The collapse of scientific socialism as a structuring principle in world politics justifiably raises the question of the validity of Marx's master-model of social dynamics as a tool of historical analysis. Of course, historians have long contested the relevance of the model not just for European history but for Asian and African societies in the past.
In a penetrating essay entitled 'Feudalism in Africa?' (in his Technology, Tradition, and the State in Africa, 1971), Jack Goody pointed out some of the difficulties in applying European historical 'stage theories' to Africa, without denying the usefulness of a comparative approach and the contributions of medievalists to the study of African institutions. While Moody belongs to the school of social thinkers for whom an intellectual methodology is validated by rigorous argumentation, there is yet again another group found mainly among the so-called 'empiricists' for whom an application of theory, philosophical, social, or economic, involves a fundamental denial of historical truth. Little distinction is made by the latter school between a generalised theory and the Marxist variant, thus unconsciously highlighting the fact that it was Marx's model which in the first place popularised the use of' theory in history. Thus Gordon Johnson, Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge, commented in a review of my recent book Asia before Europe: the Economy and Civilisation of the Indian Ocean from the Rise of Islam to 1750 (1990):
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