happening in different parts of the world for reasons having to do with local circumstance that then became globally important” (p.13).

    From my perspective, I think that FIFA’s World Cup brought Brazil the opportunity to present itself in front of the global view, which could be regarded as contingent. However, it is sad that the government spent billions on sports stadiums while ignoring investment on local people’s education, housing, healthcare, public transport and other social services. Through the interview in the article, it is clear that the people are not satisfied with the current situation of inequality with holding low standing when it comes to corruption, wealth distribution and quality of infrastructure. Therefore, although the global event is like “conjuncture” which will offer more economic trade and cultural exchanges with the world, the challenge of democracy and human rights issues will be exposed more frequent and gather more attention globally. It is therefore necessary for government to take actions before things get worse.

    1. Hey Yang,

      I really liked that you brought climate change into your discussion of accidents. It was not something I had really thought about when reading Marks and I think that it is a great example. I also really like that you brought conjuncture into your discussion of the World Cup in Brazil. I agree with you that the government’s priority ought to be social programs before a soccer match.

    2. I agree that the world cup had potential to present Brazil in a positive way in the global view. I also agree that however, the light in which it was executed with was a negative one. It seems like it brought more attention to Brazil’s priorities and oversight of the importance of that money to go to locals.

  24. In The Origins of the Modern World, Marks constructs an alternative narrative on how the modern world came to be the way it is today. He challenges the “master narrative”, a Euro-centric picture of the world, and advocates that the Western dominance was not inevitable. It was contingent upon other developments happening independently around the world. According to the author, there is no simplistic theory or event (ex. Industrial Revolution) that can explain how the modern world came together and how it works. It’s much more complex hence, he introduces three main elements of his alternative narrative: contingency, accidents, and conjunctures. Contingency refers to how the eventual dominance of the West was contingent upon separate developments elsewhere in the world that later tipped the scale in the Western society’s favor. Accidents refers to environmental and natural resources that were accidently available to a specific geographic region (ex. coal in Britain) that gave an edge to economic and industrial growth to the West first. Conjunctures refer to independent developments around the world that intersect to hold a global importance. These three aspects lead us to believe that there were several causes to the emergence of the modern world. An example of this argument is that the West and Asia were each developing their economies through the exploitation of resources and demands, therefore the growth of both economies was contingent upon trading goods. The move toward a more Western dominance came accidently when the British accessed their coal deposits and put it to use for military purposes. Also, the high demand of silver coming from China led to a global impact as the West had independently discovered big amounts of silver in the New World.
    Marks’ argument relates to Zirin’s approach in the FIFA matter as neither of them try to simplify the complexity of both issues. There are several causes for the way the modern world come to be and so is the case with the FIFA controversy in Brazil. The World Cup being placed in Brazil was contingent upon Brazil’s booming economy, which suffered much less in the recession of 2008 as well. FIFA itself turned out to be dominant power and had the final say when Brazil saw its economy staggering and had to cut its social spending in order to build new stadiums. In this case, it seems as if FIFA was the dominant power but it was contingent highly upon Brazil’s economic development.

  25. Review of Robert Marks’, The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative
    Robert B. Marks’ introduces his book, The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative, with a captivating introductory phrase of the date in which the G7 summit was held in Italy. Marks’ then shifts his audience to questioning how the G7, which he describes as ‘major industrialized countries’, came to dominate and shape the present world economy and yet, history reports that eastern countries, for example, China and India were the largest economies 200 years earlier. He wonders how the Asian economy lost its dominance to the western countries and Japan. He further questions ‘what actually led to the reversal of the change in economic dominance’. In order to answer these questions, Marks embarks to investigate this shift in economic power.
    Mark begins by tracing the stages through which international trade developed and how it impacted the world economy in the years between 1400 and 1850 by considering the various industrial revolutions, rise of empires and the linkages used in the trade. He then uses each element in the trade during this period to draw how the ever-growing economic disparity came to influence the present economic power position.
    In his introduction, Mark argues that the industrialization activities witnessed during the nineteenth century period led to massive deterioration of the environment. He says that through this new processes, people stopped relying on renewable energy sources. The change in reliance to renewable energy sources resulted in the world shifting its priorities in trade thereby changing the manner in which the world treated the environment. Since production of raw materials in large scale could now be achieved using non-renewable energy sources, the environment was no longer considered important leading to its deterioration.
    Marks attempts to outline the industrial background of China and relates it to the transitions of Indian Ocean trade when the Portuguese entered the trade in the late 15th century. He explains that because the Portuguese lacked valuable goods to trade with the Asians, they decided to fight them in order to dominate and control the Indian Ocean trade. Mark views this war as the center stage that defined the world’s shift in economic power in where European countries competed economically. In achieving economic advantage, these countries destroyed productive regions and routes of trade in the east.
    The use of demonstrative conjunctures such as ‘black death’, accidents and contingency are concepts Marks uses to illustrate his argument of how the world’s economic dominance shifted from Asia to western countries. For instance, in his use of the conjuncture of the ‘black death’, he narrates of how the ‘accident’ of the bubonic plague in the mid to late 1300s was used by the Mongolian empire that was collapsing to take over some parts of China. It is believed that the Mongolian troops introduced a rodent or flea infected with a bacillus, the bacteria that causes the bubonic plague, to a densely populated area of China killing many Chinese. The ‘black death’ is later witnessed in Europe after the Italian ships dock in Europe after leaving the Mongolian territory. This, to Marks view, is evidence enough that the West had gone to conquer the Asian territories in order to dominate the world economy.
    Comparison to The World Cup Article
    Mark argues that western countries took dominance of the world economy from the Asian economy through several strategies that maimed the Asian economy. The western nations had their own interest in mind not caring of what would happen to the eastern states. In the article, it is argued that FIFA and IOC do not care about the economy of Brazil. All they want is to have the events hosted and make their profits. Dave Zirin argues that the timing of these major sporting events are ill-timed and meant to disturb the Brazilian economy so as to ensure the western economic block continues to dominate (Winship, 2014). This angle of argument by Zirin agrees with that of Marks in the ‘black death’ conjuncture.

    References
    Marks, R.B. (2007). The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative (illustrated, revised).Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
    Winship, M. (2014). Dave Zirin: “FIFA’s World Cup is for the wealthy, not for the people”. The author of “Brazil’s Dance with the Devil” on the corruption fueling one of the world’s biggest sporting events. Retrieved from http://billmoyers.com/

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