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Problematic concepts

22 October 2014

Cross-posted from The Molinist. Come and read The Molinist at its new home!
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The latest episode of Season 2 of Crash Course History examined the history and historiography of ‘the West,’ which readers will likely be familiar with as one of the more fundamental paradigms of historical self-understanding of those of us who speak European languages and live in the Americas, Australasia, and those portions of the European subcontinent that lie west of Ukraine. The more specific question under discussion is the ‘rise’ of the West: that is, how did it come about that the West dominates (for now…duh duh duh…ominous music) the rest of the world. Host John Green doesn’t attempt to answer the question, thankfully, but rather discusses various answers that have been proposed by historians other authors. I would like to propose a fairly simple answer: it does not. How so? Well, for the same reason that neither unicorns nor elves dominate the earth: ‘the West’ is not a coherent concept and its dominance or lack thereof is not a coherent proposition.

What, I ask you, is the West?

To watch the Crash Course video, read on, and comment, click here: Problematic concepts


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