Civilization: The West and the Rest

Pankaj Mishra writes:

With the ‘Chinese Century’ now imminent, and Muslims knocking yet again at the gates of Europe, the important thing for British and American elites is to prepare themselves for a dramatically altered world. ‘We are,’ as he argues in Civilisation, ‘living through the end of 500 years of Western ascendancy.’ This makes it especially deplorable, in Ferguson’s view, that ‘major universities have ceased to offer the classic “Western Civ” history course to their undergraduates.’ Assaulted by politically correct intellectuals and cultural relativists, who regard ‘all civilisations as somehow equal … the grand narrative of Western ascent has fallen out of fashion’ precisely when it is most needed. ‘Maybe,’ Ferguson proposes, ‘the real threat is posed not by the rise of China, Islam or CO2 emissions, but by our own loss of faith in the civilisation we inherited from our ancestors.’

(LRB 3 November 2011)

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