The Decline of the West - Michael Kimmage

The Decline of the West

By Michael Kimmage

  • Release Date: 2013-06-04
  • Genre: Politics & Current Events
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The Decline of the West Michael Kimmage Book Review Score: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars

In order for the Western liberal order to have a future, there must first of all be a West. The survival of the West in its 20th-century outlines cannot be taken for granted. Limited to the status of the West within the United States, this paper focuses on the shrinking of the West as a community of values. It begins with the premise that “the West” was never static in meaning but has encompassed multiple definitions, some of them mutually exclusive. Nor has the West as a community of values ever had anything resembling popular support in the United States: the construction of this community was by definition the project of highly educated elites. As such, the West had its bi-partisan heyday from Truman to Kennedy. After the Vietnam War, an affiliation with the West acquired conservative connotations in the United States, and Ronald Reagan gladly rhapsodized about U.S. leadership of the West. In the 1990s, the West was salient as a debating point and less so as a point of orientation for U.S. foreign policy. It was about the West that Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington had their stimulating disagreement in the 1990s. Fukuyama contended that the Western template was becoming a global template, while Huntington argued that the West is a discreet and embattled civilization. Though Huntington’s theses were revisited after September 11, 2001, by then there was only a small constituency invested in the West. Left-leaning opinion furthered a multiculturalism that could have anti-Western undercurrents. Conservative opinion, when George W. Bush was the leader of it, upheld a democratic universalism on the assumption that all cultures have a natural leaning toward democracy. The Euro-U.S. relationship has not markedly declined in the last 20 years, but it is less and less to be understood as describing or being described by the West. Reagan was the last president to speak with warmth about a Euro-U.S. West. The few European leaders who continue to speak enthusiastically about the West in 2013 do not necessarily have the European-U.S. relationship in mind. Within the Obama administration, the West is not an entity to be rejected or transcended. It does not matter much. Obama and his generation were not educated to believe in the West, and a defense of the West is not obviously suited to the foreign-policy exigencies of the 21st century. The decline of the West has encouraged Obama in his “pivot to Asia.”

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