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Topic: Victoria Tin-Bor Hui's "War & State Formation In Ancient & Early Modern Europe"  (Read 10002 times)
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« on: September 01, 2007, 11:06:45 AM »


While intermittently providing flashes of useful insight into the Qin state functions and some relevant comparisons between Europe and China processes, the book is loaded with forced-out comparisons that moreover do not rely on a professional old-school historical analysis involving the historian's own mind's eye sweep of historical evidence nor on the Time-honored and classic European analysis of Chinese history - but overdoses on very narrowly selective current American Political Science/Political Correctness choice of most often quoted sources [ie Margaret Levi, Levy Jack, Katznelson Ira, Thomas Ertman, etc. - and the proven enemy of all genuine historical life - dry logic philosopher IMMANUEL KANT of all people! - which goes to show that she does not understand at least some sources she is using]. It is a piece of American-made political science masquerading under a grand title as a piece of historical analysis. She OD-ed beyond all belief in a strictly casual relationships that exist more in the mind of the analyst than in the living content of history that must be felt first before it is understood.

Another crucial mistake at the foundation of her work is the mistaken comparison - 'early modern Europe' is just a self-centered intellectual concoction that is useless and denies and obscures the dignified horizon of History with modern politically correct speculative myopia that makes the offshoots of trees seem more important than the trees themselves. For one, she is comparing a period in History that has not fully ended at all yet - with a long-ago extinct period in History that fulfilled itself over 2,000 years ago!!!

Her work would need to wait for at least 100 more years to be able to compare the Chinese 3rd century BC in which the Qin won the world with the Western/European 21st century we are in now. What is clear [and escapes her notice altogether because her methods cannot even touch history as they expelled all feeling for Time - and merely lay out a few logical arguments supported by self-righteous evidence which excludes inconvenient facts] is that in the Western World of today [which is now the property of the entire globe, although still belatedly dictated from the West because of the form of dollar-imperialism it produces] there is still not a single state-winner - and moreover not even a hint of the one who leads as a soldier-ruler whose power is in the military [like Douglas MacArthur's could have been under different circumstances and had he not been such a political weakling] and who uses money exclusively for his political ambition to rule all alone.

She makes comparisons between historical periods that are not homologous and hardly even analogous, but that is because he does not respect these methods of real History and wants to force History and its content into the straight-jacket of causal relations that moreover are dictated by the prescriptions of modern liberal, secular Western democratism which is defeating itself in Iraq before the whole world today.

I can quote a lot of incredible statements in this book, such as :

"Just when Prussia was catching up with ancient Chinese developments, England embarked on a different self-strengthening model that was to divert early modern Europe from the logic of domination." - this is too sad and too ridiculous a statement to deserve commentary - but let it be said that Western Royal Absolutism of King Louis XIV, Frederick the Great and Leopold I Habsburg was definitely not based on any Chinese examples. King Frederick read profusely and preferred French language over German- avoided German any time he could - but did that make him any less German ?? England replaced the strong kingship its self-confident Puritan elites destroyed with the undemocratic and all the more-so effective institution of the Cabinet [starting with PM Walpole] - making it into a deeply enlightened aristocratic dictatorship using the parliamentary window-dressing/process. That is why continental European parliamentary democracies that arose on the strength of a mere popular passion for an ideal of government always ended up so frustrated with England's role and support. Victoria misunderstands too much about European history and borrows way, way too much from jejune and misleading modern American misconceptions and disguised hatred for History to be able to match her ambitious title with actual 'proof in the pudding.'

What Victoria also failed to mention and compare in her significant analysis of the discovered QIN LAW book is how it relates to King William's 'Domesday Book' that allowed Normans to rule the carved-out English booty of Hastings victory [which, although not homologically comparable, is certainly quite significantly functionally-related to Qin Law]. A missed opportunity!!

I see nothing but greatness and a sense of need to protect the sacred dignity of the State in Li Si's instruction to the Qin ruler to suppress the schools of opposition, one ought to at least see that side of the story EVEN IF ONE DISAPPROVES OF IT.

She also has not understood that the word 'oppression' only holds meaning for intellectuals - and that for the people of the land, free from the city-life - which in itself is always a form of oppression regardless of what political system runs it - has no meaning. The Chinese peasant ultimately accepted any ruler in the last 2000 years - because life has to go on.

Her biggest mistake is, and the one all such simplifiers of history make [although she made her subject infinitely more complex through her interruptive style similar to a typical modern American graduate student's treatment], is that her analysis never begins from the FACT but proceeds from theory, a perception, a quote or a notion she yearns to prove through quotes and some conjecture.

I recommend the 1939 book "On the Writing of History" by the famous old-school Oxford military Historian Sir Charles Oman - if that book is carefully read - one would understand the scholastic backing for my criticism. I do not need to start from Spengler's postulates, his significant conclusions were supported by the myriad quality works of History by other historians from that 'golden era' of History-writing a 100 years ago. It is very sad to see how superficial and how pusillanimous is all that load of writing out there rooted in American Political Science on theoretical steroids.

I think the best pages in her book are those from page 98 to page 108 - here she clearly pinpointed the subject matter she is familiar with and has some significant feelings for and consequently she quotes far less from of her sources that are bad than in other parts of the book. She quotes Darwin (the leftover Marx, the Marx of Biology) as her authority on inter-state relations. No comment.

Her book is mostly a nightmare to read because it is such a tightly woven chain of petty causes and effects. Her book is thus not a piece of history-writing but a piece of natural, or mostly political, science.

Overall, this book enticed me to buy it because it offered hope that there would be a first-ever serious modern historiographical attempt at functionally and homologicaly comparing two related but separate humanities, the Chinese and the Western one through the mirrors of their respective historical forms - only to find that the book does not measure up to that high ideal.
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