On a missed opportunity of the early twentieth century (from pages 58–59):

 

.... Without linking up as a critical mass across borders, civilizational virtuocrats could hardly overcome the forces stacked against them.  Rolling back atomism had to occur globally; that much they knew.  Yet talk of civilizational essences meant that political agency worldwide had no unit to which it could attach itself.  They implied that remaking the world as a whole would have to wait until the pathology of atomism had run its course.  The European critics idly hoped some good would come of the cultural crisis that steadily deepened in the 1920s and 1930s.  Outside Europe, their counterparts expected the West to collapse and thereby clear the way for the more genuine humanity preserved in China, India, the Islamic world, or Latin America.  The civilizations under threat would offer their essences for a resurrection of decency everywhere, including in the defunct core.  “Domestically,” change meant small-scale ventures in civil society.  Globally, it waited for the ethical truths latent in history to triumph over the folly of the moment....  Overall, such critics did not see how they might fight the culture war with atomists on the same scale as atomists were doing with them.  These thinkers and activists, and ultimately the declining social groups whose sentiments they voiced, would have had to see one another everywhere as allies.  Could the parsons and schoolmasters of Devon have imagined kindred spirits in the besieged gentry of Hunan, for example?  That would have meant projecting their grievances and hopes on to a common political project: the founding of a world civilization to carry forward the truths of the past....  Entertain for a moment a quite different unfolding of twentieth-century history.  Imagine that in the West of the 1930s, figures like Eliot and Ortega came to power, instead of Hitler, Stalin, and Roosevelt.  Or that leaders like Iqbāl and Tagore won the independence of an unpartitioned southern Asia in 1947, instead of the Muslim League and the Indian National Congress.  Or that traditionalists like Liang ejected the Guomindang in 1949, instead of the Chinese Communist Party.  With even a couple of such twists, the effects would have snowballed.  The integration of high-culture traditions worldwide would have quickened.  We might now be looking back on atomist dominance as the misguidedness of a mere half century, as we venture forth into a new world civilization.  Without the necessary focus and resolve, however, civilizational virtuocrats’ encounters with one another remained shallow, and the global fault lines blurred....

 

 

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