Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman on Duchesne's Uniqueness of Western Civilization
Retired historian Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman has a very brief piece in Comparative Civilizations Review (Number 67, Fall 2012, pp. 130-132) that summarizes Ricardo Duchesne's book, The Uniqueness of Western Civilization, and she offers Duchesne's five objectives in writing this book:
First, to trace the ideological sources behind the multicultural effort to "provincialize" the history of Western civilization (anthropological relativism, critical theory, dependency theory, evolutionary materialism, post-modernism, feminism, and identity politics).All of this sounds interesting and worth looking into, for I've long wondered -- aside from the issue of the West's possible uniqueness -- about what, if anything, characterizes the West as "Western" throughout its lengthy history.
Second: to assess the empirical adequacy of a highly influential set of revisionist works published in the last two decades dedicated to the pursuit of dismantling the "Eurocentric" consensus on the "rise of the West." Duchesne demonstrates that the entire revisionist school was founded on precarious and doubtful claims in an attempt to rewrite history.
Third, the traditional Eurocentric historiography on the rise of the West still holds much significance despite the unrelenting attacks on it. There are numerous additional sources from historians of Europe who have written about Western achievement from the ancient Greeks to the present. The West has always existed in a state of variance from the rest of the world's cultures, as can be shown in the "Greek miracle," the Roman invention of the legal persona, the Papal revolution, the Portuguese voyages of discovery, the Gutenberg press, the cartographic revolution, the Protestant reformation, and the "industrial enlightenment." Not one of the other major civilizations had such experience in their histories.
Fourth, Duchesne insists that the development of a liberal democratic culture was an indispensable component of the rise of the West. Western culture is more than just scientific or industrial; the ideals of freedom and the reasoned pursuit of truth were cultivated and realized only in the development of the West.
Fifth and finally, Duchesne argues that the roots of the West's "restless" creativity and libertarian spirit should be traced back to the aristocratic warlike culture of Indo-European speakers. The primordial basis for Western uniqueness lay in the ethos of individualism and strife. This is an extremely original position, and one that I had never considered before. What Duchesne writes about this particularly prickly nature of the Indo-European culture I recognize from my own work on the ancient Persian psyche, before they got carried away with the autocracy of the Semitic world which surrounded and outnumbered them.
Individualism and strife, she says he says . . .