‘I have been reading this interesting book of Prof. Richard Nisbett, entitled The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners think differently… and why (2003). Nisbett is a Professor of social psychology at the University of Michigan and has written several books and articles on cognitive processes, intelligence and how the environment is an important determinant of IQ and differences in world perceptions.’
He distills Nisbett’s arguments into an easy-to-read table format.
Francis Fukuyama has some disagreement with Huntington’s later “The Clash Of Civilizations” argument as too narrow and confining, and I think in the long run, worries that it despite its prescience it could lead us into trouble:
“Sam, in my view, underrated the universalism of the appeal of living in modern, free societies with accountable governments. His argument rests heavily on the view that modernization and Westernization are two completely separate processes, something which I rather doubt.”
“The gloomy picture he paints of a world riven by cultural conflict is one favored by the Islamists and Russian nationalists, but is less helpful in explaining contemporary China or India, or indeed in explaining the motives of people in the Muslim world or Russia who are not Islamists or nationalists.”
Fukuyama argues that Hungtington came of age when modernism was dominant. He also seems to take issue with the epistemological foundations of this largely social-science driven and philosophical worldview that has drastically shaped the last century and a half:
“Modernization theory had its origins in the works of late nineteenth century European social theorists like Henry Maine, Émile Durkheim, Karl Marx, Ferdinand Tönnies, and Max Weber.”
“…and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important that equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.”
We’re still importing a lot of our ideas from the failures and triumphs of Europe…and not just the Anglo tradition. Fukuyama thinks Huntington was quite at the center of those ideas, and an American vision.
Well, predictions are hard, especially about the future…:
I’ll just pull part of the quote:
‘The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it; and a State which postpones the interests of their mental expansion and elevation, to a little more of administrative skill, or of that semblance of it which practice gives, in the details of business; a State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished; and that the perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything, will in the end avail it nothing, for want of the vital power which, in order that the machine might work more smoothly, it has preferred to banish.”
Mill provided a fairly comprehensive underlying moral philosophy as to why to individual liberty should be championed; deep reasons as to how you should live and what you should do towards these ends.
It’s odd that some in the West look upon the post-ish-Communist landscape (China, Russia, North Korea) and merely see States not sufficiently included within ‘the community of nations.’ This, rather than seeing States with vastly different, and often competing traditions and interests than ours, and who are still often crushing individual liberty underfoot.
It must be said that such folks in the West harbor deep sympathies with Communist collectivist ideological constructs themselves, or at least a kind of one-world secular idealism which sees any use of force as illegitimate (often on the way to radical and revolutionary freedom, or perhaps…something more like a global collective).
As you’ve noticed, there’s still a thoroughly bankrupt, totalitarian regime on the path to deliverable nukes in North Korea (yes it still possesses a reasonably competent military seeking all aspects of nuclear delivery…for all the worst reasons).
From The Atlantic (complete with a standard underlying suspicion of all ideas realist and nationalist):
‘Kim Jong Un must be made to understand that, under no uncertain terms, can he ever use his nuclear weapons; doing so would mean the end of North Korea. Whether the United States likes it or not, the country now poses a clear strategic threat, and it must be treated as such.’
Much is politicized into moral crusades: Many in The West have taken up Ukraine as a flag-waving cause (against the oppressor…so very brave), while some others have become vaguely pro-oppressor (are you really for Putin’s conception of Russia as chief mafia boss, oligarch and ex KGB ethno-nationalist?)
It’s a brutal campaign. The Russian military is likely trying to consolidate gains in the East, and they wiped out a city there, where bodies rot on the street. The Georgian/Belorussian playbook has faltered, and been altered. The Ukrainians are in an existential crisis, and fighting to win (though negotiation might still be a possibility).
The European response has been solid, and the border countries are handling this wave of humanity pretty well (the cause is pretty just and the war unnervingly close). Most of the refugees are women and children (nearly all Ukrainian men have been mobilized to win), and about one-quarter of Ukraine’s population of forty million have been displaced.
When people tell you their opponents are evil, that the world is a Messianic battleground, and that speech is violence in the quest for power, you’ve been warned.
You’ve been warned repeatedly. Much of the academy and the media have fallen into this particular trap of secular idealism, undercut by radical activism, captured by purity spirals and endless demands to destroy what has come before (gratitude and humility, Dear Reader).
You can’t count on such ‘leaders’ to not slip into soft and hard forms of authority against their enemies and for their moral lights in the wake of such ideas.
Elon Musk, so far, has said he will try and open up shop on Twitter, and stand for speech. If he maintains this much more tried and true method of maintaining freedom, I’m all for it. Claiming to stand for the most marginalized through sentimental idealism, or cynical radicalism, or ideological purity, is a recipe for further chaos, and further politicizes the new communication channels.
As you may have noticed, we have enough politicization of the personal and bad incentives on Twitter. Let’s figure out what this platform does best, utilize it, and maximize the best of it with clear rules.
Full piece here. (originally posted eight years ago now….perhaps worth re-considering as to who’s got accurate intellectual maps)
Neo-cons, humanists, human-rights advocates…religious and secular idealists, missionaries of all stripes who want to see more freedom and democracy cast in our image…it’s good to get other points of view:
‘The place to avert tragedy is in Ukraine. Russia will not permit Ukraine to drift to the West. Whether a country that never had an independent national existence prior to the collapse of communism should become the poster-child for national self-determination is a different question. The West has two choices: draw a line in the sand around Ukraine, or trade it to the Russians for something more important.
My proposal is simple: Russia’s help in containing nuclear proliferation and terrorism in the Middle East is of infinitely greater import to the West than the dubious self-determination of Ukraine. The West should do its best to pretend that the “Orange” revolution of 2004 and 2005 never happened, and secure Russia’s assistance in the Iranian nuclear issue as well as energy security in return for an understanding of Russia’s existential requirements in the near abroad. Anyone who thinks this sounds cynical should spend a week in Kiev.’
The argument is pretty clear: Putin is looking at demographic decline, and he’s an ex-KGB ethno-nationalist looking to keep the empire together:
‘Russia is not an ethnicity but an empire, the outcome of hundreds of years of Russification. That Russification has been brutal is an understatement, but it is what created Russia out of the ethnic morass around the Volga river basin. One of the best accounts of Russia’s character comes from Eugene Rosenstock-Huessey (Franz Rosenzweig’s cousin and sometime collaborator) in his 1938 book Out of Revolution. Russia’s territory tripled between the 16th and 18th centuries, he observes, and the agency of its expansion was a unique Russian type.’
Via a reader: John Mearsheimer applies his offensive realist view to Ukraine back in 2015 (there are no friends, only alliances….regional powers will aim for hegemony in a lawless, fundamentally anarchic world).
He offers a step-by-step look at Ukraine.
On that note, how do I see the American landscape? Well, I don’t know, exactly. Conservative, traditional and religious Americans have likely moved from a majority to a plurality/minority in most cultural/political spaces (more requiring of minority protections, also more conspiratorial). These are the people more likely to defend home and hearth and more likely to join and support the military during the Cold War (along with higher Southern representation).
I understand Neo-Conservatism as the drive to extend American military and global interests by advancing humanistic ideas and secular humanism (liberals/secular humanists mugged by ‘reality’). Such folks are more likely to have been in influential policy/intellectual positions, not necessarily doing the warfighting.
Cold War patriotic liberals, just as were many old school liberals, have been increasingly challenged from the activist Left, and that activist Left now has a lot of cultural/political influence. Old school Democrats were generally about unions and a certain amount of patriotism (Cuban Missile Crisis). Many New Democrats are about pronouns in the postmodern soup and the Green New Deal. This presses upwards upon the liberal international and global worldview. This dynamic seems to occupy the folks in charge at the moment (dovetailing with elements of the Eurocracy), pivoting from the Health/Safety COVID worldview to defending human and Western interests.
It’s been…strange to see Susan Glasser at the New Yorker become rabidly pro-Ukraine and a war hawk, but…here we are.
Additionally, I see an increasingly aged and brittle American political system, with increasing disorder and much lower public trust (for many good reasons). From Elder Bush–Clinton–Clinton–Younger Bush–Younger Bush–Almost a Clinton/Obama–Obama–Trump—Biden (Obama’s VP), I’d argue a calcification has clearly occurred. This is why I see a fair amount of regular folks and intellectual folks checking out, or seeking alternatives.
Via a reader (begins at min 23:00). Some insights on Ukraine from someone with family on both sides on the ground. There are some decent insights relative to mainstream sources.
As previously mentioned, the United States, under Obama particularly, but for the last fifteen years, has removed much of its footprint from the Middle-East, Afghanistan, and now even Europe. Domestically, U.S. political leadership has calcified, becoming brittle and old, while (from my perspective) new factions of deeper, further New, New Left and New Right are forming outside of a weakened mainstream. We’ll see how bad the weakened institutions get and who comes into authority, and with what ideas (worst case is the Platonic map I’ve been using…). Public sentiment cleaves much closer to nihilism/existentialism in the postmodern soup, these days. Anarchy and libertarianism, from my point of view, are finding much wider audiences.
The ‘economics-first’ Euro-zone (primarily a German/French alliance) has been counting on old treaties and American leadership. All while buying gas and trading with the folks in charge of Russia. There also seems be the same ideological true-belief found in the gears of liberal techno-bureaucratic institutions everywhere (liberals and radical Leftists are often in conflict, even while working against their traditional/religious/conservative enemies). Keep an eye on energy policy, green-belief and inflation (what leaders do vs. what they say) as well as gas prices here at home.
As for the media these days, new technology, and the Boomers/Gen-X/Millenials management issues, I like the idea that people tend to fight more and more over less and less, and the less there appears to be. I often imagine to whom I would look if I were coming of age in such a chaotic environment. Dear Reader, I do worry about many over-promised, under-delivered youth dealing with such institutional failures and realignments. This requires me having hope in the basic soundness (body/mind/judgment/character) of younger folks I know, rather than trust in ‘systems’.
As for information, it might be better to just aim for basic online survey courses (with who knows how high an error rate) over ‘public-opinion experts’ and public education if you’re an average Joe. The two major parties and public discourse have devolved into vindictive finger-pointing.
I’d advise picking-up a book or two and find the better sources if you’re so inclined.
This is, alas, a blog in the land of Substack (and whatever’s next). You’ve been warned.
Maybe I’m off?: As much as there are truth and knowledge claims, about ourselves and the world, embedded within our ideas about ourselves and the world, it seems we’re often arguing over who should be in charge. Agree on some ‘is’ questions, surround yourself with like minds, and then pursue the ‘oughts’ through education, politics and law.
Oh, there will be authority.
Something like the conservative position-One Nation Under God. Defend home and hearth, and the Constitution. The country was born of revolution, yet not the French, nor the Russian revolutions. The country wasn’t built upon the utopias proffered by Marxist radicals, nor anarchists, nor even the anarcho-capitalist libertarian types (perhaps something more like the Euro-project, built on economic allegiances).
Something like the neo-conservative position-At some point, get mugged by reality, and start questioning many truth and knowledge claims of the liberal idealist and secular humanist project. Defend homes within communities, and use the American military to advance secular humanism and humanistic ideals around the globe. Use law and policy, and the American military, to spread many elements of the Western project in which you pursue your highest goods (Many in China and Russia, and many Muslims and Islamists disagree).
Something like the current Liberal position-Defend houses within the community and ‘societal’ interests in our ‘modern’ world, but America itself may not be worth defending as it is and has been. Many activists and radicals in the party do seem to be co-opting many academic, institutional and bureaucratic positions. Become somewhat invested in the ‘Hitler-Year-Zero’ Marxist conception of conservatives, traditionalists, and religious believers as potentially ‘evil.’ Standing against progress is certainly morally questionable, and clearly against (H)istory.
The positive visions (environmental/globalist/Health & Safetyism) lead us all into a Statism and authoritarianism present all along.
Interesting paper presented by Erika Kiss, beginning about minute 32:00 (the whole conference is likely worth your time for more knowledge on Oakeshott).
According to Kiss, Oakeshott’s non-teleological, non-purposive view of education is potentially a response to Friedrich Hayek, Martha Nussbaum, and Allan Bloom, in the sense that all of these thinkers posit some useful purpose or outcome in getting a liberal education.
Friedrich Hayek’s profound epistemological attack on rationalist thought is still a system itself, and attaches learning to market-based processes which eventually drive freedom and new thinking in universities. The two are mutually dependent to some extent.
Martha Nussbaum attaches liberal learning to ends such as making us ‘Aristotelian citizens of the world’, or better citizens in a democracy, which has struck me as incomplete at best.
Allan Bloom is profoundly influenced by Straussian neo-classicism, and wants love, classical learning, honor and duty to perhaps be those reasons why a young man or woman should read the classics. This, instead of crass commercialism, the influences of popular music, deconstructionism and logical positivism.
Via A Reader-Isaiah Berlin’s Lectures On The Roots Of Romanticism. Romanticism–>Modernism–>Postmodernism–>Wherever We’re Heading Now
Maybe it all started with Beethoven: Everyone’s a (S)elf.
Isaiah Berlin pretty much blackballed Roger Scruton, so it’s not all roses.
“The works of Shakespeare contain important knowledge. But it is not scientific knowledge, nor could it ever be built into a theory. It is knowledge of the human heart”
“…in the days when the humanities involved knowledge of classical languages and an acquaintance with German scholarship, there was no doubt that they required real mental discipline, even if their point could reasonably be doubted. But once subjects like English were admitted to a central place in the curriculum, the question of their validity became urgent. And then, in the wake of English came the pseudo-humanities—women’s studies, gay studies and the like—which were based on the assumption that, if English is a discipline, so too are they.”
“And since there is no cogent justification for women’s studies that does not dwell upon the subject’s ideological purpose, the entire curriculum in the humanities began to be seen in ideological terms.”
Terry Eagleton, British Marxist and professor in the humanities, debates Scruton below.
Will Marxism & continental philosophy become further guiding lights for the humanities here in America as we find much more so in Britain?
The nihilist claims are deeper than you may think, and the Nietzschean, and Will–>Will to Power German influence is also deeper than most people think; offering profound criticisms of the scientific project, liberalism, liberal institutions, and a secular humanism which is the air many folks breathe these days.
Here’s a somewhat similar vein of thought. From friesian.com:
Although Anglo-American philosophy tended to worship at the feet of science, the drift of academia to the left has led to characteristically totalitarian political attacks on science itself — this despite the leftist program to use “climate science” to impose a Sovietized command economy on energy and the tactic to smear climate skeptics, i.e. “Deniers,” through associaton with Creationism or Neo-Nazi Holocaust denial. None of that has stopped the “post-modern” move…’
When truth and reality fade, from the views within institutions; when the virtue required to maintain a Republic wanes, the rot merely becomes more visible. Legitimate authority becomes much, much harder to maintain.
Oh, there always have been horse-tradin’ types, somewhere between used car-salesman and admirable men sacrificing their liberty for the rest of us. There were always assholes and charlatans, glad-handing lifers, as well as principled men sticking their fingers into the political winds for their turn at the wheel.
Gathering some views on the Afghanistan ‘withdrawal’, and the current clusterfuckery.
The claim is that requiring citizens to provide ID when they show up to vote is unjust, racist and oppressive. It’s a rule only to be used for unjust and self-interested ends (as it was in some parts of the South in 1965). In fact, Joe Biden’s signed an Executive Order (because that’s what Presidents do now, especially when they can’t find any bipartisan agreement).
For despite all the charged rhetoric, all the anachronistic analogies, requiring voter identification remains a simple requirement — one that, as it happens, is practised across Europe during elections. That America cannot unite around it — and even dismiss it as racist — is a tragedy.
The larger point of agreement: Having the people in charge of administering laws, claiming that even the most basic laws like providing ID, are inherently unjust and racist…is not a good place to be. Also, increasingly impotent Executive Orders are ‘part of the furniture.’
Walter Russell Mead on Vladimir Putin’s 5,000 word essay on uniting the Russians and the Ukrainians (Mead’s essay is behind a paywall). It’s the Kievan Rus after all. You know, where the Vikings sailed and settled East and South down the Rivers and eventually became Russians. Putin’s probably not going to let it drift away.
‘In order to understand why it is that the world gets to see, unfiltered by either Cuban or Western media, the reality of this isolated island nation, you need to understand the strange and utterly mangled state of Cuban internet.‘
People are disappeared, starved, bereft of hope and immiserated under Communist leadership, while that leadership becomes increasingly evil; a fact which many in the West cannot bear, because it cuts too close to their own hopes.
Don’t worry though. Oh, how some people care about (M)ankind.