Thursday, February 7, 2013

Niall Ferguson's Civilization: The West and the Rest

This is a very un-PC history book. It is about the uniquely Western ideas that enabled Western civilization to dominate the world for 500 years, and how other civilizations are absorbing some of those ideas to their benefit, at the very time that the West is abandoning them. I find it significant that the cover shows an ornate clock (a symbol of European civilization in Ferguson's book) over on its side with some of the parts having fallen off. This is a very apt metaphor for what Ferguson recognizes has happened to us.

On page 177 Ferguson discusses the rise of social Darwinism:
The crucial point to note is that 100 years ago wor work like lton's was at the cutting edge of science. Racism was not some backward-looking reactionary ideology; the scientifically uneducated embraced it as enthusiastically as people today accept the theory of man-made global warming.

2 comments:

rfb said...

Clayton,

Have you reviewed this book: isbn 1595551360

Five Cities that Ruled the World.

Windy Wilson said...

But of course in their defense, the racists of Social Darwinism merely extrapolated from what they knew to what they did not know. They applied the same ideas of animal husbandry to people. The idea of breeding cattle and other animals for certain characteristics was not a new idea. Dog breeds, even today, are said to have breed-specific temperaments or "personalities".
They went from what they knew to what they did not know and the 20th century is the result.
It was such a bad experience that I think today we are not willing to talk about the influence of culture and values as the sources of behavior because to talk about values held by ethnic and racial groups cuts too closely to the old idea of racial characteristics.