|dc.description.abstract||The thesis examines four distinctive schools of thought, each of which makes claims about the causes of the rise of the West: the California School, World Systems Analysis (WSA), Political Marxism, and Analytical Marxism.
As far as theories go, Marxist social theory, including historical materialism, takes centre stage. I argue that Marxist theory, at least in some formulations, currently provides the most coherent, plausible and useful framework for the study of world history, and when it comes to the divergence, Political Marxist accounts of the rise and spread of capitalism are the most convincing. However, the work does not attempt to establish the truth of Marxism or to present it as the only plausible or useful theory for understanding society and history. Instead, it sets a more limited task, namely, to examine critiques of Marxism that have contributed to the latter’s marginalization in the writing of world history and the ‘Great Divergence’ debate in particular. It shows that many of these widely accepted critiques are unpersuasive and seriously flawed.
Parts I and II demonstrate that explaining the ‘great divergence’, a key issue for world history, requires getting clear on the role of capitalism, its emergence and spread. This has led me to consider two influential schools: the California School that rejects the concept of capitalism, and WSA, with its conceptions of the world capitalist system. I argue that the theoretical conceptions of WSA, though useful and informative in some ways (especially if compared to the California school), do not adequately account for the emergence and development of capitalism or the great divergence. I counterpoise their conceptions with the Political Marxist’s conceptions and historical analyses, and argue that the latter are both closer to Marx’s own theorizing and provide a stronger basis for understanding the divergence. In Part III, I present a more critical discussion of Political Marxism and try to show that it can, and should, be combined with a more ‘orthodox’ conception of Marx’s theory of history, historical materialism—and here I focus on the formulations of historical materialism put forth by some of the Analytical Marxists, most centrally, G.A. Cohen's account.||