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Why the West?

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Why the West?
Key Observations
• Western Europe discovered the scientific
method and the connection between
science and technology before many older
• Japan independently developed many of
the qualities required for success in science
and technology.
• Many other cultures are rapidly acquiring
science and technology.
• The West was first, not unique.
• To explain the success of the West in
science and technology, we need to identify
and focus on the cultural conditioning that
was most distinctive to the West.
• Crucial attributes are likely also to show up
in the cultural conditioning of Japan.
• These attributes can be learned; other
cultures are doing just that.
Salient Features of Western Culture
• “Western Culture” is a Serial Culture
• Goldilocks Syndrome: Not too Little, Not too
Much, but “Just Right”
• Repeated Episodes of Hybridization and Synthesis
• Loss and Recovery of Classical Civilization
• Attitude Toward Change
• Autonomy, Autonomy, Autonomy
• Fragmentation
• Pragmatic
“Western Culture” is a Serial Culture
Not Bound to Any One Group in Space or
• We are not guaranteed leadership
• Leadership can be (and has been) lost
• Dangers to Us:
– Extremist anti-intellectualism
– Apathy and Complacency
– Technology of Control
– Status in unproductive pursuits
Goldilocks Syndrome
Not too Little, Not too Much, but “Just Right”
• Isolation
• Challenge and Threat
• Fragmentation and Unification
• Authority versus Individualism
Hybridization and Synthesis
• Judaeo-Christian Synthesis
• Anglo-Viking-Norman Synthesis
• Medieval Synthesis
Loss and Recovery of Classical
•Stimulus for Directed Change
•Attainable Goal
•Related: Loss and Recovery of East-West
Attitude Toward Change
• Can be Desirable
• Can be Controlled
• Can be Initiated
Autonomy, Autonomy, Autonomy
• Emphasis on Time – Individuals have Agendas
• Stimulus to Innovation – Can Effect Change
No one group or institution had a total
•Church vs. State
•Fragmented states
•Nobility vs. Towns
• Pragmatism a product of Pluralism?
• Tendency to Prefer Results Above:
– Ideology
– Religion
– Class Distinctions
– Machismo
• Ideological Disputes Often Disguised as Practical
– Often decided by action rather than debate
Technology and the East
• Why didn’t China lead the West?
• Why did Japan rival the West?
Technology and China
Urban planning and administration
Grand Canal
Ming sailing vessels
Petroleum wells
Technology and China
• Fairly general consensus by both Chinese and
Western scholars
• Much of Western understanding shaped by
writings of Joseph Needham
• Are we missing something?
• Would like greater diversity of viewpoints
Common Features with Europe
Fragmentation and Diversity
• Linguistic and cultural diversity
• Warring States Periods
Unifying Factors
• Writing system
• Tradition of Classical Learning
• Usually strong central government
• “China” is a recognizable entity
Differences from Europe
Frequent clashes of rival fundamental ideas
• Rome – Jews – Christians
• Western – Eastern theology
• Christianity – Islam
• Dissident religious groups
• Protestant Reformation
Not Conspicuous in Chinese History
Salient Features of Chinese History
and Culture
Emphasis on:
• Stability
• Good order
• Moderation
No perceived need to change
the world
The Chinese Status Hierarchy
Some key aspects of Japanese values
• Insularity
• Deliberate and selective adaptation of
foreign influences
• Emphasis on harmony, form, ritual,
• Bushido - code of feudal honor
• Westerners have a morbid fascination with the
ritual of seppuku ("hara-kiri" is considered vulgar
by the Japanese)
• Reality check: A highly-trained (and expensive)
caste of warriors will not last long if the losers kill
themselves after every battle!
• Bushido was far more complex; it allowed for
honorable surrender and even changing sides in a
Resonances between Japanese and
Western values
• Most Westerners are struck by the
differences between Japan and the West.
• Very few notice the similarities.
Lack of external invasion
Freedom to develop without interference
Ability to adapt foreign ideas
Freedom to select or reject external influences
Cultural hybridization
• Japan - China
• England - France
• U.S. - immigrants
Acceptance of Christianity
• Missionaries found Japan to be by far the
most receptive Asian country to Christianity
• Cult of Amida Buddhism may have
preconditioned Japanese to some Christian
• What is it about Christianity that appealed
to the West and Japan?
– Simplicity?
– Theology = How it Works
• Development of knightly code of conduct
– Chivalry in Europe
– Bushido in Japan
• Ability to recover from defeat or setback
• Emphasis on self-direction
• Possibly an outgrowth of knightly class,
which created an influential cadre of selfaware individuals who in theory, and
sometimes even in fact, conformed their
conduct to an internalized code of behavior.
Is the World Going Crazy?
Back to Normal?
19 -Century
Eurocentric Order
• Fixed Borders
• Clear definition of state
• European-imposed political structures and
ruling groups
• Rules of War
– Combatant vs. Non-Combatant
Prisoners of War
• Commanded by a person responsible for his
• Having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable
at a distance
• Carrying arms openly
• Conducting their operations in accordance
with the laws and customs of war
– Law of Land Warfare, U.S. Army FM 27-10
• Carrying Arms Openly. This requirement is not
satisfied by the carrying of weapons concealed
about the person or if the individuals hide their
weapons on the approach of the enemy.
• Compliance With Law of War. This condition is
fulfilled if most of the members of the body
observe the laws and customs of war…
• [Violations include] treachery, denial of quarters,
maltreatment of prisoners of war, wounded, and
dead, improper conduct toward flags of truce,
pillage, and unnecessary violence and
• Members of the armed forces of a party to the
conflict and members of militias or volunteer
corps forming part of such armed forces lose their
right to be treated as prisoners of war whenever
they deliberately conceal their status in order to
pass behind the military lines of the enemy for
the purpose of gathering military information or
for the purpose of waging war by destruction of
life or property. Putting on civilian clothes or the
uniform of the enemy are examples of
concealment of the status of a member of the
armed forces.
• Persons, such as guerrillas and partisans,
who take up arms and commit hostile acts
without having complied with the
conditions prescribed by the laws of war for
recognition as belligerents (see GPW, art. 4;
par. 61 herein), are, when captured by the
injured party, not entitled to be treated as
prisoners of war and may be tried and
sentenced to execution or imprisonment.
End of Eurocentric Order
Failed States (Yugoslavia, Somalia, Congo)
• No overall authority
• Authority reverts to local level (Warlords)
Simple definition of states lost
• Various levels of autonomy
• Various levels of legitimacy
New (Old) Rules of War
• Non-state forces
• Total War
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