Saturday, 2 April 2016

“The Universalisability of Western Civilisation”


If we are to defend western civilisation, we must at least understand it. I’ve heard it argued, for example, that the defining characteristic of western civilisation is that it is Ango-Saxon. This is not just nonsene; it’s nasty – and in today’s interconnected world, it’s dangerous nonsense.

The truth, as George Reisman so patiently explains below, is that Western civilisation is neither Anglo-Saxon nor  Semitic: it is the property of no particular race or of any particular ethnic group.  This is of course one of its many great virtues. It’s a very important concept for would-be defenders of Western civilisation to grasp. (And you would have thought some of its so-called advocates would already understand it…).

“The Universalisability of Western Civilisation”

Once one recalls what Western civilisation is, the most important thing to realize about it is that it is open to everyone. Indeed, important elements of "Western" civilisation did not even originate in the West. The civilisation of the Greeks and Romans incorporated significant aspects of science that were handed down from Egypt and Babylon. Modern "Western" civilisation includes contributions from people living in the Middle East and in China during the Dark Ages, when Western Europe had reverted to virtual barbarism. Indeed, during the Dark Ages, "Western" civilisation resided much more in the Middle East than in Western Europe. (It is conceivable that if present trends continue, in another century it might reside more in the Far East than in the West.)

The truth is that just as one does not have to be from France to like French- fried potatoes or from New York to like a New York steak, one does not have to have been born in Western Europe or be of West European descent to admire Western civilization, or, indeed, even to help build it. Western civilisation is not a product of geography. It is a body of knowledge and values. Any individual, any society, is potentially capable of adopting it and thereby becoming "Westernised." The rapidly progressing economies of the Far East are all "Western" insofar as they rest on a foundation of logic, mathematics, science, technology, and capitalism--exactly the same logic, mathematics, science, technology, and capitalism that are essential features of "Western" civilisation.

For the case of a Westernised individual, I must think of myself. I am not of West European descent. All four of my grandparents came to the United States from Russia, about a century ago. Modern Western civilisation did not originate in Russia and hardly touched it. The only connection my more remote ancestors had with the civilisation of Greece and Rome was probably to help in looting and plundering it. Nevertheless, I am thoroughly a Westerner. I am a Westerner because of the ideas and values I hold. I have thoroughly internalised all of the leading features of Western civilisation. They are now my ideas and my values. Holding these ideas and values as I do, I would be a Westerner wherever I lived and whenever I was born. I identify with Greece and Rome, and not with my ancestors of that time, because I share the ideas and values of Greece and Rome, not those of my ancestors. To put it bluntly, my ancestors were savages--certainly up to about a thousand years ago, and, for all practical purposes, probably as recently as four or five generations ago.

I know nothing for certain about my great grandparents, but if they lived in rural Russia in the middle of the nineteenth century, they were almost certainly totally illiterate, highly superstitious, and primitive in every way. On winter nights, they probably slept with farm animals in their hut to keep warm, as was once a common practice in Northern Europe, and were personally filthy and lice infested. I see absolutely nothing of value in their "way of life," if it can be called a way of life, and I am immeasurably grateful that my grandparents had the good sense to abandon it and come to America, so that I could have the opportunity of becoming a "Westerner" and, better still, an American "Westerner," because, in most respects, since colonial times, the United States has always been, intellectually and culturally, the most Western of the Western countries.

Thus, I am a descendant of savages who dwelt in Eastern Europe--and before that probably the steppes of Asia--who has been Westernised and now sees the world entirely through a Western "lens," to use the term of the critics of "Eurocentrism." Of course, it is not really a lens through which I see the world. It is much more fundamental than that. I have developed a Western mind, a mind enlightened and thoroughly transformed by the enormous body of knowledge that represents the substance of Western civilization, and I now see the world entirely on the basis of that knowledge. For example, I see the world on the foundation of the laws of logic, mathematics, and science that I have learned. And whenever something new or unexpected happens, which I do not understand, I know that it must nevertheless have a cause which I am capable of discovering. In these respects, I differ profoundly from my savage ancestors, who lacked the knowledge to see the world from a scientific perspective and who probably felt helpless and terrified in the face of anything new or unknown because, lacking the principle of causality and knowledge of the laws of logic, they simply had no basis for expecting to be able to come to an understanding of it.


There is no need for me to dwell any further on my own savage ancestors. The plain truth is that everyone's ancestors were savages--indeed, at least 99.5 percent of everyone's ancestors were savages, even in the case of descendants of the founders of the world's oldest civilisations. For mankind has existed on earth for a million years, yet the very oldest of civilisations--as judged by the criterion of having possessed a written language--did not appear until less than 5,000 years ago. The ancestors of those who today live in Britain or France or most of Spain were savages as recently as the time of Julius Caesar, slightly more than 2,000 years ago. Thus, on the scale of mankind's total presence on earth, today's Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Spaniards earn an ancestral savagery rating of 99.8 percent. The ancestors of today's Germans and Scandinavians were savages even more recently and thus today's Germans and Scandinavians probably deserve an ancestral savagery rating of at least 99.9 percent.

It is important to stress these facts to be aware how little significance is to be attached to the members of any race or linguistic group achieving civilisation sooner rather than later. Between the descendants of the world's oldest civilisations and those who might first aspire to civilisation at the present moment, there is a difference of at most one-half of one percent on the time scale of man's existence on earth.

These observations should confirm the fact that there is no reason for believing that civilisation is in any way a property of any particular race or ethnic group. It is strictly an intellectual matter--ultimately, a matter of the presence or absence of certain fundamental ideas underlying the acquisition of further knowledge.

[Excerpted from George Reisman’s pamphlet ‘Education & the Racist Road to Barbarism,’ which thoroughly explains and pretty much explodes the process and the arguments behind multiculturalism]


  1. Its true our ancestors were all savages at some point but for the vast majority of the world it was a long time ago. Savages running amok in 2016 with cell phones simply shows that some like the trappings of western civilisation but have rejected the finer points of it that distinguish it from other supposed civilisations. They have had long enough and have seen what the west offers so why are so many still mired in barbarism in preference?


  2. And this is the crux, in regards to Islamic immigration:

    "It is strictly an intellectual matter--ultimately, a matter of the presence or absence of certain fundamental ideas underlying the acquisition of further knowledge."

    Western Civilisation doesn't belong to Nazis, and it doesn't belong to Muslims. It belongs to those who embrace it, which means it isn't universal at all, since there are millions who not only do not embrace it, but who are actively hostile to it. Libertarians would be better off if they did think of it as property, not by virtue of race, or skin colour, but by virtue of embracing and building it. It isn't solely an intellectual matter. It is also a matter of the blood, sweat and tears that it took to build it. It is ultimately a concrete value that, if not defended, will be lost. To say that Galt's Gulch is universal is to say that concrete values are not property, are not property, and are open to all, civilised man and savage alike.

    1. Please read properly, Richard. It is *universalisable* precisely because it is open to whoever chooses to embraces it.

    2. A fair call, Peter. I don't disagree that it is universalisable. I strongly disagree though if you think that open-immigration is a way to help achieve universal embrace. If you have a semi-free, or even fully free, society, you won't keep it by importing a whole lot of liberty haters.

  3. Oh nonsense. Western Civilization is not "open to everyone", and it is no more "universal", what ever that means, than any other great civilization. Id Chinese Civilization "open to everyone". I think here you confuse taste and some of the material effects and organizational strategy of "The West" with its civilization. At best you are confusing its outrageous success, and the desire of other civilizations to emulate that success, it with that civilization itself. China or India are not "contributing" to "Western Civilization"; they are taking things from it and integrating it into their own civilizations. It is important to see this, for these other people have no loyalty at all to the West.

    By it very definition "Western Civilization", read "European Civilization", is European. It can be nothing else. It cannot be "open to everyone", as the current decadence--perhaps even collapse--of said civilization amply demonstrates. (And it is just risible that you think geography place no part in a civilization. It is in fact one of the greatest sharpers of a civilization, and this is participatory the case with the West.)

    It is also fallacious, not to mention pernicious, logic to first assert, rightly, that "Western Civilization", again, read European Civilization, is not solely the work of Anglo Saxons, and then jump to the conclusion that it is "Universal". It is the sum total of the Combined ethnic groups of Europe, which form a super group. It did not fall out of the sky.

    It is also fallacious to claim that because somewhere you in particular might trace some minute part of your ancestry to Asiatic peoples in the far distant past that there are no such creatures as "Europeans". This is pure sophistry and misses the point entirely. This is tantamount to saying that there is no such thing as different civilization or difference races. You speculation is merely imaginative, and in any real historical sense it is irrelevant.

    Likewise it is a very bizarre thing to say because one's distant forbears were "savages", and "everyone's where" that this leads to the conclusion of "universality", or some sort of cultural relativism. It is, again, irrelevant, and wildly so. I am suprised you even proffer it. It is literally sophomoric.

    More to the point:we in the USA are seeing our very civilization, culture and society destroyed by opening up our country to people who have absolutely no understanding of, ans who cannot possibly do so..

    And in the end you confound "values" with reality. The West's "values" may or may not be universal, but the formation, existential existence and "spiritual life" of a civilization is not. They were created by real people, real races in real places over very long stretches of time. Denying that puts the very existence of that civilization in danger.

    Lastly, a civilization is vastly more than a set a intellectual precepts, rules or descriptions that some set of people that some set of people accent to while somehow standing outside that civilization. There is no such create and this human that stands apart from civilization and chooses which he will "contribute" too. It is just an abstraction of yours. In fact the consciousness, mind, and indeed the very language and thought of the vast majority of people are wholly forged by their civilization, and not the other way around. This process takes centuries. It is not done through indoctrinating members of other civilizations through "Western Civ" courses, or citizenship exams.

    You argument is a very odd one coming from where you live. I can only assume that you are so fare removed from the reality of multicult infiltration and depredations that it is all a mere abstraction to you, yet you do not realize this. I can tell you that it is a visceral, deadly reality.

    1. It's hard to be any clearer than George Resiman has been and still be so misunderstood.
      It could be that you simply don't understand the difference between 'Universalisability' and 'Universal.' Or it could be you just don't care.

    2. It has been explained to you repeatedly why the superior aspects of western civilisation are irrelevant with regard to Islamic immigration. Yet you still keep spouting the same delusional "teach them better culture" nonsense.

      You're really not in a position to be mocking the ignorance of others.

    3. Barry, you've *claimed* any number of things over the journey. You've *explained* very little.

    4. Myself and others have explained that European countries have huge problems with their Muslim populations. Problems that obviously (to most people) will not be solved by "teaching them" the western culture they are already familiar with and wish to destroy.

      They are blinded by their ideology which they are prepared to die for. Likewise your ideology apparently doesn't allow you to understand this.

    5. No, Barry, you've *claimed." And each time I've spent time checking the evidence behind your claims I've discovered they haven't stacked up, and the "memes" behind them have been generated from the sort of fetid swamp Robert Tracinski talks about today.
      So, no, I haven't been persuaded.

    6. Barry's point is that you cannot be persuaded, because you are blinded. Brussel is like a war zone. So is Paris. Muslims were celebrating the recent Brussels bombings, yet you don't see a problem because you've read a counter claim about rape statistics in Sweden, and other such things. Well, that it is like a war zone in various places in Europe is more than enough for me to see that there is a problem.

  4. I cannot be persuaded by Barry because --as I've explained above --- Barry has posted no evidence that stacks up to persuade me.

    1. Yet you have been persuaded that all the issues with Europe's Muslim populations are in fact a white supremacist conspiracy. Wow.

    2. Your's is certainly, how shall we say, a *unique* interpretation of George Reisman's argument.


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