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The West and the Rest.

An interesting post from LICC today, looking at the relationship between the ‘West’ and the ‘Rest’.

In a new book, Civilisation: the West and the Rest (Allen Lane), the historian Niall Ferguson takes a historical look at the relationship. What was it about Western civilisation, he asks, that allowed it, in the past 500 years, to trump all other political systems and cultures? His answer is that the West developed six ‘killer apps’ that the rest lacked: competition, science, democracy, medicine, consumerism and the work ethic. Many of these, he acknowledges, find their roots in Christianity, specifically in Protestantism – although, of course, they have evolved far from those roots.

Ferguson is currently presenting a series on Sunday evenings on Channel Four, which he has called Civilisation: Is the West History? Each programme examines the influence, for good and ill, of one of the killer apps – apps that are, of course, being embraced, developed and exploited by countries all over the world. Can these, however, deliver peace, justice and prosperity, unless reconnected with the faith from which they grew?

What do you think? Does Ferguson take an overly optimistic stance towards competition, science, democracy, medicine, consumerism and the work ethic? There are surely lots of problems that stem from our reliance on these things, too, and lots for us to learn from the ‘Rest’. What’s your take on this issue?

I’m certainly going to be watching the series on TV, anyway.