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Western World vs Non Western World

In search of the best future for our world, enquires to explain the major divisions in the world and to suggest the model that makes the most sense. The assignment is based on the Commencement Address “A World Split Apart” delivered by a Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn at Harvard University in June 8, 1978, and an abstract from the book “Jihad vs. McWorld” written by an American political scientist Benjamin Barber in 1995. The paper will study the main points of each article and how each author regarded the divisions in the modern world. As there is a considerable gap in the time when the articles were written and due to different ideological approaches to the problem, it is also worth trying to study the similar points and to decide how their approaches diverge. Of no less importance is the need to discover if both authors gave any solutions to the problem and how those solutions differed. Finally, basing on the modern global examples, one model over the other will be recommended showing how the current events fit into the model we chose.

To begin with, it is necessary to study the definition of “western” and “nonwestern” worlds. The modern social science often uses the combination of “western and no western world” in connection with globalization. Originally in XIX century the term “western world” meant the political, economic and social process that took place in Europe and North America, thus making Europe and North America against the others (Ong et al. 737). Nowadays, the term “western” has lost its geographical reference and basing on political, economic and cultural context might mean countries like Europe, USA, Japan, Australia and South Korea (Fernanda). Then, “no western world” or “the others” may include such ambiguous worlds as China, India, Russia, African countries, Latin America. Even the wealthy citizens reside in the big cities of Colombia, Lebanon or Turkey may consider them “westerners” (Said 19).

The divisions in the world were explained by the authors in their own way. “A World Split Apart” Address was delivered by a Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn in 1978 when he was in exile for several years. Having spent much of his life in the USSR, he could compare two social models and explain the divisions of the world from the point of view of a writer from the distant seventies. Solzhenitsyn observed two super powers capable of destroying each other. He stressed that the split between them could not be remedied by any skilful diplomacy. At the same time, he made a relevant for our time prediction that the very term “Third World” would mean another split with Chinese and Islamic peoples. Solzhenitsyn considered the West’s illusions that “the world will eventually grow into the Western model of markets and democracies after they overcome their crises and bad leaders” naïve (Solzhenitsyn). In other words, he did not see any tendencies toward convergence.

Nearly twenty years later, the Benjamin Barber’s view on the divisions in the world   became broader in scale. First, he stated that democracy and the nation-states were under the threat caused by “two core tenets” of the age: globalism and retribalization (Barber). By retribalization B. Barber meant the fragmentation of countries in different parts of the world like Yugoslavia as a result of war and bloodshed. The erosion of the states gave birth to two main forces that he called “McWorld” and “Jihad”. Barber saw McWorld as consumer culture embracing the developed world and encroaching on the developing world. According to Barber, Jihad has nothing to do with traditional Islam. By Jihad the scientist meant “blinkered, intolerant and essentially tribal fundamentalism” (Barber). According to the writer, it is a tendency toward balkanization. Operating in opposite directions, these two forces have one thing in common: they do not care “a fig about citizens” (Barber).

Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Benjamin Barber gave a very detailed analysis of Western and Non Western worlds. Solzhenitsyn based his article on his own experience of living in the USSR and in the West. First of all, he denied the possibility of convergence between the leading Western countries and the Soviet Union because “convergence inevitably means acceptance of the other side’s defects” (Solzhenitsyn) which could not be possible during the time when the article was written. In his words, it was naïve to expect that one day when the Non Western World overcame its problems and bad leaders it would grow into the Western model of markets and democracies. Solzhenitsyn stressed the growing importance of the countries of the Third World that were once the slaves of the Western World. According to the author, the Western world so powerful and self-confident dealing with weak governments and weak countries gets paralyzed facing the powerful governments, aggressors and international terrorists. This loss of courage Solzhenitsyn explained by the granted well‑being in the consumer society that was getting pernicious for the citizens of the Western World who could not see why to risk one’s precious life in defense of common values. Besides, Solzhenitsyn blamed the freedom of the western press that permits intruding into private life.

Benjamin Barber studied the possible consequences of globalization and further development of McWorld and Jihad. He stressed that both of them in spite of their attraction to Western and Non Western worlds neither needed nor promoted democracy. According to Barber, tyrants who were guilty of the massacre of their people placed no problem for McWorld as long as they behaved themselves within the rules of the market and did not start wars. Barber spoke about four imperatives that constituted McWorld: a market imperative, a resource imperative, an information-technology imperative, and an ecological imperative that managed to achieve a considerable victory over nationalism. He stated that transnational markets became a threat to all national economies. As to Jihad, with all solidarity and community it provides to its kinsmen, according to Barber, it also “brings parochialism, bigotry and an absolute submission of the individual to the group and its leaders” (Barber) that is hardly democratic.

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Despite 17 years separating the Commencement Address delivered by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and a book written by Benjamin Barber, it is possible to detect some similar points. Primary, both authors stress that the planet is being torn apart by the super powers arms race, vestiges of race and ideology. Constant political instability puts the world on the edge of manifold disaster. Both Solzhenitsyn and Barber point attention to the growing importance of the Non Western World which is taking more and more important role part in the development of our planet.

At the same time, there are some points where the authors diverge. Solzhenitsyn did not believe that two super powers were capable of achieving balance through diplomatic negotiations and predicted inevitable widening of the split between them. However, Barber, who witnessed the positive development in the relations of the former opponents, was more optimistic as to the future of the planet which, according do him, due to consumer culture was “falling precipitately apart AND coming reluctantly together at the very same moment” (Barber).

Both authors did not only define the main tendencies leading to the conflict between Western and Non Western countries but also tried to find the solutions to it. After a detailed analysis Solzhenitsyn came to the conclusion that socialism of any type would lead to “a total destruction of the human spirit;” (Solzhenitsyn) thus, he did not prefer socialism to the “West economic engine.” (Solzhenitsyn) At the same time, he would not recommend the West as a model for Russia. On the other hand, Barber was more specific and suggested regional confederated forms of the government following a pattern of the U.S. under The Articles of Confederation or a modern regional structure of the European Union.

Comparing these two approaches to the solution of the problem, Barber’s proposal looks more realistic and better articulated. A crash of the USSR and the Eastern socialist block (except Belarus) and a return to the capitalist economic model proved insolvency of socialism in this part of the world. At the same time, the economic success of China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea with their socialist economic system gives basis to believe that the resources of the socialist system were not fully exhausted. At the same time, the return to the capitalist model did not make it more attractive introducing long forgotten uncertainty in the nearest future. The intensive globalization does not give equal chances to Western and Non Western countries. Mankind enters the third millennium with the increasing division into the “race of lords and masters.” As it was mentioned by Barber, every nation has something that another has not, and this leads to bloodshed. The suggested by Barber force “Jihad” became a reality of nowadays. The tragic events of 11 September 2001 in the USA and recent massacre in Paris together with unpunished American aggression against Yugoslavia and Russian aggression against Ukraine and Syria became one more reminder of the Solzhenitsyn’s statement that Western World steeped in its comfortable consumer paradise manifests a decline in courage.

Neither of the hitherto existed social models proved its superiority. Thus, in view of growing globalization and uneven economic status of Western and Non Western world countries, the universal model perhaps should include only the best features of the hitherto existed social models. In this, to my mind, Barber suggests more realistic ways for the further development of the world.

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