June 9, 2024

How the West Was Lost at Oxford University

My latest on American Thinker.
The British cultural establishment triumphantly welcomed a new history book according to which Western civilization has always been a bad idea... This unequivocally means that the capitulation of the British cultural establishment to “woke” culture — and other elite obsessions — is complete.

Once upon a time, we were told that the peoples of the Western world — which includes countries like Australia and New Zealand, although located in the Eastern Hemisphere — are heirs and trustees of Western civilization, imbalances and excesses included.  Often referred to simply as “the West,” Western civilization is a broad concept used to understand the cultural, social, political, and economic norms, traditions, values, and institutions that originated in or are associated with Europe.  It has its roots in Ancient Greece and Rome as well as in Christianity, humanism, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution. It values rationalism, democracy, and individual freedoms and rights.

Later on, Marxist and otherwise far-left historians argued that the history of the West is marked by exploitation and conflict among different social classes, from feudal lords and serfs in the Middle Ages to capitalists and workers in the modern era.  Marxists, in particular, introduced the concept of cultural hegemony, formulated by Antonio Gramsci to describe ideological domination of the bourgeoisie over the proletariat.  In other words, according to this type of approach, the dominant cultural norms and values of Western civilization serve to maintain the power of the ruling class.

As of now, the left-wing narrative is that Western civilization is an illusion.  Postmodern and deconstructionist historians have claimed that the West is a late invention of the 18th-century philosopher. Skeptical of the grand narratives that have historically been used to describe Western civilization, such as progress, enlightenment, etc., they argue that these narratives often oversimplify complex histories and marginalize alternative perspectives.

It is in this context that the new book How the World Made the West, written by Josephine Quinn, professor of ancient history at Oxford University, needs to be read.  It’s aimed to bring to fulfillment the goal and the dream of legions of leftists the world over and from time immemorial. [...]