The threat of transferred products

European products are not just material goods, but also embodiments of a worldview that is transferred along with the product.

Ross believes that objects have both a material and a metaphysical quality—a European Weltanschauung adheres to European commodities. Where colonial subjects and non-Europeans begin to acquire and use European goods, some aspect of the European Weltanschauung will transfer to the subject and change his own worldview. In time, the colonized will take on a European identity, which will likely cause them to challenge white domination.  

But, knowing that European industry was unlikely to halt its exports, Ross mitigated this risk by introducing the element of time: the process might be too slow, the distance between self and other too large to be of much concern for Europe today: “The spread of Europeanization’s brushfire across the Earth is just external, merely the adoption of European civilization. Colored people who wear European clothes, live in European houses, and drive European cars think that its spirit adheres to the machine, and that they will become more European over time. But that is a process that is still in its earliest infancy…”

But in the referenced chapter Ross considers the westernization of Japan and comes to a different conclusion:

“Originally, those who called for Japan’s Europeanization likely intended to adopt it as something external, only as a means of fighting the West with its own weapons, while keeping the Japanese culture basically intact and the Japanese soul unaffected. If you have ever witnessed the disparately greater spiritual equilibrium of the East Asians—as contrasted with the European—, his calmness, his self-mastery, in other words, his incomparably greater mental power and control, this wish is completely understandable. But in Japan, it was shown that the machine can’t be misused any more than the sword. With European clothing, European machines, and European working methods came the spirit of the West, with all of its disquiet, its inner conflicts, its mental and physical stress, and its revolutions—they came into the Far Eastern island empire, which had previously been so spiritually fulfilled. […] Now Japan is coming more and more into a spiritual and mental state from which there is no return to its former cultural practices and ways of life”.

Kristin Kopp

Colin Ross. Die Rassenfragen und Kolonialprobleme Afrikas. In: Die Welt auf der Waage: Der Querschnitt von 20 Jahren Weltreise. 29. Aufl. Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus; 1937 [1929]; 38-45.

Topic: Colonialism
Case: Geopolitics

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