Lecture 2 - Sept 15th
Lecture Title: What IS Western Civilization (and why should I care?)
What Is Western Civilization (and Why Should I Care?)
Shimon Peres quote - at first sight, it appears that Peres is telling people not to
study history, as it is full of blood spilled and wars. However, in context, Peres was
speaking about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, saying that we must start a new
beginning in the Mideast.
- Our history is measuring stick of the success or failure of our culture
- It is impossible to understand culture if you don't understand the context or history
from which it came
- Pres. Barack Obama: I still believe we can do great things and that here and now
we will meet historys test.
- Ask Questions: leads to a better understanding. It recognizes your own biases and
tries to understand other points of view.
What is Western Civilization?
- Where is The West? It is Difficult to pin down a particular definition
- ** History = dynamic process of interpretation and RE-interpretation of past events
In order to be flexible and relevant,
Western civilization must be dynamic as well.
Western civilizations are cultural and have free political institutions.
Democracy, capitalist economies, and individuals focus not community, religious,
rational inquiries and the ability to try new things.
Some enjoy wealth, others are in deep poverty.
These are generalizations and contradictions,
However what does the West stand for?
What is the West?
- Can be defined Culturally and Geographically
Keep in mind that these definitions and comparisons can be problematic - Culturally:
-> Free and Participatory Political Institutions
-> Capitalist Economies: Individually accumulate wealth,
-> Religious accommodation/toleration
-> Spirit of Rational Inquiry trying new things
- Defining Culture Can be Problematic:
->Freedom vs. Slavery
->Women vs. Men = equality vs. Inequality
->Economic fragmentism = poverty and wealth
->Changes in time; dynamic and redefined based on variables used to define
->Began in Mesopotamia and now globalized to the point that the West is not
limited to a specific geographical location
What is Civilization?
- Latin root civ Many words we encounter today such as Civilization, Civilian,
Civies, Civics derive from this Latin root.
- Cities are necessary for a civilization to come into existence, however it becomes
problematic when trying to understand what is considered a City.
City: an Urban fabric, a group of people brought together in sufficient numbers
where activities require specialization
-a city includes Specialization of craftsman, Specific government, institutions,
Urbanized, Settlements, Social Hierarchy
- Civilization (via Wikipedia): A society or control group normally defined as a
complex society characterized by the practice of agriculture in settlements in towns
and cities. Compared to other cultures
Conflicts defining western civilization:
- time and space. when and where it began?
Lawrence Birkin What Is Western Civilization?
- David Wilkinson = central civilization
- David Richardson = distinct geographically based Weltanschauung
- Faustian = newest reincarnation of the Western world
- Weltanschauung = philosophy of life; world view
- Wilkinson vs. Richardson
Limited notion on what constitutes the west
There Are 4 points that Birken Makes about western Civ:
1. Civilization = the largest unit about which a linear history may be written.- History points of intersection between East and West
- Histories evolved along long lines of their own internal logic
- History can only unfold in their own personal context
2. Geopolitical Constraints North Europe vs. Eastern Med.
- Arnold Twinby (Clash of Civilizations) Differentiated Roman Empire and other
classical civilizations. This is based solely on the study of geography
3. Ecological Constraints North Europe vs. Med. Basin (Braudel = environmental
determinism)Subsistence and trade.
4. Technological Constraints unevenness of technological development
- Asking questions and avoiding assumptions
- We are NOT direct descendants of Greco-Roman civilizations ; they are not us.
They are apart of our ancestors.
- Histories of different places and how they evolved.
The Grand Tour
- has a profound effect on how we conceptualize the west
- Popularized the classica