Debate - Opinion in English, Russia and Baltic States
Debate - Opinion in English
Tillbaka till Tonis hemsida
Foreign Policy Research Institute WATCH ON THE WEST AMERICA, THE WEST, AND THE WORLD by William Anthony Hay Volume 2, Number 5 September 2001 This essay is taken from the introduction to a collection of papers on Western civilization appearing in the Summer 2001 issue of Orbis, a journal of world affairs published for FPRI by Elsevier Science, Inc. The other essays, all originally presented to FPRIs Study Group on America and the West, include Triumph without Self-Belief, by Alan Charles Kors; Global Triumph or Western Twilight? by James Kurth, and Liberty Under Law Under Siege, by Stephen Presser. William Anthony Hay is director of the Foreign Policy Research Institutes Center for the Study of America and the West. AMERICA, THE WEST, AND THE WORLD by William Anthony Hay In October 2000, the Foreign Policy Research Institute launched a new study group on globalization within its Center for the Study of America and the West. The project brings together specialists from a variety of disciplines to discuss aspects of globalization, and the papers derived from its sessions will be a new feature in Orbis. The study groups focus is deliberately broad, and will encompass issues of historical, theoretical, and contemporary policy interests. It will, moreover, build upon the centers general explorations regarding the United States role within the Western tradition and what that means for international politics today. The phenomenon of globalization, however inchoate the concept, poses innumerable challenges to Western governments and societies. Revolutionary changes in technology and communications have conquered what Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey has called the tyranny of distance. Goods, people, and information move today across continents and oceans at unprecedented volumes and speeds, slaying distance and accelerating the general pace of life. The end of the Cold War removed political barriers to globalization, while demonstrating the ascendancy of Western values. Growing public awareness of the impact of international trade and migration has also worked to push globalization to the forefront of debate. What does globalization mean for the West? Since the sixteenth century, the nations of Western civilization have been the driving wheels of modernization, and one definition of globalization is simply the spread of modern institutions and ideas from Europe to the wider world. This transfer occurred in waves, with the discovery of direct trading routes to Asia and the Americas. Technological innovation and economic growth, along with such concepts as democracy, individualism, and the rule of law administered by an impartial judiciary, set Western societies above and beyond any possible rivals. Other cultures looked to the West as a model, a threat, or some combination of both. Those most successful in their confrontations with Western states, notably Japan in the nineteenth century, incorporated Western technologies and institutional arrangements into their own systems. Other societies fell prey to Western rivals and were incorporated into their empires, either directly, as in the case of India and much of Africa, or indirectly, as in the informal control exercised over China and Persia. These patterns continued even through the era of twentieth-century decolonization. But how will the balance between the West and other civilizations change? Samuel Huntington has argued provocatively that civilizational competition or even conflict will characterize the post-Cold War international order. Singapores Lee Kuan Yew and Malaysias Mahathir Mohammed have both criticized many aspects of contemporary Western (particularly American) life and trumpeted the Asian values said to account for the economic success of their own societies. Mahathir presents his regime as an alternative to the Western model, particularly after the 1997 financial crisis in Asia prompted complaints of Western exploitation as investors snatched up undervalued local assets at bargain prices. Islamic leaders in Turkey, Iran, and Egypt have offered similar critiques of the Wests decadence to justify their own resistance to aspects of its culture. Thus, Western predominance may, as Huntington suggests, give way to a balance between civilizations that have developed patterns of modernization distinct in important ways from the West. On the other hand, James Kurth and Alan Charles Kors have suggested that the main conflicts of the future will occur within the West itself as critics and defenders of its traditions struggle for control. Kurth has described with precision how Protestant Christianity was gradually distilled into a largely secular ethical system that now rejects Western tradition and history. His essay for our series builds on that theme and asks what the various conflicts that have defined the West will mean for its future. Kors poses the question of why key members of the Western intelligentsia remain skeptical toward -- or even opposed to -- Western ideas despite their self-evident success, and even though they themselves think according to Western categories. Such critics increasingly set the tone for public debate, raising concerns about the impact of their deep pessimism. Stephen Presser examines another facet of that conflict by discussing the revolution in American jurisprudence and its influence as a model on other legal regimes. The culture wars in the United States, with their echoes in Europe and Australia, illustrate persistent Western concerns about the future. Societies, like individuals, define themselves through narratives about their past, and it comes as no surprise that conflicts over American and Western identity have come to focus on history. Multiculturalism, for example, rejects the idea of an American identity rooted in European culture and history, and describes the United States instead as a universal nation drawing upon many cultures, thereby demoting, if not damning, its European heritage. Many theorists of globalization argue that relationships in Asia and Latin America will have a greater impact on Americas economic and cultural future than Europe will. The assumptions behind both globalism and multiculturalism posit a society emancipated from historical legacies through the agencies of technology, public administration, and individual transcendence. History thus becomes a kind of antiquarianism that explores a lost world about which we really need know nothing in order to address practical matters. The Center for the Study of America and the West respectfully dissents from this ahistoricist vision. We believe that history inevitably provides the context for policy decisions and shapes public sentiment. Consider how often politicians refer (rightly or wrongly) to the lessons of history. Iraqs invasion of Kuwait called forth the lessons of Munich against the futility of appeasing aggression. The Balkan crises prompted warnings about the lessons of Vietnam. It is also worth noting that historical analogies shaped contemporaneous discussions of both appeasement in the 1930s and the Vietnam War. Elites and the general public respond to such rhetoric, but the way they understand major events and their context determines how they respond. What policy lessons, for example, might follow from a history of American industrialization that focused on the nineteenth-century protectionist regime established by the Morrill Tariff and drew favorable comparisons with the German Zollverein? Free trade would not appear important to economic development, and protectionism might seem to offer a reasonable means of promoting national cohesion. A history of the 1920s and 1930s that highlighted Americas adoption of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff and the consequent spread of beggar thy neighbor policies through the industrial world would lead to exactly the opposite perspective. Countries whose governments have historically used their armed forces for domestic policing often view civil-military relations differently than Americans do. Thus, historical experience has shaped the way Italy and Spain use conscription as a means to dilute the political influence of professional elements of their armed services, whereas Americans, mindful of the political and social repercussions of opposition to the draft during the Civil War and Vietnam, tend to draw very different conclusions. The decline of historical understanding also has cultural and social consequences. Observers have noted how multiculturalism frays the threads of American unity, but less attention has been paid to the way it isolates the United States from other Western societies. Grand themes that formerly linked the public imaginations of not only Americans, but Britons, Frenchmen, and other peoples of European origin, have declined in importance, making it harder to preserve the integration of modern cultures. Classical and medieval history have become merely subjects of scholarship rather than points of common reference for educated people. The Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment, once treated as transnational phenomena that shaped the modern world, are now deconstructed and denounced as myths concocted to serve Western imperialism. Even the traditional narratives of national history have fallen from favor with the deconstruction of the identities that informed them. Linda Colley and Norman Davies, for instance, have described Britain as having been invented in the eighteenth century out of the component parts of the British Isles and have challenged its value in a postimperial age, while Jrgen Habermas has repudiated German history as anything beyond grounds for atonement. Types of history practiced in various Western societies are increasingly unlike, and books that speak with eloquence to one audience frequently fail to engage the concerns of another. The result can be seen in the ongoing divergence of mentalities within the West, and particularly in the declining emphasis on European history in American schools. Debates over the place of history in U.S. high school curricula became more heated in the 1980s and 1990s with a proposed set of National History Standards. The Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), which has worked since 1955 to provide the intellectual foundation necessary for promoting American interests overseas, labored anew to demonstrate the need to bring the best of recent scholarship to bear in the classroom. Hence, the institute established a series of programs for teachers that laid the foundation for the Center for the Study of America and the West. Early activities of the center included weekend-long history institutes, lectures, and seminars covering such topics as teaching the Vietnam War, the Cold War, American foreign policy since 1776, and multiculturalism in world history. Several projects complemented the centers workshops for teachers by exploring the elements of Western civilization and their continued relevance to politics and culture in contemporary America. The success of these initiatives led FPRI to expand the center in 1999 and inaugurate its new study group on globalization. The study group papers, the first three of which are published in the Summer 2001 issue of Orbis, combine a comparative approach with a long-term perspective in an effort to define and understand globalization as a process involving the transfer of institutions, ideas, and cultural models, even among Western societies themselves. Forthcoming papers in the series will explore the likely future of war and American power, historical lessons for transnational economic systems, and economic prospects for cooperation among English-speaking cultures. Lurking behind all the study groups investigations are three momentous queries: Will America survive in the twenty-first century? Will America survive, but not the West it has recently led? If not, can world order survive their demise?
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