On the West and the Rest (from pages 141–42):

 

.... Within the West, many hostile to global liberal culture think the best way to resist it is by singing the praises of national sovereignty, against supranational institutions like the United Nations or the European Union.  The latter, supposedly, are just another tool of uprooted and antitraditional technocrats.  Seemingly they think if only national independence were restored, the cultural content would fall back into place.  Outside the West, their counterparts often misunderstand global liberalism as just an updated Western imperialism.  Globalization thus seems like another mask for American power after the Cold War, or geopolitical containment of rival civilizations, or perhaps a cultural infection that spreads from the depraved north Atlantic.  Here, instead of saying the problem is one of scale, they think the problem is that one part of the world is poisoning the rest: thuggery abroad and gluttony at home.  And to be sure, both of these attitudes, Western and non-Western, reflect some truth.  Any serious opponent of present arrangements does have to give due weight to how atomists control global institutions and use wider horizons as a weapon against more provincial enemies.  At the same time, it is also undeniable that Western, and often specifically American, power does shore up the liberal world system....  Still, I think it wrong to overstate the implications of either fact.  On the one hand, the chest-thumping patriotism of antiliberal Western nationalists, especially in the so-called “red states” of the American heartland, is misguided.  They should remember that all Western governments, whether they act unilaterally or multilaterally, are a force for spreading worldwide the ills that these same moral conservatives abhor at home.  Consistency would demand that they oppose most Western self-assertion abroad, and take its foreign victims seriously, instead of cheering it on out of tribal enthusiasm.  Ethically, the average Kansas wheat-farmer probably has more in common with the Islamist insurgents tortured in Iraq’s prisons than with the Western-supported political elites who order torture to safeguard, in the long run, their nightclubs and oil-skimming opulence.  And when Western troops ride roughshod over small developing countries and install new regimes, those regimes invariably empower exactly the kind of technocrats and mercenary souls that Western antiliberals resent in their own lands....  On the other hand, antiliberals outside the West are wrong to diagnose their problems as simply a Western infection.  As we saw earlier, the modern West is quite unlike the older European heritage that had little to do with liberalism.  The atomist West, the realm of superpower aggression and crass commercialism, sits atop the ruins of the real Europe—the Europe of Aquinas and Wagner, and of the cottagers and clansmen.  The civilization of greater Europe is hardly the source of the plague.  It has been its first and most pitiable victim.  Even the pro-atomist foreign policy of Western states now cannot tar the West as a whole, because some resistance lingers at home....

 

 

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