Reasons for the decline of 'western civilization'

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Reasons for the decline of 'western civilization'

Postprzez caretaker » Wt maja 19, 2015 12:02 am

Jim Penman,
Biohistory Foundation

Re: Fitzsimmons C., ‘We’re all doomed’: Jim’s Mowing founder Jim Penman , BRW, 8/5/15

I was interested in the thesis developed in Biohistory: Decline and Fall of the West (ie that a biological analogy
suggests that citizens’ changing temperament means that Western civilization must decline relative to others)
because I have made a study for some decades of the cultural differences between various major civilizations,
and how this affects their progress / development. This suggests to me that it is more important to focus
on cultural issues rather than on biology.

The online Biohistory presentation starts by posing questions about how civilization develops. It then suggests
that civilization is characterised by: a willingness to work long hours; a desire to innovate; and adherence to ideas
and abstract principles (such as the notion of money and a constitution).

These features have been characteristic of Western civilization in recent centuries – but not necessarily
of other civilizations and certainly not in the same way (see Competing Civilizations, 2001+).

The latter points to the origin of the features that permitted rapid progress by Western societies in recent centuries
(see Cultural Foundations of Western Progress: The Realm of the Rational / Responsible Individual).
The key to that progress arguably lay in the Judeo-Christian emphasis on the welfare (and capabilities) of individuals
which permitted rationality (ie the use of abstract concepts such as money and law) to be a reasonably reliable guide
to individual decision making in economic and political contexts. Abstract concepts fail as a reliable method
for problem solving in complex environments (eg where central authorities try to ‘plan’ an economy or where
family / communal coercion (rather than individual consciences) is relied upon to ensure responsible individual behaviour).

It also points to the rejection in traditional East Asian religions of the notion of both individualism and abstract concepts
which affects societies with an ancient Chinese cultural heritage – and the consequent use of quite different methods
solving problems and achieving change (see East Asia: The Realm of the Autocratic, Hierarchical and Intuitive Ethnic Group?
and also Competing Thought Cultures, 2012). The former also refers to the dislocation of the international financial system
and global economy that has resulted from East Asia’s lack of reliance on the ‘abstract’ called money as the basis
for resource allocation (see also Structural Incompatibility Puts Global Growth at Risk, 2003; Impacting the Global Economy,
2009 and This Could Be the Year We Acknowledge the Weaponization of Finance, 2015). Resources are deployed by
the elites who head the 'family' (which could be the nation as a whole) without serious concern for return on savings and
subordinates are expected to work hard for limited reward out of a sense of 'family' loyalty / ethnic nationalism.
Without serious attention to return on, or return of, capital, ‘financial repression’ is needed in East Asia’s
non-capitalist systems, to avoid the need to borrow in international financial markets where money is considered
to be significant – and this in turn requires that trading partners must be willing and able to perpetually compensate
for East Asian demand deficits by increasing their debt levels.

In relation to Muslim societies, reference is also made to the apparent cultural obstacles to the difference / initiative /
innovation (features that are vital to cope with change and to achieve economic prosperity) that seem to a consequence
of the way the Islamic religion has been enforced (see Islamic Societies: The Realm of the Self-Repressive Tribes?).

It has recently been apparent that China is seeking to create a new international order based on authoritarian
(arguably quasi-fascist) ‘Asian’ practices that are incompatible with ‘liberal’ Western concepts and institutions
(see Creating a New International 'Confucian' Financial and Political Order, 2009+). This presumably reflects a desire
to both: (a) avoid the financial crisis and breakdown that faces China (as had previously affected Japan) if ‘liberal’
Western financial institutions remain dominant (see Heading for a Crash or a Meltdown?); and (b) give effect
to something like the ‘Asian Co-prosperity Sphere’ aspirations that East Asian nationalists expressed militarily in the 1930s.

The global economy is in severe difficulties largely because of the financial imbalances that have arisen
(largely but not only) from the mercantilist practices of East Asian economies (most notably Japan and China)
and the total failure of the G20 to come to grips with the cultural origins of their need to manipulate their
financial systems to achieve such imbalances (see Will China's Presidency in 2016 End the G20's Chronic Failure?,
2014). And the use of easy monetary policy to compensate for those imbalances has both: (a) provided a temporary
(ie about 25 year) ‘solution’ by boosting their trading partners’ ability to sustain rising debts
(see Putting the Economic Risk of Deflation in Context); and (b) generated adverse side-effects
(see note on Monetary Policy).

Democratic governments are facing problems related to community ‘temperament’ because: (a) those governments
have rendered themselves increasingly incompetent – partly because (in Australia’s case) poorly-advised methods
have been used in an attempt to ensure unquestioning compliance and boost competitiveness (see Australia's
Governance Crisis and the Need for Nation Building, 2003+); (b) East Asian ‘non-capitalist economic systems
have constituted an unrecognised form of industrial protectionism (see Resist Protectionism: A Call That is
Decades Too Late, 2010); (c) inequality has arisen from the use of easy monetary policy to compensate for
international financial imbalances (see Who Is Failing the Lower and Middle Classes?); and (d) it has proven difficult
to achieve the productivity to sustain high wage job creation and a strong tax base in the face competition
from economies with rising skill levels and low wage and income transfer expectation (op cit).

And, at the same time: (a) environmental obstacles to economic and population growth are rising – and imposing
very real costs; (b) failures in societies at the global margins are leading to failed states and Islamist extremism;
and (c) the international institutions that were established after WWII have been increasingly incapable of successfully
fulfilling their roles, leading to a risk of a break down in international order like that at the end of the 19th century
that led to WWI (see The Second Failure of Globalization?, 2003+).

However there is no determinism involved (biological or otherwise). These challenges have solutions.

Institutional reforms can dramatically improve the effectiveness of democratic governments (eg see Australia's
Governance Crisis and the Need for Nation Building, 2003+ and Saving Democracy, 2012).

Competitiveness, income levels and tax revenues can be increased by effective apolitical leadership
(eg by business leaders) in the development of economic ‘systems’ (see Developing a Regional Industry Cluster, 2000;
A Case for Innovative Economic Leadership, 2009; Reinventing the Regions. 2010; and Lifting Productivity:
A Bigger Picture View, 2010 – which amongst other things suggests the need to rethink economics to recognise
that information can have its most powerful economic role in changing, rather than by merely being an input to,
an economic production function).

Similar democratically-endorsed apolitical leadership can potentially stimulate practical adjustments to cope
with environmental and social challenges (eg as suggested in The Probable Need for a Community-Based Solution, 2014)

The challenge to ‘liberal’ Western concepts and institutions by East Asian authoritarianism can be met by:
(a) making a serious effort to understand its intellectual foundations – rather than by continuing to deal with
such influences without understanding (see Babes in the Asian Woods, 2009+); (b) recognising that ‘containing’
the new feudalism / fascism that China currently represents is primarily a cultural rather than a military challenge
(see Comments on Australia's Strategic Edge in 2030, 2011); and (c) applying that understanding in dealing
with reforms to international institutions (eg see China may not have the solution, but it seems to have
a problem, 2010 and World Economics Association - Rethinking the International Financial Architecture, 2015).

Understanding of the practical implications of cultural difference can be gained by encouraging the humanities
and social science faculties at Western universities to cast off their ‘post-modern’ ideologies and do some
serious work on the practical consequences of different cultural assumptions (see A Case for Restoring Universities,
2010). As noted in Competing Civilizations (2001), culture is the principal determinant of a community's ability
to be materially successful and to live in relative peace and harmony. Culture affects: people's goals and aspirations;
the way they understand reality (and thus how they go about solving problems, and whether they can develop technologies);
their ability to learn, to cope with risk and to change; the way people relate; the scope for initiative;
and the institutions their society maintains. Serious efforts to understand the practical consequences of
cultural assumptions would also help overcome the disadvantages that those on the global margins experience
(eg see UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Perpetuating Disadvantage?, 2007) and reduce
the violence that can result when people are unable to understand the causes of their disadvantage and
thus believe that they are being oppressed (see Cultural Ignorance as a Source of Conflict , 2001 and Discouraging
Pointless Extremism, 2002).

Finally serious attention to a number of key issues (eg democracy, ethics, communication, global institutions,
development practices and the role of finance) has the potential to reduce the ‘clash of civilization’ that has been
emerging (see Defusing a ‘Clash’, 2001). And a process to enable those issues to be understood within diverse
cultural contexts is probably possible (eg see A New 'Manhattan' Project for Global Peace, Prosperity and Security, 2001).

Thus, while your work is useful in highlighting the fact that liberal Western societies face a challenge, I suspect that
institutional reforms and a focus on culture have the potential to enable solutions to that challenge to be found.
And doing so seems more constructive than claiming that failure is biologically predetermined.

I would be interested in your response to my speculations

John Craig
Centre for Policy and Development Systems

Posty: 91
Dołączył(a): Cz cze 23, 2011 7:19 pm

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