Progress and Control: Positivism and the European Epistemological Hegemony



This article focuses on the way in which European colonial powers tried to extend their political and territorial grip on their colonial empires by imposing and actively promoting the cultural imperatives of European modernity. In particular we try to understand how positivism became an indispensable tool for the propagation and also legitimatization of their hegemonic project. The atention we give to the Islamic world ensures that our analysis is both historically and culturally grounded in a civilization that received the full force of the European modern narratives of progress and development. In our opinion positivism and its implicit depreciative orientalist discourse managed to reset the mindset of both political elites and inteligentsia convincing them of the urgency of adopting defensive modernization programs. From this perspective, in this paper we will try to examine how positivism fortifed the belief in the superiority of Western civilization and how this discourse fueled colonialist mentalities. In the same time we will take a closer look at the limits of the positivist project by taking into account the post-positivist stance and their emphasis on culture, localism and historical context.

Keywords: Epistemology, Positivism, European cultural hegemony, Islam, Orientalism, Multiple Modernities