What is the West? (2007)

The Engelsberg Seminar 2007

June 14th to 16th 2007 at Avesta Manor, Sweden

After a life lived in India, Rudyard Kipling famously remarked that East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet. But now they do: through immigration, through travel, through globalisation. But are the terms West and East merely a mental map that creates boundaries where none should exist? Can the distinction be meaningful when it is used to explain everything from the division of the Roman Empire to the Cold War and now the fight against Jihadism? Japan, Brazil, Israel and Australia all defy geography to claim to be “West”. Despite Russia’s European Christian roots it still counts as “East”. Substantive or not, the terms determine our cultural self-awareness and the way we make sense of the world. Since Oswald Spenglers Der Untergang des Abendlandes, Westerners (and others) have been discussing its future. More recently, Samuel Huntington has cautioned of a clash of civilisations in which the West will lose its preeminent place. Is the defining feature of the West hostility to the East? Edward Saids critique of Orientalism, once fashionable, is now discredited. The new theory is that Westerners have been bewitched by riches and civilisations of the East: close observation and awe have been the hallmarks of that, not ignorant belittlement. Maybe the real prejudice today is not the view of the “noble savage” but outsiders’ “Occidentalist” stereotypes about “depraved westerners” and their dehumanised culture and society. So how and where did ideas about the Western world arise? And how far are they accurate? How far is technological innovation and industrialisation a “western” phenomenon? What are the spiritual characteristics and features that define the West today? Answers to these raise new questions. How do non-Westerners in modernised settings perceive the West? Are old national identities giving way to a new common Western identity at least, or at first, in Europe? Can the Euro-Atlantic West survive the decline of Atlanticism? If Western values are at least potentially universal is it practical or desirable to spread them across the world?


Historical Perspectives

Roger Scruton
Doctor, Writer and Philosopher
Lecture: The West and the Rest from a Historical Perspective

Philippe Nemo
Professor, Centre for Research in Economic Philosophy
Lecture: The Invention of Western Values

Georgios Varouxakis
Doctor, Queen Mary University of London
Lecture: The Origins of the Idea of “the West”

David Landes
Professor, Harvard University
Lecture: Cornerstones in Western Development

Robert Irwin
Lecture: The Orientalists and Their Enemies


Western Liberalism

Larry Siedentop
Doctor, University of Oxford
Lecture: Democracy in Europé

Tøger Seidenfaden
Editor-in-Chief, Politiken
Lecture: Western Values, National Identities

Robert Shapiro
Doctor, Sonecon
Lecture: Democracy in America

The View from Elsewhere

Sahin Alpay
Professor, Bahcesehir University
Lecture: Turkey and Westernization

Nadezhda Mihaylova
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bulgaria. Institute for Democracy and Stability in South-East Europe
Lecture: The West Viewed from the Balkans

Marina Warner
Lecture: The Compass of Story: Eastern bearings in Western literature


Western Identity in Flux?

Avishai Margalit
Professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Lecture: The West by the Rest

Pankaj Mishra
Lecture: The Legacy of Muslim Immigration

Ibn Warraq
Lecture: Self-Criticism: The redemptive grace of Western Civilisation

Hans Kollhoff
Lecture: Go West: Welcome in Europe


The Future of the West

Philip Bobbitt
University of Texas
Lecture: The Wars on Terror

David Frum
American Enterprise Institute
Lecture: The Universality of Western Values

Göran Rosenberg
Lecture: The Future of the European Gemeinschaft

Rolf Ekéus
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities
Lecture: Threats to European Integration

Bo Huldt
Professor, Swedish Defence College
Lecture: The Future of Transatlantic Relations