tv [untitled] August 20, 2012 8:30pm-9:00pm EDT
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the low in welcome to cross talk i'm peter lavelle what do we mean when we use the word quest is it a place a state of mind or even a specific time in history also what is meant by the decline of the west particularly when so many ideas associated with it are now global. you can. start. to cross out the meaning of the word west i'm joined by he's in cambridge he's the director of the humanity center at harvard university in chicago we go to richard lee he's a professor at the department of philosophy at de paul university and in washington we cross to william burns he's a professor at george washington university all right gentlemen crosstalk rules in effect that means you can jump in anytime you want there are difference of opinion here and i'd like my viewers to see it if i go to home in cambridge first when the word west is used first of all do you like its usage its application and what does
it mean to you. well i don't like the word west when it's used in a kind of simple polarity with something that is not to the west because i think these geographical issues have really changed quite a lot but i think on the other hand one cannot ignore the fact that there are certain institutional political and financial arrangements which are very much address to the interests of what we would call your america in a very general sense and i think that's the entity that is often associated with the west whether it's called of washington consensus at some time or some other such name so i think there is a political financial entity which we associate with the west secondly however the west is also very rightly put it a certain kind of ideology it has always stood for technical advance whether or
not this is true it stood for a certain notion of liberalism or democracy and very often the notion of the west is deployed by other cultures when they're in a period of transition when they don't quite know what they're happening why my germany was the typical moment where there was a lot of unsettled feeling in the country and people always somehow thought that was americanized nation you know the fathers of the west outside europe so the west is an ideology of a kind the west is a geopolitical set of interests but now very interesting we have a situation where across the world west and east form a kind of new hybrid culture and therefore it's very difficult to say this is western on this is non western because the those relationships have changed in the new global networks we have on that point here and let me jump in and let me read
you let me jump in here what do you think about that bill i mean when you hear the word west do you think of an idea do you think of a place a mentality. what can you know i know you're a prolific historian what what do you what he would think of when you hear that word today. very crazy about the concept of the west i think it's very misleading it imposes a kind of continuity over the broad sweep of european history from the greeks to whenever plato to nato as we used to say tension in a survey class. and i think it's a little bit misleading in terms of world history it's not you can divide the world into west and east for most of its history really up until the sixteenth century i mean european civilization was fairly peripheral. and there were several east you know the chinese east the islamic east and so forth several east that were much more important civilisations in world development up to this relatively recent
period so i have a great deal of difficulty with that and i'm also not crazy about the idea of a defying the west as a set of ideas of liberty i mean mussolini and hitler were men of the west. record to really go i never said liberalism i didn't say live at the i said it's. already written i want to write i want to go to the point still holds i mean hillary miscellany we're not liberals ok rick i want to go to you i mean we don't hear today we use the term west all the time and you know and i use it all the time i'll be honest with you but we don't hear the word we don't say the east we don't people don't use that is it's polar opposite. well in philosophy we talk often about eastern philosophy and i'm reminded of the young in a satirical magazine we have here in the united states that had a headline that went something like chinese student discovers western philosophy and his parents were horrified that he was into these radical western ideas. but i
want to pick up on something that homie said earlier that i think there is a certain experience of the west from the outside that we who are so-called westerners can't ignore that is when for example the west is. protecting the airspace over libya there is an experience on the ground that there is this entity called the west that is not internally defined but acts terminally defined and so along with the economic and the political institutions that homie mentioned i would add military institutions as well those are obviously related but i think there's an experience from outside or there are experiences in places of an entity that is more or less defined that they would prefer to call the west home if i could go to you i mean. rick brings up a very interesting point because in every sense corrosion if you could put all of
it together and you mentioned finance and economics mean but it's control that's what we're hearing the term the west is in deployed here do you agree with that. yes to a certain extent control and kind of mechanisms because of the symmetries in society between book and presumed wealthy countries but you know having said that you also got to be aware that there are elites income trees even in developing countries who are themselves collaborating and who are participating with what is known as western couldn't grow so i think the world map today is much did geo political map is more complicated and i very much take the point about this notion of an externally defined or sorry and internally defined sense of the west as being a kind of
a military power bill you came up with something that's interesting because ok go ahead bob it looks to me that within the west now we're getting into trouble here because i'm using a word without really defining and that's what this program is about but we in the west tend to think of itself as positive as being giving to the world giving the democracy giving market economy giving civil society and a lot of people say all of those kind of things are under pressure it is when it's right in the west really thinks collectively that way i mean talk about the west thinking this i think is is is a little bit fallacious and let me point out that if you look at financially it's not simply the traditional western countries that are part of this dominant entity japan clearly is its culture is remarkably different from that of the west whereas there are western countries in latin america you know they speak spanish or portuguese catholicism is the dominant religion by any civilization will definition
of the west these are part of the west. but they're not dominant you know they're they're poor and they're not very effective in terms of projecting power out words so i thought i had. you know i'm going to say i think that i really think that's a good point but the the point of the issue is that. there's not exercise the kind of power over the rest of the world as your america does now one might start seeing and i think there's a good point here that china and chinese relations in africa my kind of position ok bill you are disagreeing want to me i want to replay that we're going to. i hate to break this to you it's not your america this power it's america i mean let's not kid ourselves ok powers. you know when i say we're going to bring a lot of reading with america ok rick i want to go to you i mean japan was
mentioned here and again let's take this term of the west then we could say defining it is part of the americas geopolitical strategy in the world and the american imbroglio because again japan may not be exercising the same kind of power but then again it doesn't have a foreign policy that it used to have a name going back to before nine hundred forty one so i mean if it doesn't have a military power then it's falling under the umbrella of the united states the west . well and it seems to also have lost its economic power. and i mean they've been fairly stagnant since the eighty's and so when this first came up about. when it when they first came out when this first came up about your pan i was thinking about china and here's the ambiguity of the west i have many colleagues in china who take up the west as a goal that they want to achieve and if you slap the label western on this become something that they think is valuable that it gets them out of the traditional
culture which has been keeping them behind now i don't want to agree or disagree with that but at the moment in which a country like china feels like they can achieve the dreams of the west for us with a certain noblesse or bleach to collapse the whole game and say you know what the west is over we're not doing it anymore there's something there that i'm not quite comfortable with as much as i'm not comfortable with the west in the first place it's a very good for me do you want to reply to that because it's very interesting is because there's kind of this disenchantment of the west within the west and then you have countries outside of the west. trying to get to that point in time or that state of mind or whatever we however want to define the term. yeah exactly like the language is is no longer. no i think this is exactly why i said that the there is a kind of geopolitical notion of the west but there is also
a mythical india logical notion of the west so it's perfectly keeping with the fact that there is a critique of the west critique of its notions of progress development. gemini i think that's all quite appropriate but at the same time there are other places in the world where certain kinds of unfreedom as they are as they see it exist where the west is a goal and so we have to get used to this very ambivalent very ambiguous very enigmatic notion but what we can do is just dump the we have to see its complexities but we can only raise that we have we are uncomfortable with it just as we are uncomfortable with liberty where uncomfortable with freedom but we have to see this internal contradictions and i think now the world in a way is dominated and we have to jump right in here we're going to go to a break and after that break we'll continue our discussion on the west stay with r.t. . if you. still
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request the gold and silver investors god. call today eight hundred two five seven gold. and. welcome back to cross talk i'm peter lavelle to remind you we're discussing what the word west. vilifying go to you and you thought maybe we should just jettison the word the concept wes's it's kind of thrown around in the media of certainly and maybe even academia why don't we just focus our attention on modernization because i think that's really what everyone's talking about because you can modernize without westernizing with all the baggage that is associated with it and the coercion that
we have talked about that associated with was because in living it i live in russia and people don't consider this a western country but it it's a modernizing country and there's a great deal of an billons to what is called the west. and has been ever since peter the great. well i think that modernization is certainly attempting and i think it is more appropriate in many cases and westernization of course modernization has its own ambiguity as in difficulties in bag so. sure that's quite the solution either i mean it may be that you we talk about people wanting democracy which is what they want to democratize aish or if they want prosperity what do they say they want they want prosperity rather than sort of wrapping it all up in these kind of baggy concepts called the western modernization and of course you know when people want different things in different countries. so i'm sort of quite sure that the.
better substitute when you think about that rape is that a better substitute or is it still the same dilemma well i think it's the same dilemma not an unrelated dilemma because it seems to me that the notion of modernity and therefore modernization we was something particularly developed in the so-called west and so what counts as modern and modernizing i think is fundamentally related to this imaginary that is the west and here maybe i misunderstand homeys argument but i think i agree with him that we can't act as if these idiology don't have real effects on the ground and so the jettisoning jettisoning of a concept like the west in terms of modernism might rob us of a critical gaze we could have on modernizing and the tendencies toward modernization ok homie what do you think about that in cambridge. know i think
actually rick is right he's understood me very appropriately because you know we can talk about modernization theory and i think in some technical way and some historical sense it's actually more accurate to say we are in process is of modernization but as rick said for so long right through the imperial period the period of empire even the post colonial period westernize ation has been associated certainly in the popular mind in the mythical mind with the notion of a modernization mean associated with western eyes ation so people do articulate their desires in that way however wrong or i waver misperceive that might be this is why i feel we can jettison the idea but we've got to we are complicating it even as we speak now we're showing the complexities of it it's very simple you know sometimes you talk with me where when i'm waiting for. to check my flight seat for a reservation for instance and i talk to united airlines person in bombay i know
exactly although they have a they call themselves bill or willie or something i know exactly that it's from bombay i know the guy's name is probably very contagious and i asked him i said the first of all let's drop the mouse secondly tell me people you know people say that your coolies you'll be used for this you're being used by western companies by outsourcing companies what do you feel about it they say oh mr barber thank god that we can talk honestly about this well you know there are many things you have city in cambridge which we don't have and although i may be exploited in certain ways there are things i need and i want in fact i would quite like to come to an american university or a canadian university or a german university this is the best i can do i think people there is an ambivalence there's a love hate relationship and people are aware of it. that complexity is common
people are aware of that's why don't you could just jettison that and get rid of the problem ok the idea will stay with us but you know if we look at the industrialized west and i put industrialized here ok and its share of global g.d.p. is steadily declining everyone's looking to the year to twenty twenty twenty thirty twenty forty whatever the year is when china alternately overtakes the united states we see the eurozone stagnant right now my point is that the what we call the west is the least it's a geographical one that will become less and less important through time but we will still have those ideas so you know i mean it is a go to you it's kind of like we talk about greek democracy but that greek democracy was so long ago and it's just turned in into a template but we're we're not you know what i'm saying is when the when the west influence that it's had for the last few centuries finally you know goes into the twilight will still have the ideas associated with little with liberty civil society things like that go ahead well let's not forget the most successful western
idea in terms of world dissemination as a political idea was communism. well it was time it's. what you think about that regular of course as a result of that so there's a lot of modernization i sat next to bill in graduate school for years like i remember these conversations what do you think rick i mean right communism fascism those are western ideas. i mean i would say ok that's a successful idea but the interesting thing for me is that i think we in the so-called west run very far away from thomas hobbes who i think actually is the only political theorist who describes the our actual political sentiment in the west that is we will trade all of these ideals for security and i think this is where i mean i hate to feel like homie and i are ganging up on bill or something but i feel like the point he made earlier is is related to this that the idea of
liberty the idea of liberty is fine until my security is threatened and then the west is no longer about liberty anymore we're now about something else we're about the future we're about security securing the future and so i mean part of the beauty and danger of the concept of the west is it's very mentally ability that it adapts and changes. and it's hard to get ahold of and yet sandy or bill or willie in mumbai and any other call center this is their aspiration and i think we cannot reject that as as somehow worthy hope for them when you think about that bill i mean apps you want to let not rejecting it isn't the word the hope i mean certainly if people want to live more like the way i live that's fight and obviously if everybody in any in china lives the way i live we're going to exceed the carrying capacity of the earth but that's
a whole nother problem. i just don't think that the term the west as popular as it is a very useful is a very useful intellectual or analytic category certainly yes people do talk about it in insofar as they talk about it it's a real thing because of the west as a real thing we have to talk about. it refers to anything real it's interesting i mean if i go to you because in the in this part of the world i because i like i said living in russia i mean either you people we look at it either you want something from the west or you don't want something from the ones you want their wealth but you don't want their head gemini. right and that's why i said it represents a very fundamental axis of ambivalence in our present moment and it has done i think for a long time in india during the period of empire people wanted the medical knowledge from the west they wanted the tech not taken logical knowledge from the west they wanted the financial knowledge from the west they didn't want western moreas they
didn't want western customs and they didn't want western ethical and religious principles so i think we've often we've had this kind of ambivalence this is why in a way we can we can literally not be interesting but we cannot do without it and we cannot live with it and i think that's one of the conundrums of our times but i very much agree with what rick said in fact my new book the book one of the books i'm working on at the moment is called culture insecurity that what ever else we might see as a kind of you know the positive or negative of the west the question of security becomes absolutely central in any in the in the value system so security i think is another issue that we need to talk about because many people are starting rationally western about security everybody wants security bill go ahead go ahead go ahead i know everybody wants it you know i mean everybody wants security that's
absolutely right but people have felt often that their security has been in some ways destroyed by what the west suggests that they're giving the world democracy i mean the security of iraq was destroyed by the so-called desire of the bush government amongst others in europe to provide what they saw as democracy what kind of security is that ok bill go ahead jump in. i'm not here to defend the mislead me i have no interest in doing so. but if we agree bill maybe you larry. i'm sure we agree on a lot of things ok if i could but that does bring up the point i mean you know in the west i mean is the west now embodied by dropping bombs on people in the name of freedom i mean you know that's certainly
a common etiological use of the west in the west game you could argue people hoping for the west but you know people in here who talk about the values of the west are often talking about in the kind of this neo imperialistic we need to go in and change those countries and we need to get to you know women out of the burka or whatever and that's to them is western values and it's very different kind of western values and what you're talking about people in the quote unquote nod will soon be joining the life of prosperity and freedom all right rick i'm going to give you the last word on this program going. well i mean just on on this issue of security and i agree with everything that that bill just said but i doesn't this take us back then to this distinction that homey made between west the west as and idiology that could be the imaginary of aspiration versus the west as a set of social political military and economic institutions and i think these are different things and that's part of the very ambiguity that makes us still today
even talking about the west as if it's something. all right gentlemen i thank you very very very interesting discussion we could have gone go on for a lot longer many thanks my guess a day in cambridge chicago and in washington and thanks to our viewers for watching us here r.t. see you next time and remember cross talk. and . still. wealthy british style signs that's not on the title of.
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