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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Andre Gunder Frank's Magnum Opus
"ReORIENT" is a fairly silly title perhaps, but behind this lurks German economic historian André Gunder Frank's magnum opus, the last major (re)statement of his refutation of Eurocentrism in his field and the rehabilitation of Asian wealth and development historically (Frank unfortunately died a few years ago). Written in an now and then dry but usually lively...
Published on 11 May 2009 by M. A. Krul

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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some fine research but ultimately not convincing
Some of Frank's research is quite brilliant, the details of Asian technology of the time, the trading networks and the vibrant economy is fascinating and focus on this subject is long over due. Janet Abu-Lughod's book, Before European Hegemony: The World System AD 1250-1350 covered an earlier period but Frank builds a very good case for the idea that in the years...
Published on 27 Feb 2007 by mark ayers


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Andre Gunder Frank's Magnum Opus, 11 May 2009
By 
M. A. Krul (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: ReORIENT: Global Economy in the Asian Age (Paperback)
"ReORIENT" is a fairly silly title perhaps, but behind this lurks German economic historian André Gunder Frank's magnum opus, the last major (re)statement of his refutation of Eurocentrism in his field and the rehabilitation of Asian wealth and development historically (Frank unfortunately died a few years ago). Written in an now and then dry but usually lively manner, Frank's book veers between the purely analytical and cautious and the passionate and polemical. This combination gives otherwise possibly dull matter a tempo and tension that should make it well worth reading for more than just specialists.

Frank's main thesis is the by now increasingly, if still far insufficiently, acknowledged fact that Europe was ahead neither in technological development nor in wealth nor in military power in the days of the Columbian conquests of the Americas. Contrary to this popular belief, Europe was in fact for the most part behind in all these factors until roughly 1750-1800. Frank establishes this thesis, which he shares with other major writers against Eurocentrism such as James Blaut, Jack Goody, Eric Wolf and so forth, with much statistical support and excellence and a strong sense of indignation, carrying the reader along through thorough analysis of Asian trading patterns, reports of Portuguese sailors, methodological discussions and much more. In this, Frank not only argues against the received opinion, still taught in practically every high school history class, that Europe was dominant in the world from the Middle Ages on (if not earlier), but also against colleagues in heterodoxy whom he accuses of still ceding too much ground to a Eurocentric, Euro-endogenous view of the origin of the Industrial Revolution, among whom are giants like Wallerstein and Braudel.

Overall, the book is very closely and strongly argued and it will be hard to find fault with any of the analysis if one has an open mind and is willing to have received opinions changed by the facts. Nonetheless, some criticisms can be made. The first is that Frank has a tendency to go off on tangents and has trouble keeping the structure of the book together, leading to oddities such as an almost impassably long chapter on mostly Chinese coinage, which detracts from the flow of the argument. The second is that where he correctly attacks the Eurocentric mistakes made by the usually also very heterodox ideas in these fields of Marx and his supporters, he goes overboard in this in wanting to reject the idea of 'capitalism' and 'feudalism' altogether, which is not helpful, and leads himself to remove all useful analysis of production and classes from his historical overview. This in turn leads to the major error in his approach, which is the excessive focus on trade, particularly foreign trade, as vehicle for historical change. The third is that Frank seems to want to put much stock instead into the independent power of cyclical phenomena in economics such as the Kondratieff cycle; surely an interesting phenomenon but not one that can be taken as causative on its own without losing the scientific method in political economy altogether. The fourth is the focus on Asia, which comes almost entirely at the expense of focus on Africa, and to a lesser degree the Americas.

Nonetheless, this book also contains all that is the best of André Gunder Frank, such as his immense knowledge, his courage in rejecting and questioning received opinion, his effectiveness in refuting Eurocentrism, and his strong ability to make much use of what is often little or confused historical-statistical information. For these reasons, this book is a masterpiece that belongs in any intellectual library.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ReORIENT redefines world history, 11 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: ReORIENT: Global Economy in the Asian Age (Paperback)
Andre Gunder Frank challenges us to thoroughly reevaluate our understanding of the world economy between 1400-1800, and provides us with enough evidence to command a reorientation of our perspective on this period. Gunder Frank's ReOrient will prove an instant classic, rating among those great books that come along once in a generation, such as with Arnold Toynbee's The Study of History, William McNeill's The Rise of the West, and Immanuel Wallerstein's The World-System as seminal works in world history. For scholars researching the onset of industrialism and the West's eventual dominance, they will be introduced to a whole new set of questions found in neither Marx nor Weber that require exploration if they are to plumb the depths of this historical terrain. Political Science, History, Sociology, and Economics professors should place ReOrient at the center of their class reading lists for courses in political economy and world history. Secondary Education teachers will find their world history teaching revolutionized by ReOrient's important thesis on the centrality of Asia in the global economy between 1400-1800. This book will give world history a research agenda for a generation. Original, contentious, challenging, yet accessible, this is Frank at his best. Agree or disagree with his thesis, if you don't know it, for the next generation you won't be able to knowledgeably discuss world history. Don't miss it!
Jeffrey Sommers, World History Center
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some fine research but ultimately not convincing, 27 Feb 2007
This review is from: ReORIENT: Global Economy in the Asian Age (Paperback)
Some of Frank's research is quite brilliant, the details of Asian technology of the time, the trading networks and the vibrant economy is fascinating and focus on this subject is long over due. Janet Abu-Lughod's book, Before European Hegemony: The World System AD 1250-1350 covered an earlier period but Frank builds a very good case for the idea that in the years 1400-1800 the centre of the worlds economy was still in Asia. Interestingly he cites scholars of the time like Adam Smith who expresed the same belief in no uncertain terms.

Yet Frank's thesis which is based on Europeans buying a ticket on the Asian train merely by utilizing American Silver is unconvincing. Adam Smith also had a theory about international trade that destroys the idea. Frank labels China and other Asian countries as winners as they accumulated silver but Smith would have seen this as short sided mercantilism. Smith's logic can be used to argue the opposite case, Europeans were the winners as they gained real goods whilst Asians merely stockpiled silver. Frank is correct to say that this was not merely hoarded, it was used as part of the domestic money supply. Had China's paper currency not collapsed in the fifteenth century none of this would have been necessary but it in the years 1400-1800 it was Europeans who solved the problem of freeing their economies from a dependency on precious metals. In the 19th century bills of credit written in London would traverse the ports of Asia. It was this innovation rather than simply discovering a fresh supply of silver that lead to European domination of the Asian economy - a reality still reflected today in the amount of US Treasury Bills that Asian countries hold.

On its own, having an acess to a supply of silver does not make a nation an economic power, afterall it was the Spanish that discovered American silver but it served no long term economic purpose for them despite importing shiploads into europe in the 16th century they ended up indebted to Genoese bankers who understood finance. It was the canny English and Dutch that eventually dominated the Asian trade. They did so as they developed innovative financial methods such as Bills of Exchange & Fractional Reserve Banking that made optimum use of the silver and gold.

The weakness of the book is that it utterly fails to explain European successes in Asia. Frank's idea that Europeans merely took advantage of an Asian decline is unconvincing mainly beause its based on the pseudo scientific concepts like Kondratieff cycles. It doesn't really scratch the surface of how the East India Company managed to take over Bengal and eventually most of India. As Frank (and Adam Smith) points out Bengal was a wealthy country, probably wealthier than Britain. Yet this only serves to make the British achievement even more remarkable. Their misrule in Bengal was a human tragedy where millions died but the fact that the Bengalese did not rebel and overthrow the government of a nation ten thousands miles adrift is also notable. Frank's theory utterly fails to account for these factors.

He is also remarkably dismissive of Europe's scientific revolution especially a sneering remark that Newton believed in alchemy, a somewhat churlish point when considering the great mans other achievments. He builds a case that European science did not have an impact on new technology until the nineteenth century that is credible but again it seems churlish given the massive impact that steam, the railways, electricty, the telegraph etc had in that century. The mere existence of these inventions completely destroy's Franks idea that there was no European exceptionalism and to claim so is 'Eurocentric'. Frank appears to have a bee in his bonnet about 'eurocentricism', by the end of the book I was sick and tired of hearing the word especially his rather childish condemnations of various others who had committed this sin. He may not follow Marx's analysis of the Asian economy but he still sounds like a bitter old Marxist ready to denounce ideological opponents. It reminded me of all the nonsense about Dead White European Males that gripped academia briefly. Its one thing to herald the achievements of Asian countries but not at the expense of traducing European achievements which were by any rational analysis exceptional. This was good read but spoiled by overzealousness for all things Asian, Asiacentric perhaps? I far preferred the more measured and balanced approach of Janet Abu-Lughod
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ReORIENT: Global Economy in the Asian Age
ReORIENT: Global Economy in the Asian Age by Andre Gunder Frank (Paperback - 21 July 1998)
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