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By Gary Hamilton

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Additional resources for Commerce and Capitalism in Chinese Societies: The Organisation of Chinese Economics

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Polanyi’s thesis is an early schematic version of the one that Wallerstein later historicized. To assist his efforts to write the historical narrative of the rise of the global self-sustaining market, Wallerstein drew heavily on the work of a second scholar, Fernand Braudel. Braudel himself provides an equally ambitious attempt to link Western civilization to world capitalism. In two gigantic studies, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II ([1966] 1976) and Civilization and Capitalism: 15th and 18th Century ([1979] 1984), Braudel addresses the historical causes of the capitalist transformation in Western Europe.

With the Copernican Revolution, the same logic spread gradually to everyday truths about the secular world. One of the earliest and greatest works of the era, Descartes’s Discourse on Method, provided a reasoned, technique-driven, step-by-step procedure to discover the truth. 20 In practical terms, in fact, they had less access, because they lacked the necessary scientific expertise. Rather suddenly (at least in historical time), the charisma that had attached so firmly to the offices of religious and secular rulers became generalized to all believers and all thinkers, so that each person had a self to save and a mind to reason.

God was still in his heaven. But as time went on, that, too, began to change. By the time of the Enlightenment and Adam Smith, God had been subtly replaced by Nature and natural laws. Civilizations and the organization of economies 41 Philosophers debated whether there was a deistic god or not, a god that put the world in motion and then left it there, but they did not debate about the existence of a transcendental plane of reality. A belief in science and a cosmology rooted in scientism eased God and all his companions out of the picture while at the same time retaining the entire transcendental plane of absolute truth intact.

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