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What is the West?

By Philippe Nemo; Translated by Kenneth Casler; Foreword by Michael Novak

Publication Year: 2006

In this short, illuminating and very readable work, Philippe Nemo argues that what we call “the West” is one and only one cultural entity, to which both North America and Western Europe belong. In contemporary debates, then, Nemo asserts, it is simply incorrect to exaggerate the differences or gaps between countries that are indeed “Western.” Brilliantly and succinctly surveying the last five or six millenia, Nemo pieces together the history of the West’s development. He weaves together political events, philosophical discoveries, religious movements, and scientific and technological innovations to demonstrate the factors that have influenced and shaped Western culture. Nemo acknowledges the essential contributions of Greek science and philosophy, Roman law, Christian thought, and modern democratic revolutions to our contemporary liberal democracies. In his conclusion, Nemo presents a case for closer geopolitical cooperation among Western societies. Already translated from the original French into Portuguese, Italian, German and Greek, What is the West? has received considerable interest throughout Europe; earlier this year, in fact, it received the Italian Citte della Rose prize for essays. Now available for the first time in English, this book is essential reading for those interested in contemporary cultural debates on Western culture, nationhood and American values, as well as those interested in world history and politics, philosophy and religion, and contemporary global politics. Not geared to specifically conservative or liberal viewpoints but to an accurate rendering of historical ideas and trends, Nemo’s book should do much to advance our understanding of each other in an increasingly global community.

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-

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Foreword

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pp. vii-ix

This is a remarkable and bracing short book—a powerful meditation, really, a terse 125 pages. I know of no one who has better and more succinctly put together the great contributory streams of the distinctive mind and heart of the West: not only....

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Introduction

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pp. 1-6

In 1808, the German philosopher, Fichte, felt the need to write his “Addresses to the German Nation.” In 1933, similarly compelled, the French essayist, Julien Benda, wrote an “Address to the European Nation.”Now, again, geopolitical realities seem...

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1. The Greek Miracle: City and Science

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pp. 7-16

Around 1200 BCE a disaster took place on Greek soil: the destruction of the Mycenaean divine kingship system. A long Dark Age followed, ending in the middle of the eighth century with an evolutionary leap forward and the emergence of the...

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2. The Contribution of Rome: Private Law and Humanism

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pp. 17-27

The Greeks invented the rule of law, but they did not take the development of law very far. In their small ethnically-homogeneous city-states, civil law was basically unwritten (which explains why our knowledge of Greek law is so...

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3. Biblical Ethics and Eschatology

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pp. 29-38

There is little evidence that a non-Western civilization ever pursued progress for its own sake.1 For that matter even the Greco-Roman world, whose historical contributions we have been discussing, did not seek change intentionally....

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4. The Papal Revolution

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pp. 39-60

The biblical program discussed in chapter 3, calling for action in history, takes a peaceful and rational turn in the middle of the European Middle Ages, between the eleventh and the thirteenth centuries, under the impulse of the Roman Church...

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5. The Rise of Liberal Democracies

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pp. 61-84

The fifth historical development or “miracle” is more familiar. It concerns the great liberal and democratic reforms that resulted in the distinctive outward form of the modern Western world. This development extended...

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6. The Universality of Western Culture

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pp. 85-98

With great skill Friedrich August Hayek brought to light the significance of the West’s cultural innovations to the general evolution of humanity.1 The history of the past two or three centuries evinces...

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7. For a Union of the West

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pp. 99-114

The arguments of the preceding chapters are useful in a discussion of three specific issues: the endmost borders of the West, the conditions for an eventual...

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Conclusion

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pp. 115-121

Inspired by ideals of peace and progress, what can be done to advance understanding between civilizations fated to share the same historical time and space? How can we overcome the contradiction between inevitable cosmopolitanism...

Notes

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pp. 123-149

Index

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pp. 151-157


E-ISBN-13: 9780820705743
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820703756
Print-ISBN-10: 0820703753

Page Count: 166
Publication Year: 2006