MODERNITIES COMPARED: STATE TRANSFORMATIONS AND CONSTITUTIONS OF PROPERTY IN THE QING AND OTTOMAN EMPIRES HURI ISLAMOGLU Bo � aziçi University Modernity has long been the preserve of Europe. Social science per- spectives on modernization that have shaped the categories of histori- cal analysis since the nineteenth century have excluded the Ottoman and the Chinese empires from mappings of modernity.' Instead, the two empires are designated as part of an undifferentiated and ahistorical domain of the East, characterized by what it lacks: individual owner- ship of property, rational organization of market activity, and rational bureaucratic forms of government. This construct of the East provides a contrast to an equally abstract domain of the West (including west- ern Europe and its extensions in the United States) privileged with the presence of modern forms. This high drama of absences and presences of idealized properties has been instrumental in legitimating European domination of the East. The notion of oriental despotism has been a central feature of that legitimation.' In Asia it facilitated the setting up of colonial administrations that could be identified as rational and bureau- cratic, as opposed to the arbitrary rule of the despot and the constraints that such rule
Journal of Early Modern History – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2001
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