Friday, 5 March 2010

Where we don't live

A lecture from Dr. Steven Davies, entitled "Locating Ourselves Historically: Why We Are Not Living in Western Civilization"

This was just plain fascinating. Bascially, he argues that Civilizations are units of a) common experience and b) common symbolic (especially symbolics in communication). And that if you take the worldview, and experience of someone in Boston, MA today, and compare it to someone living in Boston, MA 300 years ago, it's fundamentally different. That Americans, Britons, Canadians, Germans etc can suggest that they're the direct cultural descendants of the Greeks and Romans is somewhere between absurd and just plain silly.  Here's the blurb:
A crucial part of the self-consciousness of individuals and the way they define themselves socially is a perception of their location in a historical narrative, however vague. For most people in North America and Europe the narrative in question is that of 'Western Civilization' - this is true for all parts of the political spectrum and includes those who see this narrative as one of triumphant success and others who perceive it as a much darker story. However, the picture that emerges from historical research does not support any of these accounts. Rather they lead us to the conclusion that historic Western Civilization no longer exists but has perished or been transformed. This should make us think about how to understand our historical location and lead us to see past, present, and future in a new way.

1 comment:

themadengineer said...

If "Western Civilization" doesn't exist, what does that make us Americans?
Or are they saying that, say, my living in Texas and your living in Alaska makes us totally culturally different? (Which I would disagree on -- I have more in common with an Alaskan scientist than the family living three houses away.)