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Diffusionism: A Uniformitarian Critique Author(s): J. M. Blaut Reviewed work(s): Source: Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol.

77, No. 1 (Mar., 1987), pp. 30-47 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Association of American Geographers Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2569200 . Accessed: 13/03/2012 20:11
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A Diffusionism: Uniformitarian Critique

J. M. Blaut of Department Geography, of University Illinoisat Chicago, Chicago, IL 60680

is diffusion accountsfornearly Abstract. Diffusionism assumesthat(1) inventiveness rareand therefore and thusare more loci all significant culturechange and (2) certainplaces are permanent of invention and innovativeness are thanotherplaces. If, however,inventiveness advanced and more progressive diffusion processesgain assumedto be uniformly different spatialmodelsemerge,different distributed, diffusion-of-innovation theory become evident,and new hypotheses salience, inadequacies of current of puts aboutbroad-scaleculture change are uncovered.This paperexaminesthestructure diffusionism, and to diffusion-of-inforward nondiffusionist a alternative structure, employsthe alternative modify for and present-day rural novationtheory and to argue five nondiffusionist hypotheses culturehistory development. change, invention, innovation, cultural evolution,technological Key Words: diffusion, diffusionism, colonialism,uniformitarianism.

is a way of looking the 1979, 164-71), and opposingviewpointsgained at worldthat longinfluenced has in thinking ge- favor,particularly among those culturalanthrowho defended ography social thought. classical form and Its was pologistsand cultural geographers of describedby Malinowski(1927, 31) as the belief the integrity folkcultureand who understood and rational "thatculture can be contracted (see, e.g., onlyby contagion "tradition"to be dynamic retained heits and thatman is an imitative animal." In other Kniffen1965). But Eurocentrism words, culture change does not arise autono- gemonyover mostsocial thought, the "folkand it remained essence a concept in mously mosthuman in communities: comesfrom urbancontinuum" without, via diffusion. But diffusion itselfmust of one-waydiffusion. have a source, and classical diffusionism Diffusionism has become reinvigorated, pripostubecause itfitswiththestancethatprogress latedthatsome places are permanent, natural cen- marily tersof creativity invention. and Even theopponents for the Third World consists in accepting the of classical diffusionism tendedto acceptitsmain "'modernizing" diffusion multinational of capitalproposition thatEurope is the world's source of ism and the material traits, ideas, and sociopolitculturally significant innovations. ical behaviorassociatedwithit. The ideologyof Classical diffusionism strongly was has though not modernization receivedconsiderable scientific have associateditwith thoroughly criticized.Its most salient form,the criticism, some writers and "'extreme that diffusionism" attributed almostall diffusionism (e.g., Blaikie 1978; Blaut 1970, 1977; cultural and originsto diffusion claimedto finda Brookfield 1975; Chilcote1984; Frank1969). But fountainhead civilization for in single (see, e.g., Smith diffusionism its modernformhas not as yet describedand criticized, 1933) was fairlydisposed of (see Childe 1951; been systematically nor Harris 1968; Kroeber 1937; Leaf 1979; Lowie has the full extentof its influencebeen recog1937). A few geographersand anthropologists nized. In thispaperI describediffusionism outline continued acceptparts thedoctrine, to of and however, such as theclaim thatNew Worldcultures not an alternative a did about structure, way of theorizing invent agriculture othercivilizinginnovations culturechange thattakes account of spatial difand on theirown but receivedthemvia transoceanic fusionbut does not succumb to diffusionism. I diffusion (Carter1968; Edmonson1961). The view also arguethatthe nondiffusionist alternative has that mostcultures mostpeople are uninventive usefulimplications a wide rangeof geographic for and was attacked Radin(1965) and others by (see Leaf theories.I suggestsome ways to eliminate diffuof Anniials the Association of American Geographers, 77( 1). 1987. pp. 30-47


?DCopyright 1987by Association American ol Gcographers


Diffusionism sionismfromthe partof spatial diffusion theory that relates agricultural to development theThird in World,and I look at a fewof thelarger problems in historical geography whichan explicitly in nondiffusionist approachcan be helpful.The project as a whole is best describedas a critiqueof diffusionism, it is a schematic but critique limited by the space available in a journal article.In particdiffusionist ular,I do notcriticize writings except wherethiscannotbe avoided in the contextof a theoretical argument, I say little and aboutthehisin or toryof diffusionism geography in general.


Structureof Diffusionism
Diffusionism a large and complex doctrine is that influenced has manydisciplines countless and for arguments the past 150 years or so. The essentialstructure diffusionism quite simple. of is Fromtwo axiomatic propositions constructs it two interchangeable landscapes, a two-sector one space, the othera space witha continuous gradient between two poles. Finally, it describesthe properties thetwo sectorsand of thetwopoles (plus of gradations between)and thetransactions flow that in bothdirections, witha set of elementary arguments,six of which are crucial and will be discussed here. Assume a landscape withmanycommunities. social space at any scale, e.g., a settlement a or culture region.)A novel trait appearsin one community. Later,the same trait appears in a second either incommunity.The second community ventedthetrait itself(a case of whatis called for the or independent invention) acquireditfrom first Thereafter the community case of diffusion). (a and trait appearsin othercommunities, each new instanceof appearanceis explained as a further invention diffusion. farso good. or So independent But supposenow thatwe wishto predict where in thislandscapesome othernovel trait will make its initialappearance.Is it reasonableto suppose trait will that community invented first the that the invent subsequent all traits well? This wouldbe as obtained: likelyonlyiftwoadditional assumptions is thanis (1) therole of diffusion moreimportant is inventhat independent of invention (there little tiveness thislandscape);and (2) thecommunity in has thatinvented first the trait a greater capability of traits thando the othercommunities inventing in general. If both these assumptions hold true, then trait inventions shouldcome from subsequent
(I use the word communityto designate a discrete

thisone community, whichthusbecomesthepermanent center invention innovation this for and for landscape; thereafter, appearanceof new inthe in novations elsewhere thelandscapewouldbe the result a diffusion of processoriginating our sinin gle inventive community. This belief- that changesare producedby difthan(ordinarily) independent infusionrather by vention and thatcertain places are the permanent centersof innovation is diffusionism. Diffusionismat the worldscale usuallyconsidersEurope or the West to be the permanent centerof invention and innovation, although thisgeneralizationneedsto be qualifiedas to historical epoch. (Classical diffusionistsconceived the center, "civilization," to be Europe or northwestern Eu"theLandsoftheWhite Race." ropeor,for racists, Moderndiffusionists to view thecenter the tend as developedcapitalist countries, Japanhavingbeen recently admitted the centralsector,which is to stillcalled "the West" in line withdiffusionism's of and theory history culture.) theregional At scale diffusionism considersthepartof a regionthatis most "Europeanized," "Westernized," "modernized," or "cosmopolitan," and perhapsmost "progressive," "innovative," or "rational," to be the centerof invention and innovation. Innovations thenspreadbydiffusion the"traditional to areas," the "folk societies," the "backward reNotetheimplication the that gions," and so forth. centeris always more advanced than permanent the otherpartsof the region(or of the world) as thatare adopted it is always emitting innovations often this onlylaterelsewhere.Diffusionists carry matter comparative of levels of develsynchronic one stepfurther: societiesmostdistant the opment fromthe centerare the most backwardand the mostancient; are of they sometimes thought as the ancestors"of the societiesat the "contemporary to center,as though traveloutwardin space is to is travelbackwardin time. Thus diffusionism in a double sense elitist:the centeris at all times and moreprogressive thanis the periphery, it is at all timesmore advanced, thatis to say, more civilized.The classicalposition was enunciated by Ratzel (1896, 179): "How muchmorethe intercourse betweenlands and islandshas contributed of to the enrichment men's stockof culturethan

of seems . . . correctto creditthe intellect 'natin ural races' withgreatsterility all thatdoes not touchthe most immediate objects of life." Here are that explicitly thetwodiffusionists assumptions invention rareand thatmostpeoples are uninis



. ...



Blaut myth emptiness of also asserts actualemptiness an ofthelandscape:there wereno indigenous people, or their population negligibly was small(and sparse enoughto allow unimpeded settlement foreignby ers), or theywere "nomads" and thushad no real claim to land, resources,and territorial sovereignty. (4) The predominant formof interaction betweencore and periphery theoutward is diffusion of progressiveideas, intangibleintellectual and moralproducts the reflecting core culture'srationIn alityand inventiveness. classical diffusionism this is seen as the spread of "civilization" and todayas thespreadof "modernization."This cenis trifugal diffusion not reallyexplained;it is asthe sumed, rather, reflect automaticworkings to of whatcan be called (witha nod to Malinowski) of theprinciple ideological contagion: certain ideas diffuse no reasonother for thantheir innateinfectiousnessand the inherent susceptibility-inthis case, the imitativeness-ofthe recipients. Again thereis a variant settler for colonies: theprogressive ideas are distributed theirbearers.Clasby sical and modern diffusionism(see the brief historical discussionbelow) differ the formuin lation of this argument. The classical argument tended emphasize mass migrations to (Adams,Van of Gerven,and Levy 1978) and the transfer culand culture tures complexes.Moderndiffusionism tendsto assertthatdiffusion proceeds"fromperto son to person, ratherthan fromcommunity or community fromcultureto culture" (Rouse on 1961, 96, commenting Edmonson 1961), reducingcultural processto thelevel of individuals, who are thought be adoptingnew ideas freely to of (the myth "voluntarism")and as a reflection mainlyof cognitiveprocesses and interpersonal communication (Blaut 1977). of (5) Thereis a counterdiffusionmaterial things like raw materials, from to periphery core, things plantationproducts, art objects, and workers. saw Classical diffusionism this as one side of a embodied in colonialism: magrandtransaction terialwealthin partialrepayment-itcould never be fullrepayment-for civilization. (6) There is a second kindof counterdiffusion of the to from periphery core, consisting precisely is oppositeof civilization.Because the periphery by definition archaic, it is the locus of atavistic traits to thatseep back intothecore according the of principle ideologicalcontagion.

ventive, hereimplicitly doubleelitism: and the the "naturalraces" are backward and theyare unprogressive. Today "natural races" would be replaced by "traditional cultures." The elementary structure diffusionism a of is two-sector space at any geographicalscale and historicaldepth. Six arguments (possibly more) describe the properties each sector and the of transactions betweenthem. These six arguments are developedfromthe two basic diffusionist assumptions and are elaborated,in turn,intomore In complex and specificpropositions. some contextsof discoursediffusionism describesa simple two-sectorworld with a boundarybetweenthe sectors. In othercontextsit depictsa space with small gradational changes, such thatthe six arguments describe smalland local differences: e.g., more innovative and less innovative, moretraditionaland less traditional. further A qualification mustbe made to distinguish arguments the the of classical and modern forms diffusionism of (about whichmorewill be said shortly). brevity, For the discussionwill focuson theworldscale, contrasting a "core" sectorand a "periphery,"and on theclassical form thearguments, follows: as of (1) Progressive culture change thattakesplace in thecore sectoris autonomous; that itreflects is, inventions occurring within core, and it owes the to nothing important theperiphery. forceor cause of inventive(2) The underlying ness in the core sectoris some psychologicalor factorsuch as rationality spiritual (Weber 1904inventiveness White1962), 05), technological (L. imaginativeness(as opposed to imitativeness) mind(Sack 1980 (Tarde 1903), a logicaltheoretical fide Levy-Bruhl 1966), or "Western economic
man" (Chisholm 1982).

is sector or (3) The periphery the traditional "traditional world," "tradition"herehavingtwo meanings:low level of civilizationand low rate of change.Therefore, allowingforexceptions (like the archaic Asian civilizations thatrose but then culturechange in the pestagnated), progressive is to riphery not autonomousbut is attributable about a diffusion fromthe center.The argument "traditional when it sector" takes a special form is appliedto settlement theperiphery people of by from core. Whatis invokedherecan be called the the "mythof emptiness."The idea of tradition as is used in diffusionism basically an idea of absence-of-qualities. Usually the missingqualities Embeddedin theforegoing a number imare of are psychological(e.g., "rationality")or instituthat distinguish core frompe"the state"). The portant contrasts tional(e.g., "privateproperty,"



ripheryin classical diffusionistethnoscience: concernto Cold War strategists, sought(not who inventiveness/imitativeness, rationality/irrationalalways successfully)to keep these states from ity, intellect/emotion intellect/instinct), (or ab- turning socialism. Both interests to requiredthe stract thought/concretethought, theoretical creation scientific of form and validation a modern reasoning/empirical (practical) reasoning,mind/ of thediffusionist model,a bodyof ideas thathad sane/in- to persuadethenow-sovereign body, discipline/spontaneity, adult/child, ThirdWorldstates consisted sane, and science/sorcery. thateconomic and social advancement from the in acquiring so-calledmodernizing traits developed capitalistcountries traitsincluding spread by corporations, Functionsand Historyof Diffusionism penetration multinational and consumption, acof commodity production The diffusionist capital, milworld model became explicit, ceptanceof and relianceon external under- itary equipment, and personnel, and so on. powerful,and important the scientific as of emerged Advancementalso required the suppressionof pinning colonialism.Its classical form soon afterthe Napoleonic period and flourished forces that would inhibitdiffusion by, for ineconomies, encouruntilaboutthetimeof WorldWar 1.1 Colonialism stance, buildingself-reliant itselfwas of course a diffusion and socialcapital process among aginglabororganization, investing otherthings, classical diffusionism but imposeda in researchinstitutions ratherthan in diffusion theoretical into model over thereal processto exhibit agencies engaged in propelling traits foreign colonialismand thephenomena relatedto it (such thecountryside Blaikie1978;Blaut1973, 1977; (see as theinternal characteristics thecolonized so- Browett1980; Chilcote 1984; Frank 1969; Yapa of to cieties)in waysthat wouldconform theinterests 1977, 1980; Yapa and Mayfield1978). of thecolonizingsocietiesand of theelite groups As with classical diffusionism, moderndiffuwithinthemthatbenefited directly fromcoloni- sionism as a world model needs to be distinas alism. Diffusionism demonstrated, it were sci- guished from actual diffusion processes and is entifically, that colonialism is normal, natural, agencies. Modern diffusionism a theoretical fromdeveloped couninevitable, and moral(thatis, a bestowalof civi- model in which diffusion tries ThirdWorldcountries to lization). (along withthepheto Classical diffusionism was appropriate the nomena related to it such as the internal of epoch in whichcapitalismwas expandingmainly characteristics the Third World societies) are scienby means of colonialism and relatedprocesses. depictedin such a way as to demonstrate, that is This epoch ended afterWorld War I, to be fol- tifically, diffusion theonlypossibleroad to to lowed by a period characterized a search for development, "modernization"(theModewort by is and therefore, stability, normalcy, peace, henceequilibrium, of moderndiffusionism). Diffusion, and characterized social thought models of still normal,natural,inevitable,and moral. And in by in witharguments not of expansive diffusion: Keyne- this is demonstrated grounded equilibrium, in and sian models in economics, regionalism geog- thetwo diffusionist assumptions six basic difModerndiffusionism if is, raphy, functionalism and relativism in fusionist propositions. and was in anything, more important our own time than in anthropology, the like. Diffusionism This was eclipse duringthis period, althoughsome diffu- classicaldiffusionism in thelastcentury. sionist schools (e.g., the Kulturkreislehreof is so because persuasionhas now replacednaked of force - though not everywhere- and the evident Graebnerand Schmidtand the migrationism and activeand naive failureof the diffusion process to produce real Huntington Taylor)remained diffusionism prevailedin children'sschool- development thusfarmeansthatevergreater emstill books(see Harris1968;Kroeber1937;Lowie 1937; phasis mustbe placed on theories thatproveconmustlead to development Voget 1975). clusivelythatdiffusion A new and modern form diffusionism of gained sooneror later. The foregoing discussion thestructure difof of afterWorld War II, in the periodof prominence "Third fusionism and its history and changingfunctions colonialempires an emerging and collapsing World" of underdeveloped but sovereigncoun- is of course schematicand incomplete.What is tries.These countries wereof greateconomicim- perhapsmostobviouslymissingis an explanation who today portance to capitalism in its new era of of the fact thatmost social scientists and were of equally greatpolitical putforward diffusionist ideas - all mustdo so to expansionism



one extent another are unawareof the dif- sionismbecause it seems to carrywithit the asor in I thatpeople in generalare imitative, not fusionism their (our) thinking. have addressed sumption thisproblem elsewhere(Blaut 1979, 2-6). inventive, that and ordinary people are stupid.But in fact,as I outlinebelow, it is not necessaryto give an important to independent role in invention order to build a nondiffusionist, uniformitarian A TheoreticalAlternative The critiqueof difschema fordiffusion theory. Let us return now to an abstract does not have to draw us intothe tralandscapeand fusionism and futile debateslabeled "diffusion a alternative dif- ditional often to beginto construct theoretical invention."Let us first assume fusionism.In factthereare at least two alterna- vs. independent invention indeedimportant is and independent tives, both of which eliminatethe diffusionist that that .takesus. assumption one place has moreinventiveness see wherethis thanall otherplaces. Instead we assume uniforIn thelimiting occurssimulcase, an invention a mitarianism thatall communities have equal taneouslyin all communities throughout landfor were, say, villages potential invention innovation, and regardless scape. If these communities of whether thelandscapeas a wholetheoverall not very distantfromone another,it would be for that unlikely all communities propensity inventis low or high. The original extremely to would acdoctrine called "uniformitarianism" was the quire a traitsimultaneously through independent (I methodological principle used by nineteenth-cen-invention. assume thatthe traitis in some desenseuseful thepopulation a whole.) for science to counter claims of theologians finable the as tury and others that similar forms acrossthe But if the communities were major culturerephysically earth'ssurfaceare to be explainedas unique in- gions,thenthescenerioof simultaneous indepenterventions God or theDevil (see Harris1968; dentinvention notnecessarily of is unrealistic. (Think, Voget 1975). Uniformitarianism asserted,in es- forinstance,of parallel responsesto widespread a epidemic,or invasion.) At a given time sence,that commonsetof physicallaws operates drought, and we everywhere, wherever findsimilarphysi- all places would lack the trait;at the end of a cal factswe shouldlook forsimilar interval places would possess thetrait. all causes defined physical and vice versa. A logicallyrelated a called The landscapewould thusgo through sequence doctrine, the principle the "psychic unityof mankind" of stages,each representing acquisition one the of of ("psychic" heremeaning"psychological"), was novel trait, and at each stagethelandscapewould used some decades laterto oppose thediffusionist be a uniform region. that invention to cannotbe inIt would obviouslybe morerealistic assume argument independent invoked to explain traitadoption by most of the thatdiffusion occurs along withindependent world's peoples because mostpeoples are not in- vention.(Nobody has ever questionedthe signifthe of its ventive.Underlying principle psychicunity icanceof diffusion, merely claimto hegemony.) was the simpleproposition thatall humanbeings In thiscase, the first novel trait would appear in sharethe same basic psychological attributes and a numberof communities randomlydistributed capabilities(Harris 1968; Koepping 1983; Lowie across the landscape, and the traitwould spread them.The subcall to the communities surrounding 1937). We can take thispartof the doctrine, it "psychological uniformitarianism" simply sequent diffusion or process would not necessarily and, and "uniformitarianism," defineit for our pur- lead to spatial differentiation, aftera given wouldagain we number defined of the pose as follows: in all human communities intervals, region shouldexpectto findthe same capacityforcrea- be uniform, havingchanged statefromtraitabtionand invention; henceinvention innovation sence to traitpresence. We can complicatethe and thatnew innovations apare should have an equal probability occurring of in processby assuming are all places. Note thatwhat we are assuminghere pearingwhile thepriorinnovations diffusing. is notuniformity equality,and recallthatdif- The overall picturewould remainone in which but diffusion fusionism assumes inequality. playsa role, yetno partof thelandscape A uniformitarian that landscapecan changein either acquirescharacteristics are not also acquired of two ways, depending whether choose to by all otherparts. on we in that Next assume a situation which independent retainor discardthe diffusionist assumption is in- invention diffusion more important thanindependent playsonlya minor role,a case thatmay is vention because invention rare.This assumption have been overlookedin the classical arguments Here a traitis inventedin has tendedto be rejectedby opponents diffu- againstdiffusionism. of



variationin diffuses other landscape. If thereis environmental to one community subsequently and modifications wouldmost communities. thispointwe maypause to con- thelandscape,then At trait of sider the properties what I have been calling likely where contexts occurin thoseenvironmental in of change theoriginal trait provesleastuseful.Hence itmight "traits." One problem studies culture has be thatthe farther goes fromthe originating and by anthropologists culturalgeographers one is that the been the difficulty isolatinga singleempirical community, greater theprobability the of will be modified. Nonetheless, are safe if we event of the sortcalled a "culturetrait." Every trait in traits. we merelyassume randomness the process of made up of component traitis in principle This scenarioagain producesa unipoint modification. Sometimeswe do reach a definite limiting seems to be a partof a form region.2 below which everything It This is the base case foruniformitarianism. trait, whenwe are dealingwithfuncparticularly culture like bows, houses, deniesthatsome places or people are moreinventionalitemsof material is to and so on. But, in general,the efforts reduce tive thanothers,and it denies thatinnovation and rare. It assumes only the level of inventiveness culturesto "trait lists" provedunworkable, of the concept of "trait" remainedimprecise(see neededto producemodestmodifications existnot It Harris1968, 376-77; Leaf 1979, 167; Voget 1975, ingtraits. gives to diffusion, to independent change. the researchtendsto ig- invention, maincausal role in culture 372-82). Modern diffusion is from nore thisissue and to employwhatcan be called But this kind of diffusion verydifferent of It the "patentoffice" notion(or the "commodity" thediffusion diffusionism. producesspatially or a trait,the uniform randomlyvarying notion) of what constitutes diffusing .changes,not the of and up notionthatit is in some ontologicalsense whole building ofcenters invention innovation. away from evolving the and different anyexisting from trait. thepresent It thusdrawsourattention In what I have debit pattern a spreading diffusion, to of discussiona traitrefers any distinguishable phase in a or qualityof culture, whether not it is ontolog- scribedelsewhereas the transitional or ically object-like,holistic,of systemic.It must, diffusion process(Blaut 1977), and towarddifferbe put however, invented, to use as an innovation, entkindsof problems. and thendiffused other communities. Defining to traitin thisway has some interesting implications. The invention diffusion definite, whole, Diffusion and of Processes in is recognizable things muchless significant the seven diffusion or We can now identify processes real world than is the additionby invention or approach modifications, ad- thatbecome salientin a uniformitarian diffusion improvements, of theory. aptationsmade to alreadyexistingpieces of cul- to diffusion In landscape 1. Cellular diffusion. a theoretical ture. Though well known, this has surprising in intowhichwe have not introduced empirical invented any implications. Consideragain the trait one community and thendiffused others.Let basis for spatial differentiation to (such as hill-valcoreafterac- ley, town-country, sovereignstate-colony, us assume thatsome othercommunity, or this is periphery) in which it cannot be assumed a modifiesit. Generically, quiringthe trait, will suchempirical differences produce that invention, thoughmodestmodifica- priori independent and diffusion The now- spatial variationsin the invention tions mightnot be called inventions. and diffuthe of trait modified appearsin thelandscapeand begins patterns, effects bothinvention region.This is because, to diffusein its own right.Later a new modifi- sionwill lead to a uniform will occur in ranand as we have seen, inventions cation is made by one of the communities, will communities diffusion and As- domlydistributed thenow twice-modified beginsto diffuse. trait to of tendency move in one direction sume that a sizable proportion the diffusion have no greater eventsin thelandscapeconsistof theemissionof than another.Thus in the real world we would from one state the to changing in as region traits a modified form, compared theform have a uniform levels of aggreas received adopted. to another a whole. At higher in which wereoriginally and they of All of thisis going on simultaneously throughout gationwe wouldhave a pattern cellularregions, and separatedfromall othersby a each uniform the landscape, in a processthatcan be called diffusions not do I will define the term more preciselylater defined thefactthat boundary by diffusion." continue assumethat cross it withina definedepoch. In this situation We to "crisscross would no longerinof each invention and theproblem majorinterest the communities thatinitiate fromtraitabsence to are across the volve the spatial transition modification randomly distributed



will be generated, traitpresencebut would relate to why the trait ifications transmitted, reand eitherdoes or does not diffusein the region and ceived frequently will diffuse quickly.At all problemsthusof entry conditionsand boundary timesnovel traitswill be crisscrossing landthe breaching betweenregions(Blaut 1977, 349). All scape. For large cultural transformations the like of thismay be called "cellular diffusion." NeolithicRevolution and the transition fromfeu2. Ultra-rapid diffusion. Considerthreecases: dalism to capitalism,the effect crisscrossdifof a would be simultaneous (1) a traitdiffusesthrough region with great fusion changesthroughout diffuses at a landscape as a whole. Consider a landscape rapidity almostinstantly; a trait (2) some moderate, measurablerate; (3) a trait does composedofjust twocommunities, and 2. Com1 in notdiffuse the regionat all. Cases (1) and (3) munity1 inventsa traitor modifiesan existing 2 have receivedlittleattention ThirdWorldrural trait.The invention in reachescommunity by dif2 of contexts(but see Blaut 1977, 345-47; Yapa and fusion.Community adds a modification its to Mayfield1978). 1 think neglectof bothcases own, whichthendiffuses community which the 1, of another modreflects, part,an unperceived in influence dif- mayat thesame timebe transmitting fusionism, specifically assumption its thatpeople ificationto 2. Both communitiesare simultaare not veryinnovative inventing, and novel transmitting, receiving (Bowen-Jones1981, 79- neously whichthusare crisscrossing space bethe 82; Chisholm 1982, 155-63) and thatchangere- traits, flectsthearrivalof traits diffused from elsewhere tween them, and both communitiesare going (Lentnek 1969; 1971, 163; Hoyle 1974,5). A large through orderedsequence of changessimultaan diffusionist has mythology been builtup on the neously. If the bundleof noveltiesadds up to a basis of "extensionism"in ruralsociology(Rog- majorcultural a "revolution,"we transformation, ers 1962) and "modernization"theory elsewhere cannotsay thattherevolution in started one comand diffused the other:it occurredin to (McClelland 1961; Foster 1962; Hagen 1962) to munity support idea thatThirdWorldpeople can be bothsumultaneously. the same scenarioin a the For made on empiricalevidence thatdiffusion tends landscapewithmanycommunities, would not we or to proceedeither remarkably rapidly notat all. be able to pointto one place as thesourceor hearth If a trait information-dependent, is patently of the revolution describeotherplaces as reis ifit and If we such a useful, and if resourcesto adopt it are present, cipients-by-diffusion. were studying thenit will diffuse we nearlyat the rate information transformation empirically, would assumethat in in spreads. This is almost instantaneously most the entirelandscape participated the transforsocial systems, unlessinformation a commodity mationby crisscross is diffusion unless.we were to or is held oligopolistically power groupsand uncoverempirical evidenceto thecontrary. by not allowed to diffuse(see Blaikie 1978; Blaut 4-6. Dependent,disguised, and phantomdif1977). If humanbeings are highlyinventive and fusion. Diffusionism, notedpreviously, as asserts proneto receiveand transmit innovations ideas and theirconsequencesrapidly, thatprogressive trait diffusion notinhibited extraneous if forces civilization, by modernization, development flow or shouldproceedat rates from developedcapitalist"core" to the more the (e.g., economic political) so rapid perhapsthatmodelingthe transition is backwardand slowly progressing "periphery." eitherimpossibleor uninteresting. the same Modern diffusionism, reasons discussed alfor By forces will often to token, however, inhibiting ready,strives show thatit is just thisspreading and in mostThirdWorld areas typically pre- of modern and ways thatcharacterizes knowledge of ventthe diffusion useful,development-induc- thepresent-day between merelationship capitalist from and ing innovations taking place at all. As to the tropolis ThirdWorldand strives argueconto intermediate case, of moderate, mod- vincingly receptivity flowsof all sortsfrom that to measurable, I is elable diffusion, will argue below that,at least the metropolis the only way forperipheral soin the ThirdWorld,cases of thissortusuallyre- cietiesto achievedevelopment "modernity." and flectprocesses otherthanthe autonomousdiffufrom is a concrete this modelin which Emerging sion of innovations.Note that this stop-or-go thereis assertedto be a steadyflow of informadiffusion diffusion none tion, "modern" social attitudes, wealth-genor and pattern ultra-rapid at all - is consistent withthecellularmodeldis- erating material likeproductive farm things inputs cussed previously. downfrom to This glissading metropolis periphery. 3. Crisscross diffusion.In a uniformitarianmodel has been deployedin one formor another will proceed rapidlyin the in a number studies,empirical of and theoretical, landscape, diffusion absence of inhibiting factors. Traitsor trait mod- and claims are made thatit has been empirically



validated (see e.g., Gould 1969; Rogersand Shoemaker1971; Pedersen1970; L. Brown 1981). in fact, it is merelyself-validating, because it fails to distinguish traits from generating development traits doingquitedifferent things, suchas increasing poverty and landlessness;in effect model the treatsall diffusing traitsas "modernizinginno" vations. The foregoing leads us to recognize three critique specificerroneous argument structures I will that referto respectively (4) dependent as diffusion, (5) disguised diffusion, and (6) phantomdiffusion. In dependent assumethediffusion diffusion, in the same space-time two traits, and y; y is of x on dependent x if the diffusion x is an autonof of omous process,explainablein terms a definite causal model, and if the diffusion y is wholly of explainedby thefactthatwherever findx we we tendto findy (forwhatever reason). Traity may covary spatiallywithx, or it may simplybe an attachment x. In such cases we to adventitious would be in error we explainedthediffusion if of an cause X witha model postulating autonomous of thediffusion. an example,consider case As the of a regionin whichthere a progressive is erosion of farmtenure, withfarms to tending slide down what is oftencalled the "tenure ladder," from farmownershipto tenancyto sharecropping to landlessnessand sale of labor. As tenure erodes, theremay well be a change in crops, productive inputs,and equipment.A novel crop may spread because itprovides same foodvalue on smaller the acreage. Anothermay spread because it can be in sold as a commodity pay rent to demanded cash. Another a crop,often "modern" export crop,may spreadbecause landlords forceitsgrowth share on tenantsand may spread even more dramatically when farmers have been evicted and the land is cultivated largeplantations. thesetwo cases in In and to (increasedsharecropping conversion plantationor "kulak" agriculture) oftenfind an we impressive diffusion intothe countryside agriof and expensive inputs. If we culturalmachinery were to claim here thatthereis an autonomous diffusion "modernizing" traits innovative of and thelike - we would be miscrops,tractors, taken:these are the y's, traits is whose diffusion on of dependent thediffusion x, in thiscase landlordism.Yet diffusion makethis researchers often in mistake their studiesof ThirdWorldrurallandthe scapes, falselycharacterizing diffusing as y's innovations are partof "modernization"and that development (e.g., Lentnek1969; Riddell 1970). In thiscase thereis a misreading causality: of

an explanatory schemais invoked thediffusion for of a traity whereasthe appropriate explanation would have to account for the diffusion the of independent trait withy thenbeing seen as a x, traitthat,so to speak, rides piggybackon x. In the case of disguiseddiffusion, independent the x trait is simplynot observed.This occurs most frequently whentheobservedtrait, seemsto be y, an expressionof "the diffusion modernizing of innovations,"while the x is some economically or sociallycorrosive process. One further of type disguised(and dependent) diffusion deservesnotice. This is the case wherethe trulysignificant spatial flow is outwardfroma region(as in the marketing farm of commodities thedraining or of wealthfrom periphery core) whereasthespatial to flowsintotheregion(thediffusion processesnormorethana preparation mallystudied)are nothing of infrastructure: road buildcapital investment, ing, and thelike. (On thehistorical importance of diffusion fromperiphery core see Lattimore to 1980.) Most colonial diffusions consistedof infrastructure this sort,designed for profit of not and to development, leadingoften theoppositeof Yet of development. a number geographers, e.g., of Riddellin his study SierraLeone (Riddell 1970, 3-7, 13-14, 40-65, 70-72, 86-93, 95-101, 12931), treatall such colonial infrastructural diffusions as thoughtheywere truly"modernizing," thatcolonialismwas itselfa thereby suggesting modernizing process, ratherthan, as in Sierra the Leone, a process of destroying pre-existing of social-political, economic,and spatialstructure precolonial development, including roads,schools, and medical institutions.3 It can also happenthata diffusion inferred is to have takenplace whennone in factdid, a case of whatcan be called phantom diffusion. This error is easier to make thanmay seem apparent and is most easily made if the traitis ephemeral(like or itinformation) abstract(like modernization self); but it happensalso withconcretematerial traits whose actualdiffusion notobserved.A was classic case is themythic spreadof modem medicine in colonial India.4 Equally classic is the argumentthatearly Americansdid not inventthe innovative traits civilization receivedthem of but in from someoriginal hearth theOld World(Carter 1968, 538-63) and therelated attempt Edmonby son (1961) to tracethediffusion pottery the of to New World usinga formof theprinciple ideof ological contagionand neglectingmaterialevidence. An important case of phantom diffusion the is



inference-basedon evidenceof knowndiffusion administration control,as a typicalcase of and of certain materialtraits-that development-in- voluntary diffusion innovations, of with "demhas a ducing information spreadthrough region. onstration effects," "information," pattern a of The spreadof such traits therural in ThirdWorld "'acceptance" nicelysuitedto trend-surface mapoftenreflects processes in which information (as ping and the like (see Riddell 1970, 48-55, and thattermis used in diffusion in research)was either supporting comments Gould 1969, 66 and in L. itrelevant absent:therewas no voluntary or "de- Brown 1981, 267-69; compareKup 1975, Ch. 6 cision to adopt" made afterthe receiptof infor- and Fyle 1981, 116-17). the on A moreconcrete interesting comesfrom case mation; rather, decisionwas forced farmers and or (e.g., by landlords creditors) ittookplace in Gould (1969, 1970) and some others(including or a different economic space, such as thatof plan- Riddell) who make the following The argument: tations, "kulaks," or merchants (Blaut 1977, 346- colonial powersbuiltroads; roads implyaccessi47). Thus, inferring thediffusion traits that of like bility;and accessibility an adequate surrogate is new crops or machinery was based upon thedif- fordevelopment modernization. or This argument fusionof information oftenunwarranted. is This is invalidated threecounts.First,accessibility on is a crucialpointfortheory in and policy because it existed precolonial routes movement trade, of and cutsthechainof reasoning whichthediffusion usuallyelaborateand oftenas modern one can by as of new ideas is judged to be thecrucialcomponent expectforthepre-automobile Riddell (1970, era. of development-thatit has some role to play is 3) assertsthatprecolonialSierraLeone had only not at issue-and by which technicalassistance "bush pathsand riverine routes," whereasit had and theencouragement external of dependence and twointerdigitating one transport networks, leading control takestheplace of landreform literally and to theSudaniceconomichearth, other the (Creole) social change.In thisconnection might one to Freetown(Riddell 1970, 3, 20; compare we genuine note thatthe classic instanceof information dif- Hopkins1973; Howard 1975, 263-64; Kup 1975, fusionin a processof agricultural modernization, 72; Newbury1969, 69; Fyle 1981, Ch. 15). In thecase of extension servicesto UnitedStatesag- the case of Ghana, Gould writesof "total inacriculture fromthe 1930s to the 1950s, calls for cessibility"priorto Britishroad buildingforan some reinterpretation. the area whichalso had a complicated network preof Farmers, actingthrough the politicalprocess (particularly "farmbloc" in colonial (premotor) roads, in fact a well-develof Congress),demandedthattheybe providedwith oped hierarchy central places (Gould 1969, 64; suchservicesin an environment whichthefam- compareKea 1982 on road networks central in and of place systems precolonial of ily farmwas gravelythreatened the growth by Ghana). Second, coare to and supplycorporations. Hence lonialroadnetworks oriented Europeanecogiant marketing thecriticalinformation the diffusedfrom farmers nomic concerns,mainlyof export,and theyare to the government, the replycame back via notalwaysof muchuse in transportation and planning extension experiment stations, county (as agents,and today; indeed, they reinforce they were intherest. economic dependency tendedto do) the external Another form phantom of is diffusion wherethe forwhichthe country may wish to substitute auabstract to is substance, development, inferred have tonomy.Third, road systemsdo not necessarily diffused a ThirdWorldregionwhenithas not provide development.In many colonies and in into done so. Oftenthisinvolvesa fusingof classical semicolonies (like China), complexroad and railand modern diffusionism theargument Eu- roadsystems in that weredeveloped they notbring but did ropeancolonialismwas innately processof de- development. a does not auToday, development this flowdown thesenetworks because of velopment modernization that process tomatically and and is theonlyrouteto development today.Giventhis accessibility(Stevens and Lee 1979; Wilbanks certain sociopolitical model, manycolonial traitscan be seen as con- 1972). Under conditions, they for of creteindicators "modernization."Thus, forin- provideaccessibility flowswhichare antidevstance,Riddelldescribesa relatively unimportant elopment. in imare that 7. Mostdiffusions also displacements that changein local administration theBritish or disposed essentially forceon SierraLeone in the one trait by displaces another one population The distinction 1930s as a voluntarily between adopted, "modernizing" places another. displacing is diffusions not oftenmade, change. He depicts the change, which was im- and nondisplacing overa six-year and posed mainly periodby theBritish and thisleads to theoretical empiricalerrors. in a spatialprocessaccordant withtheir of One sourceof thisproblemis thediffusionist arpattern



development thepresent-day in world. gument thatI have called the myth emptiness. agricultural of the a and Classical colonialism arguedthat spreadof Eu- In each case I put forward generalization ropean populations,culturalfacts, and political just enoughsupporting evidenceto render plauit control was scientifically natural and morally jus- sible.5 tifiablebecause (among otherthings)the landscapes intowhichthesethings wereinserted were Hypothesis1. The Old Worldagricultural revin one sense or another empty.Aboriginal popu- olutionmay have happenedeverywhere once. at lationswere sparse or virtually nonexistent. The More precisely, shouldnotlook forone or two we and centers shouldexpect but people werenomads.They had no state,no prop- original autonomous erty, commerce.At mosttheyhad "traditional to find thatlarge portionsof Asia, Africa,and no society"intowhicheverything modern wouldflow Europe were participating in simultaneously the as if intoa vacuum. Moderndiffusionism reduces process,howeverlengthy may have been. The it its focus mainlyto the case of "traditional soci- process may have workedin the followingway. eties" and the flow into themof "modernizing First,we make the familiar, thoughnot univer" innovations. thata transformation sally accepted, assumption a to economy It would take us farafieldto discuss the many from preagricultural an agricultural ways in whichthe myth emptiness of stillaffects was advantageous people over most (not all) for and social thought, I shall offer a of the reasonablywarm and nonaridportionsof geography but few examples of this typeof thinking. Nostrand the Old World.6Second, we assume thathuman was essentially continuousover most underestimates earlierHispanic populationin the settlement in Southwest spannedby land (Nostrand1975; criticized Blaut and of thisarea, withdiscontinuities Rios-Bustamante1984). McEvedy has depicted and waterroutesof movement. Third,we introsouthern Africaas largely of other duce the uniformitarian thatall setempty Africans assumptions than Bushmenand Hottentots priorto European tlements and cultures were simultaneously insettlement sending,and receiving agricultural (McEvedy 1980, 20-112; in a similar inventing, of the were vein, see Guelke 1976). Reichmanand Hasson novations. Fourth, effects theforegoing diffusion the (1984, 62) map the PalestinianWest Bank circa transmitted crisscross by throughout 1910 as an area of "nomad population." (For an entire regionat a rapidrate,rapidenoughto perto extremeview see Rowley 1983, 188). Various mitinnovations pass back and forth throughout at West Aftheoretical studiesemploymodelsthatimproperly theregion(whichstretched leastfrom the defineprediffusion Europeto Chinaand New Guinea), spaces as empty, mostin- ricaandCentral to landfluential example being the depictionby Taaffe, and thusgradually buildup an agricultural de- scape. Morrill,and Gould (1963) of transportation We shouldtakenoteof recent counevidencepointing velopment a hypothetical in underdeveloped in of try(see commentary L. Brown 1981, 267-69). towarda convergence dates for earliestagriin of Such models diffuseinto pedagogy, where they culture theneighborhood 9,000-11,000 B.P. from one another verydisand supplyrealistic-seeming models, images, games, forregionsdistant northern and "simulations"of empty-seeming ThirdWorld similarin environment: Nigeriaand varspaces (e.g., Frenchand Stanley 1974; Haggett ious Saharan sites (c. 9,000 B.P.: Wendorfand 1983, 515-21; Haggettand Chorley 1969, 296- Schild 1980), southeastern Europe (c. 8,000 B.P.: Asia (c. 10,000 B.P.: thatdisplace, it Kabaker 1977), Southwest 298). In the case of diffusions India (c. 7,000 B.P.: seems unlikely thattheoretical models(or games) Kabaker 1977), northeastern can be of muchhelp unless theytake accountof Vishnu-Mittre 1978), Thailand(9,000 B.P. or earNew Guinea(c. 9,000 lier:Gorman1977),highland conflict, coercion,and politicalpower. B.P.: Golson 1977), and China (c. 7,000 B.P.: Ho the research 1977). Further mayshift specific spacebut thetimepattern, no longerwill single-center Hypotheses ories be able to assertthe hegemonyof Middle that East antiquity.Various theoriesof agricultural Diffusionism so pervaded has social thought it seems reasonable to suppose thata nondiffu- origins(e.g., Cohen 1977; Rindos 1984) are conwiththehypothesis a nearly of continentalsome of sistent sionistperspective will lead us to rethink revolution. Some of these thethis scale agricultural our larger hypotheses. way of concluding By of Four ories posit a number sites thateithershareda paper, I shall discuss five such hypotheses. character have to do withculturehistory thefifth with commonenvironmental and (e.g., maximal



autonomous.Innovations materialcultureand in social organization production of diffused bothinto and out of Europe. An agricultural revolution of sorts was indeedtaking place buton a hemispheric scale (Blaut 1976), andthechangesthat tookplace withinEurope cannot be woven into a separate Hypothesis 2. A numberof important theses causal theory progress. of about agricultural evolutionare influenced asby sumptionsabout selective ignorance,noninvenHypothesis3. The rise of capitalismoccurred tiveness, and a primordial directionality of in manypartsof Asia, Africa,and Europe at the is that diffusion-assumptions are sometimes diffu- same time. This hypothesis a simpledenial of sionistand sometimes in given momentum because the thesisthatcapitalismarose autonomously theyare conformal diffusionism. to Withdrawing Europe and nowhereelse and arose because of these assumptions in attributes should change our thinking (e.g., progressiveness, rationality, modsignificant ways. I shall suggest two. (1) Why ernity) thishypothuniqueto Europeans.I defend shouldwe believethat irrigation an evolutionary esis elsewhere(Blaut 1976, in press) but briefly is advance over drainedis and dry-field farming sys- the argument as follows: First,everyattribute temsor that are sedentary systems an advanceover of medieval Europe thatplayed a causal role in shifting systems?When we deal with situations thesubsequent rise of capitalism was also present that notcomplicated class pressures sur- in a number othercommunities are by for of across the Old plus delivery,all of these different farming sys- World at the same time, and these communities temsshouldbe capableof providing aboutthesame were notless progressive, morerigid,more"tra" returns laborovermanydifferent to environmental ditional, nor were Europeansuniquely"invensituations. There is nothing about small-scaleir- tive" (Weber 1904-05, 1916; L. White 1962, thatis moreesoteric rigation thantheway farmers 1968). Second, emergingproto-capitalism was manage moisture supplyin drained-field dry- seated mainlyin mercantile-maritime and urbancenfieldfarming systems. And we are supposing now ters(withsmallhinterlands), from stretching westthat inventiveness Asia and southern Africa(to and rapid crisscrossdiffusion ernEuropeto eastern Thesecenters are the normalstate of affairs.It seems reason- Sofalaandperhaps southward). were, to to able, therefore, suggestthatdrained-field ag- on the one hand, peripheral and partiallyinof and are feudalstatesand, on riculture shifting agriculture neither more dependent thesurrounding interlocked a hemin nor less ancientthanirrigated and agriculture that theother,were themselves the systems to isphere-wide networkof trade and communicavaryforreasonsthathave nothing whichinnovations all do withselectivetechnological or of through ignorance cog- tion, a network to nitiveprimitivity.7 it does not seem reason- sortswere transmitted all partsof the system And withthe resultthat able to believe, a priori, that an "irrigation by rapid crisscrossdiffusion revolution"or "hydraulicrevolution"occurred the character mercantile of capitalism,of urban and of much else besides was basirevolution production, separate fromthe primal agricultural and created Thus centers social evolution. of Large-scale cally commonto all nodes in the network. in not all centerswere participating a commonevoirrigation systemsmusthave been the effect, the cause, of class processes and the state; the lutiontowarda fully capitalist societyand polity, can is more an evolution thatwas taking logic of suchsystems that they provide place at a rapid,perthe haps ultra-rapid, during fifteenth rate the century surplusproduct per unitof area and facilitate divisionof labor. Thus thepopularcausal model in partsof Europe butalso in partsof Africaand for "hydrauliccivilization" is stood on its head, Asia. Third,it was the conquestand plunderof and the notionsof "orientaldespotism" and an the New World-carried out by Europeans becenters Europewerethouof "Asiatic mode of production"are denied their cause proto-capitalist meansof support.(2) The beliefthatan sands of miles closer to the New World in 1492 principal rev- than were any othermajor proto-capitalist cenautonomous, internally generated agricultural olutionoccurred medievalEurope(see, e.g., L. ters-that providedthe resourcesenablingEuroin whenwe with- pean merchant White 1962) mustlose credibility capitalto risetoward political power draw from thediffusionist it assumption evo- in Europe and to beginthe processof destroying that lutionary change withinthe European sector is competing groups elsewhere. Thus capitalism

biomass-production potential)or were environmentally diverse(e.g., Vavilov's (1951) long list of domestication hearths),but such sites can be viewed as nodes in a network and thesetheories are not inconsistent withour hypothesis.



ceased to rise in Africa and Asia while it was environment. Typical diffusion rates for exogeadvancingtowarda bourgeoisand thenindustrial nous agricultural innovations are clearlybenthat revolution Europe alone. in eficial to farmers tend to be rapid or ultra-rapid whereinhibiting politicaland class conditions are Hypothesis4. Nationalism did not arise as an absent. This is the case, for instance,where an innovation Europeand thenappearin other in parts egalitarian politicalenvironment limitsor elimiof theworldas a result diffusion of from Europe. nates the abilityof nonfamily-farming groupsor This hypothesis, like the precedingone, I have classes to prevent familyfarmers fromadopting defendedelsewhere(Blaut 1980, 1982, in press) innovations freely.This is also the case where so here I will merelysummarizethe arguments familyfarmers, because of farmsize and tenure and the issues. The body of theory about nation- security, have power to make decisions. On the alism (i.e., national conflicts, "nationalques- otherhand, innovations the tendto diffuse slowlyor tion'') is dominated by two viewpoints, a notat all in political environments favor that power mainstream theory thatis diffusionist a form groups(e.g., landlords, and merchants) thatcan preof Marxisttheory thatis onlyslightly so. The ventfamily less farmers frommakingdecisionsor in mainstream derivesnational in theory processesfrom politicalenvironments whichfarmers poware a primordial Europeanidea, the "idea of nation- erlessbecause of poor tenure, small size of farm, alism," whichis supposed to have arisenauton- and the like. omously in northwestern Europe as the idea of, The influence social conditions of upon diffuand urgeto create,thenation-state. This idea then sion ratesis notoften disputed.But whatthishydiffusedoutwardtowardthe rest of the world, pothesisassertsis thatthese conditions play the in eventuallyarriving colonies and sparking na- critical inmatters role to relating agricultural change tional liberation movements. The comparable in underdeveloped areas; the factors traditionally Marxisttheoryidentifies nation-state the emphasizedby diffusion the as theorists geography (in most suitablepoliticalformforyouthful are capital- andelsewhere) ofsecondary in importance some ism and thusthe goal of politicalstruggle the situations irrelevant mostothers.If thehyin and by to bourgeoisiein its rise to power. Capitalismdif- pothesisis valid, thenthe effort explain, prefused out across the world, and therefore, quite dict, and generate agriculturalchange should there a naturally, emergedeverywhere local class proceedin a fundamentally different To make way. of "risingbourgeoisie" and, in its wake, "bour- thisargument will have to say a wordaboutthe I and the way it begeois nationalism." Neithertheorygives a real evolutionof diffusion theory withdiffusionism. causal role to conditions of exploitation and came entangled in Whendiffusion-of-agricultural-innovations or theoppression thecoloniesand semicolonies exthe that plainseither kindof nationalism struggles orybegan to crystallize, mainlyin the 1940s and was theinformation againstcolonialismin orderto create a socialist 1950s, thecruxof thetheory stateor thekindthatstruggles restore precap- postulate-the notionthatthe communication to a of italiststate. A nondiffusionist alternative both information to about innovationsis centralto the theoriesargues thatnationalstruggle struggle processof change. Therewas important is confirmforstatepower,underconditions wherecontrol of ingevidencefrom landscapeswithstrong staand the state is in the hands of foreigngroups and ble peasantries; extension had indeed,agricultural of in produces suffering (economic, political, or cul- muchto do withthesurvival family farming This can occur in many NorthAmericaduringand afterthe Depression. tural)forthe inhabitants. of that flowswouldbe imcircumstances manyforms society.It may The argument information and in portant of or reflect colonial oppression, powerstruggles predictors change made good sense in context or some set that and earlycapitalism, other circumstances, (see Hagerstrand 1967;Tiedemann did in motionby diffusion processes,othersinternal Van Doren 1964). But thecontext notextend disenfranchised or to politically to an area, or culture, state. peasantries suffering and underlandlordism debtpeonage. In the 1950sgeographers, rural rurallandscapes Hypothesis5. In present-day sociologists, agof underdeveloped the main variables ricultural countries, economists,and theircolleagues began thatdetermine rates are not spatial or a truly massiveeffort apply information-based to diffusion to and are notmatters distance,ac- diffusion of psychological theory this largerand fundamentally or context.The motorforce,as discussed the cessibility, so-calledadopter attributes; main different to variableshave to do withthe politicaland class earlier in this paper, was the effort generate



economicdevelopment theThirdWorld,butto Another "locus of control,"in essence thebein is do so by means of strategies thatwould not lead lief thatone can control events;thispseudo-varito dramatic social and politicalupheavalslike na- able is a partof theexplanatory modelused by G. tionalization foreign of holdings,land reform and White and some of his associates in studies of related attacks local elites,socialistrevolution, natural-hazard on adaptability ThirdWorld,mainly by and in some areas decolonization.Scholars were rural, people (see G. White1974, 5-10; Baumann enlisted thiscampaignin variouswaysthat in need and Sims 1974, 28-30; Burton, Kates, and White not concernus (althoughit should be notedthat 1978, 107; Dupreeand Roder 1974, 117; forscheall theseresearch that see workers wereconvinced their matic critiques from differing perspectives Blaut (our) workwas directed againstpoverty and suf- 1984, 150-51; Mitchell1984, 57; Waddell 1977). fering).What is crucial here is the fact thatthe Still anotherpseudo-variable, already discussed or mind," diffusionist model was axiomaticformostof the here,is "traditionalism" "thetraditional resulting scholarship-empirical, theoretical, and a notion deployedin diffusion research (see, e.g., applied. The axiom assertedin essence thatde- L. Brown 1981, 274-75; Riddell 1970, 6) and velopment resultsfromthe flow of modernizing elsewherein geography explain lack of develto innovations fromthe centerto the countryside, opmentalprogressin particular landscapes or in that development results from muchmorethan general.At the mostgenerallevel, for instance, not the diffusion innovations of an plus a small line of Sack (1980) constructs elaboratetheory procredit.(I am oversimplifying.) posingto explaintheevolutionand cross-cultural The information postulateitselfbecame diffu- variation human of abilities conceptualize to space, sionistin this intellectual environment. Informa- bothconcrete (political, economic,physiographic) tion-based diffusion assumed a two-sector and abstract, theory the grounding entiretheoryin the landscape, one part informed and incrementally diffusionist dichotomy betweenthetraditional (or developed, the otherpartuninformed unde- "primitive")mindand themodern and mind,theforveloped. Information and developmentspread mer being childlike,ancient,superstitious, subkindof center.Dis- jective, unsophisticated,nonrational,practical from one or another spatially and the psychological condi- (nontheoretical), characteristic and generally nonof tance, accessibility, tion of being informed uninformed the Western or are societies(although peasantsocietiesapessential variables.(For examplesofthisapproach parently admix the two formsof mentality) (see see Lentnek1969;Taaffe,Morrill Gould 1963; Sack 1980, 22-23, 27, 117-38, 142-57, 167-93, and Wilbanks1972. A critique givenin Blaut 1977). 197-200). Sack's construction close to classical is is But this,overall,was a mildsortof diffusionism, diffusionism its view of the humanmind,but in of it is also a typicalexample of a class of contemtroublesome for mostly its ingenuous disregard in culture(and culturalgeography).Ratherquickly porarystatements whichthe traditional-minda moreseriousformof diffusionism is took hold in modern-mind dichotomy used as an explanatory diffusion research and some otherschoolsof geo- schema for culturalevolution,economic develThirdWorldrural with ThirdWorld opment,and, not incidentally, graphic research concerned rural development, e.g., the "naturalhazards" school. modernization. in Distance and accessibilityremainedas operant Traditionalism thesetheories stubborn is travariable dition,not cherishedtradition. The presumption variables.But in place of theinformation thereemergeda complexpsychological variable, is thatsome groupsresistchangewhenchange is in or whileother describedin diffusion researchas "adopter attri- beneficial necessary, groups, other " It thatruralThirdWorld places, are not so stubbornly traditional. is bebutes, whichpostulated a people have some fundamental (thoughcurable) yondthe scope of thispaperto attempt critique or their of thisview. Five comments mustsuffice.First, that psychological disability limits inhibits itis notmethodologically hereto arguethat to propensity develop. proper until traits of course varyamong hu- individual do subjectsresistchange irrationally Personality man groups,but diffusionism assertsincorrectly we have establishedthatchange is feasible and the thatsome groupspossess crucialtraits thatpermit thatchange will benefit subjects;psychologihereonlywhen and othergroups cal limitations properly are invoked positivechange (development) lack such traits possess themin smallermea- externallimitations have been discounted.Secor sure. One of thesepseudo-traits "achievement ond, instruments not yetexist forconfirming is do theseposmotivation" (McClelland 1961; discussed sup- theexistenceof, muchless measuring, or in for portively L. Brown 1981, 235, 252, 254, 274). tulatedmentalattributes pseudo-attributes,



of getting past those barriers status,power, cul- mainlymatters class and politics.These forces of but all mayvaryacrossthelandscape, spatial(process) turaldistance,and thelike, whichcontaminate is studies(from outside)aboutthepsychology the of diffusion not usually a centralissue. The hyrural ThirdWorldpeople. This skeptical view was pothesis thusspeaksof tendencies toward uniform anthro- regionsin cellular landscapes, regionsin which perhapsthemajority view amongcultural eithercovers all possible adoptersvery pologiststhreedecades ago, when manyculture- diffusion or the and-personalitytheoristsquestioned even the quickly does notpenetrate space at all. There of seemingly culture-neutral Rorschachprotocolsas is some empiricalevidence in support the hyhas valid cross-cultural instruments Bock 1980, pothesis: instance, (see for diffusion been ultra-rapid conditions were not 134-37). But theopposingthesisgainedpopular- observed when inhibiting Much better itybecause, in myview, itwas conformal mod- present.9 to evidence, thoughdifficult and and to em diffusionism the belief that,in the rural to quantify uninteresting map, comes from cases in whichtheinhibiting conThirdWorld,poverty at leastpartly faultof theinnumerable is the thepoor. Third,theemerging of critique modern- ditionswere presentand therewas no diffusion izationism, developmentism,and diffusionism and no development. in To explain such cases of nondiffusion rural on bringswithit a new perspective therole of the individualmindin development to (see forinstance spaces we tend, conventionally, blame the Freire1972; Giroux 1981; Pinar 1974; Stea 1980) farmers themselves:theirinaccessiblelocations, and the role of technological theirignorance, lack of knowledgein that their their traditionalism, and the like. But the process(Hansis 1976; Johnson 1977; Pearse 1980; "achievement motivation," will tell us thatwe are wrong,and they Wisner 1977; Yapa 1980). Fourth,to argue that farmers 10 of members different cultures have equal percep- will tell us whyif we listen. tual and cognitive("intellectual") capabilitiesis not to deny the factthatpersonality variescrossin with Marxand Conclusion culturally.8 Andfifth, agreement Engels (1845-46) and G. H. Mead (1938), 1 see the self is essentially social product. a Why, in the last analysis, should we assume in is stateof affairs any regionis to Accessibility a real variablein some circum- thatthenatural from whichinnovations as emanateand stances,and distancemay also be significant a have a center towardwhichtheydiffuse? (surrogate) variable. Both, however,are usually a periphery Surelyall functions politicaland class forces.L. Brown of us sharethebeliefthatall humancommunities of (1981) triesin essence to add socioeconomicvar- possess thesame underlying to potential create,to iables to the variablesof classic spatial diffusion invent, innovate.Communities distributed to are across a landscape, so the theory-namely, psychological adopter attributes, alongsideone another information, distance, and accessibility-while premiseof humanequalityis at the same timea thathave been premiseof spatial equality. Spatial inequalityis acceptingcertainof the criticisms made aboutthattheory. discussionof therole not somethingnormal, natural,inevitable,and His of diffusion makesit appearto be so. But agencies (public and private)is help- moral.Diffusionism is the between theories diffusionism just a thought-style, we can and ful,butitneglects difference thatpredictand those thatproposestrategies and put it out of our minds. it gives littlenew support spatialdiffusion to theAt ory as a predictor. the same timehe pays into adequate attention thevariablesof culture (and Notes is cultural geography).His perspective not diffubut of sionist, thediffusionism earlier perspectives 1. The ultimate diffuoriginsof classical Eurocentric sionismare to be soughtlong beforethebeginning remains and M. unrecognized uncriticized. Brown of the nineteenth century.I argue thatthe world (1981) suggestsbetterways to measureinnovain model became explicit,powerful, and important but tion-adoption behavior, she does notsolve the thepost-Napoleonic because of a confluence era of problemsdiscussed in the present paper. In genthefollowing historical circumstances, amongothers: (1) Science was becomingsufficiently of free theorists have notsucceededin preeral,diffusion religiousstrictures begintheseriousinquiry to into the of dictingor generating diffusion agricultural origins; e.g., to searchforancient humansand their in innovations theThirdWorld. culturaleffects and to considerthe earth'shistory Our hypothesis calls attention causal forces, to in a uniformitarian methodological framework. (2) and developmentstrategies,that are systemic: The rapidexpansionof formal and informal colon-


Blaut ial empiresmeantthe systematic gathering, the for 6. It does notmatter our purpose(judgingtheterfor first time, of information matter (no how biased) rainoverwhichtheoriginal Old-World Agricultural about non-Europeans. The expansionof colonRevolutiontook place) whether advantagesof the (3) ialism, and, beyondthat,the greatincreasein the agricultureover hunting-gathering-fishing-shellimportance colonialismto Europeaneconomies, of fishing resulted froma hemisphere-wide deterioraled to efforts formulate to specifictheoriesabout tion in living conditions resulting from the not only the natureand history non-Europeans of environmental changes, whetherthe period was but the overall process by whichEuropeanculture witnessto an epochal advance in an uninterrupted was spreadingthrough and conqueringthe restof processofcultural evolution, whether or some other the world-that is, the theoriesof classical diffucausal processwas at work,so long as the process sionism. On the generaldoctrines classical difaffected of thereasonably all warmand moistporof tions of the hemisphere its effectswere transfusionism, see, forexample,CUsaire1972; Galeano or this 1973; Panikkar 1959; Rodney 1972; Said 1979; mitted throughout zone, e.g., by eveningout Turner1978; Venturi1963. On diffusionism its in stressesthrough Also embedded humanmigration. specificinfluence anthropology, on and in thismodel is theassumption geography, thattheadvantages other emerging disciplines, on theschoolsknown and of agriculture wereroughly comparable became (or as "extremediffusionists" so because of stress-eveningpopulation movethe (principally "British Diffusionists"and the German-Austrian Kulturments)across manyecological zones, from tropical to kreis school), see, e.g., Asad 1973; Blaut 1970; forest warm-winter midlatitude forest, and from Childe 1951; Harris1968; Hudson 1977; Koepping moderately sloping land to swamp edges and nat1983; Kroeber 1937; Lowie 1937; McKay 1943; ural levees. Radin 1965; Voget 1975, 339-59). 7. See Golson (1977) forevidence of 9,000-year-old This abstract landscapecontainsno regionsthatare drained-field in farming New Guinea, and see Depolitically dominant thuswouldbe able to withand nevan (1966) on the antiquity raised-field of farmhold innovations from diffusion. it Although is theing in the New World. Today, when suitableland is available,a givenfarming oreticallypossible that an innovationmightgive groupusuallypractices one community such an advantageover othersthat some complexmixture systems, of whichmayrange it would thereby become a permanently dominant from extensive shiftingagriculture intensive to drained-field wet-field natural-levee or or center,this would be a realisticpossibility only if agriculadditional wereinserted themodel,one in attributes ture. of thesebeing a definition the individual of trait as 8. There exists a diffusionist tendency(criticizedin a trulyrevolutionary Blaut 1984) to applyculturally innovationlackingthe antebiased teststo Third that in World peoples and findthemto be inferior Euto cedents wouldhavealready diffused ourmodel of and (and in the real world), another ropeansin terms perceptual intellectual being a tooth-andtraits in are fangconception culture whichboundaries of indicatinginnovativeness, cognitivedevelopment in effect and barricades. (henceinferentially inventiveness), thelike.That this is normalparadigmatic See Amin(1973, xvi-xvii)forcomparison: science can be seen, "[Sierra the Leone's] 'creole' bourgeoisie. . . spreadalong the of e.g., from factthatnearly10 percent empirwholeof thewestern coast in thenineteenth ical studiesin the Journalof Cross-Cultural vPs century and filledthe role of a compradorbourgeoisiefor by chology are reports white South Africansand British to at capital. But thisclass disappeared theend Europeanspurporting show such psychological of thelast century, in whentheEnglishexecutedtheir inferiority black Africans. main creole trading thatthey and adult rivals on the pretext 9. The mostdramatic cases involveliteracy in had taken part in the Temne and Mende revolts. education programs some ThirdWorldcountries. Isolated fromthe restof the Empireand relatively Often success reflects the use of an approach in which people come to understand the inhibiting abandoned,the colony fell intoa doze fromwhich it has not yet emerged." Also see Howard 1975; conditionsand the need to struggleagainst them and thenliterally and Kup 1975; Osae, Nwabara, and Odunsi 1973; Fyle demandtheinnovation strug1981. gle to acquire it (see Freire1972). A case of ultraOn thismyth, Bhatia (1967) and Klein (1973). see of innovation Venin rapiddiffusion an agricultural On the relatedmyth thattherewas an unchanging ezuela is discussedin Blaut (1977). "traditional" of rates 10. We can listen,for instance,to folksongslike the demographic pattern highbirth and highdeathrates,whichdiffusing colonial medwidelydiffused Populistsong, "The FarmerIs the icine broke open (leading to a fall in death rates Man": "buys on credit'til thefall/ Then theytake -a himby thehand/ And theylead himfrom land/ the and-because of "traditionalism" sustained high birth rateand thereafter see And the middleman'sthe man who gets it all." overpopulation), Klein (1973) on deathratesand the workof Nag (1980) ratesincreasedsubstantially unshowingthatbirth der colonialism(Collyer (1965) argues along similarlinesforsome LatinAmerican countries does References as Harewood (1966) forGrenada). I do not suggest thatmethodological and episto- Adams, W.; Van Gerven, D.; and Levy, R. 1978. 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