March 6, 2011

THERE'S A SUBLIME HILARITY....:

Niall Ferguson: why the West is now in decline: For 500 years Western civilisation was full of self-belief, but now, historian Niall Ferguson argues in his new Channel 4 series, its dominance is coming to an end. (Niall Ferguson, 06 Mar 2011, The Telegraph)

There was a time when we believed in Western civilisation. By “we”, I mean Europeans and their cousins in the colonies of European settlement, above all the United States.

You can chart the rise of that self-belief if you go to Google’s latest gizmo, Google labs, which allows you to search the huge number of books Google has scanned to date to see how frequently a word occurs in them.

In English, “civilisation” (from the French) was a term scarcely used until the later 18th century. Thereafter – not coincidentally, as European empires spread to rule more than half the world – the C word’s popularity with authors grew steadily, reaching a peak in the middle of the 20th century.

Interestingly, that peak came in the period of maximum conflict within Western civilisation, between 1914 and 1945, when writers in the English-speaking world insisted that their countries were defending civilisation against German “barbarism”.


...to arguing this even as the East is Westernizing on your tv every night. The stumbling block here would appear to be that countries run by non-Europeans can still be Western.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 6, 2011 8:37 AM
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