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November 01, 2011

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Actually, Fergusan is married to Ayaan Hirsi Ali (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayaan_Hirsi_Ali), originally from Somalia; so his children (should they have any) will not be eligable to be American/Western by his terms.

Oy, thanks for that tip David

Eric, are you saying that the societal advance from generic feudalism did not begin in the West (Europe and then the US/Australia) and continue thus until post WWII? If so, I'd have to disagree. I also think it is historically correct to say that the Western model did not significantly displace the feudal state anywhere until after WWII.

It is also accurate, I am fairly sure, that Asian American students outwork and outperform any other demographic in the US. Is this a diss to Asian American students or the vast majority who are not Asian Americans? Put differently, if 1-2% of the student population (guessing at the actual number here) works in high gear and everyone else is lagging, wouldn't that be indicative of an overall unsatisfactory state of affairs, a decline, for lack of a better word?

It is also accurate, I am fairly sure, that Asian American students outwork and outperform any other demographic in the US. Is this a diss to Asian American students or the vast majority who are not Asian Americans?

If your point is that Americans need to work harder because non-Americans, like those of Asian descent, are working hard, then, yeah, that's a BIG problem. And a BIG diss.

Eric, I wasn't unclear: I use Asian American, OTOH, and contrast to the remainder of all other Americans. Asian Americans are a subset of Americans, ethnically speaking, as are Hispanic, African, Native American, Caucasion etc all subsets of the whole. E Pluribus Unim, and all that.

If only one identifiable subset of Americans are putting in the extra effort, wouldn't that indicate a decline?

'And you don’t have to spend too long at any major U.S. university to know which students really drive themselves: the Asians and Asian-Americans.'

'So, according to Ferguson, my wife, son and daughter aren't really Americans because my wife is of Korean descent.'

I can see the factual truth in the first statement and cannot reach the same conclusion in the second. If we are both 'reading minds', I read it differently.

Based on the scant excerpts provided, it seems that Ferguson is describing a decline in a certain cultural ethic as well as pointing out a new driver (with different traditional influences) of knowledge-based progress in the US. Do you think none of this is actually happening?

Eric, I wasn't unclear: I use Asian American, OTOH, and contrast to the remainder of all other Americans.

But Ferguson is using it differently than you. He's calling Americans Westerners, and bemoaning the decline of the West and wants Americans to revive.

Citing Asian Americans' success as evidence of "America's" decline is...ridiculous.

I can see the factual truth in the first statement and cannot reach the same conclusion in the second. If we are both 'reading minds', I read it differently.

You could if you were relegated to reading minds. However, I would prefer to read the surrounding text, context and overall argument.

That clarifies it.

"hones in" is a solecism

You want "homes in", as in a homing pigeon's flight pattern.

Yes, I'm an annoying pedant.

Citing Asian Americans' success as evidence of "America's" decline is...ridiculous.

Maybe, maybe not. If only Asian American students are going the extra mile, then it follows that the remainder are not, which, to me, is indicative of a decline.

Put differently, he identifies two groups, Asians and Asian Americans and posits that these two groups outwork and outperform the remaining aggregate student body, regardless of origin or ethnicity. If only these two groups out perform and the larger of the two will likely return to their country of origin (or so I assume), leaving only the smaller group behind, that does not look like a good situation.

But my real question is whether you dispute the notion that "the societal advance from generic feudalism [began] in the West (Europe and then the US/Australia) and continue[d] thus until post WWII?"

We can disagree about whether Ferguson is a racist (he may be, but that sentence alone doesn't prove it, at least not to me), but do we disagree with the premise he states at the beginning of the quote from his book?

Maybe, maybe not. If only Asian American students are going the extra mile, then it follows that the remainder are not, which, to me, is indicative of a decline.

But it's not a decline for "America" if you consider Asian Americans to be Americans too.

PS: His data is also off here in terms of being the "only" ethnic cohort performing well.

he may be, but that sentence alone doesn't prove it, at least not to me

Nor me. I've read his work, and critical pieces on his work. The totality speaks more.

But my real question is whether you dispute the notion that "the societal advance from generic feudalism [began] in the West (Europe and then the US/Australia) and continue[d] thus until post WWII?"

I think the history on this does not follow such a straight line, and is used by Ferguson to reach many flawed conclusions.

Joel: Fixed. Thanks. Appreciate the correction always.

We can disagree about whether Ferguson is a racist...he may be, but that sentence alone doesn't prove it, at least not to me

For the record, I didn't actually say he was a racist, and that's not what I mean here.

But his work definitely waxes white supremacist and plays on a familiar racial anxiety.

the societal advance from generic feudalism [began] in the West (Europe and then the US/Australia) and continue[d] thus until post WWII

This seems very weird to me.

Is the assumption that the entire world, including Europe, operated under some form of 'feudalism' until the 15th C?

I put quotes around feudalism here because it's not very well defined in this discussion so far.

And that Europe led the way from 'generic feudalism' to our modern economy and nation/state organization?

I just want to make sure I understand what the claim is.

But it's not a decline for "America" if you consider Asian Americans to be Americans too.

Of course it is, IF everyone else is dogging it, so to speak. My law firm, and yours, would be in decline if only 5% of the attorneys were doing the heavy lifting.

But his work definitely waxes white supremacist and plays on a familiar racial anxiety.

How does one wax "white supremacist" without not unavoidably being simultaneously racist.

My take on history, FWIW, is that the Western Canon is, on balance, far superior to any contemporary society, then or now. It has spread beyond the traditional "West" because of its desirability such that the original West may be surpassed by younger, more energetic societies. That would be a relative decline. For my part, I wish the original West would keep up because that's where I, my kids and, hopefully, their kids will grow up. I don't see a skin color issue here, just a realization that other folks have seen the Western model, they like it, they are adopting it and becoming far more competitive for having done so.

Is the assumption that the entire world, including Europe, operated under some form of 'feudalism' until the 15th C?

Yes, that's why I modified 'feudalism' with 'generic', except we are really talking about the 16th century, when things really began to pop in Europe, but remained pretty much unchanged elsewhere in terms of societal structure. Whether you call the national leader a king, an emperor, a chief or what have you, and regardless of the form of vassalage supporting that structure, that was virtually the sole form of what passed for gov't back in the day. It remained fairly constant until the mid 19th through the early 20th centuries but didn't really begin to unravel until after WWII. Dictatorships dominated the early post WWII years with democracy not making major in roads until the 80's and 90's, even in parts of the traditional West.

But his work definitely waxes white supremacist and plays on a familiar racial anxiety.

I haven't read his work, but I don't find the argument you've made above persuasive.

I think by "operating systems" he's talking about cultures. There were huge cultural differences between Asian and Western societies, and still are, but less so now for Asian societies that have adopted Western political and economic systems.

When he talks about Asians and Asian-Americans outpacing other students, I don't think he's complaining about Asians or Asian-Americans; rather, he's talking about Asian culture having a imbued a strong work ethic in students who have been influenced by it, whereas non-Asian-Americans have had no such beneficial influence.

And that Europe led the way from 'generic feudalism' to our modern economy and nation/state organization?

I would say that colonialism, particularly in the Western Hemisphere, was the leading precipitating factor. The US was the wild card that accelerated and changed substantially the dynamic in Europe and ultimately the world, impeded temporarily by marxism and national socialism, and impeded more directly by the former than the latter.

his work definitely waxes white supremacist

Err...what? I mean, seriously: WTF, Eric?

This started out as oh my goodness, look at the sloppy scholarship, and wound up being a hatchet job. White supremacist isn't anywhere substantiated in anything you've quoted of his.

You'd probably be seriously pissed if he'd written something similar about you, and justifiably so.

How does one wax "white supremacist" without not unavoidably being simultaneously racist.

You do so by being more subtle, and saying things that are not overtly racist but that appeal to a certain group's ego.

Also, people can write things that are racist without themselves being racist.

Of course it is, IF everyone else is dogging it, so to speak. My law firm, and yours, would be in decline if only 5% of the attorneys were doing the heavy lifting.

1. It's not just the 5%.
2. It wasn't his point that the decline is happening because only 5% are doing the heavy lifting. His point is, no one is doing the heavy lifting - but Asians and Asian Americans are, hence the West is in decline.

I agree with Sapient. Ferguson doesn't seem to be fussing about Asians of any kind. He's unhappy with non-Asian Americans, in general, not getting off their butts. I tend to agree with him, if that's his point.

the Western Canon is, on balance, far superior to any contemporary society, then or now

What does this mean? What is this "Western Canon" you are talking about? What is it's relationship to "Western society"?

Stuff like this puzzles me because just saying "Western society" covers such a huge range of turf.

Just figuring out what "the West" is will break your brain. The "West", when? Are we including the Byzantine civilization? Are Russia and Eastern Europe part of "the West"? If so, as of when?

These discussions always seem, to me, like making up an attractive (to somebody) hypotheses and then arranging the data to fit.

Regarding Asians, there is a very large difference between saying that a higher proportion of Asian-Americans are high achievers relative to other identifiable ethnic groups, and saying that the top N percent of high achievers are Asian-Americans.

The reasons that a particular group does disproportionately well, at a particular time, are both complex and fluid.

Asians are also disproportionately represented in criminal gangs in many places in the US. As are, frex, Russians, who are otherwise a population that are pretty high achievers.

What conclusion do we draw from that?

Err...what? I mean, seriously: WTF, Eric?

This started out as oh my goodness, look at the sloppy scholarship, and wound up being a hatchet job. White supremacist isn't anywhere substantiated in anything you've quoted of his.

You'd probably be seriously pissed if he'd written something similar about you, and justifiably so.

OK, first of all, I linked to two reviews of his work, please read first. Further, my opinions on the work of Ferguson are NOT, I repeat NOT, limited to the excerpts above.

I've read some of his work, and watched some of his television productions as well.

I haven't read his work, but I don't find the argument you've made above persuasive.

Neither do I. It wasn't an argument so much as a complaint. I invite you to read the reviews, read more Ferguson, and then discuss it with me.

When he talks about Asians and Asian-Americans outpacing other students, I don't think he's complaining about Asians or Asian-Americans; rather, he's talking about Asian culture having a imbued a strong work ethic in students who have been influenced by it, whereas non-Asian-Americans have had no such beneficial influence.

That work ethic being, of course, a "Western App" downloaded by non-Western people.

'Is the assumption that the entire world, including Europe, operated under some form of 'feudalism' until the 15th C?'

The most significant element was the Western European introduction of the market economy replacing the former command economy of the feudal system. That got the ball rolling.

Eric, I have to say, you may be unduly influenced by the reviewer's mind reading. I'm pretty sure demographically valid statistics show that Asian American kids outperform every other cohort. Most other cohorts are "in decline". How the hell that is supposed to indicate white supremacism (my new word; Count, feel free to chop that one up) beats me to pieces.

Now, if someone were to say, in effect, white kids need to get off their asses because they are getting beaten by Asian kids, as opposed to everyone needs to get off their assess, then there might be a point. But I don't see that anywhere in the quoted portion.

And, for the record, I am using "ass" in the biblical sense, not the anatomical.

I'm pretty sure demographically valid statistics show that Asian American kids outperform every other cohort. Most other cohorts are "in decline". How the hell that is supposed to indicate white supremacism (my new word; Count, feel free to chop that one up) beats me to pieces.

This is not true across the board. Other ethno-religious groups are doing quite well. But regardless, if you're writing pieces chiding the West, and the US, for decline and your evidence is how well Asian American students are doing, then...you have a certain conception of the West and the US that doesn't seem to include Asian Americans.

Now, if someone were to say, in effect, white kids need to get off their asses because they are getting beaten by Asian kids, as opposed to everyone needs to get off their assess, then there might be a point. But I don't see that anywhere in the quoted portion.

But what he's saying is this: the West is in decline and the US needs to wake up. Evidence: Asians and Asian Americans are working very hard in school. What that does is take Asian Americans out of the West and America.

McTex, it would be like this:

The great Western tradition of excellence in Athletics is in decline.

America, the standard bearer, is in decline in this way and needs to return to its roots and earlier dominance.

As evidence of the above, and in support of my call to action for Americans, African Americans are over-represented in professional athletic leagues.


Do you see anything there that might suggest an ethnic component to being "American"?

What is this "Western Canon" you are talking about?

It encompasses a lot, but fundamentally, it is the blend of individual rights and liberties, combined with property rights, enforced by the rule of law that also bound and limited the power of the state. It began in England, was jump started in the US and then migrated east to the continent (speaking very generally now) and also permeated good portions of the British Empire, producing significant cultural shifts in indigenous societies that were retained post-empire, see e.g. India (but Pakistan, not so much).

The most significant element was the Western European introduction of the market economy replacing the former command economy of the feudal system.

The concept of a "market economy" came very late in the game, and it evolved over time, and by time, I mean several centuries.

Now, on the one hand, one could argue, hey that was a compliment to African Americans and their fine athletic prowess!

On the other, one could argue that defining Africans (or Asians) out of the American experience, one is pushing a white-centric version of America.

The latter would have a point, mind you.

Now, I did not intend that to be ipso facto proof of Ferguson's more noxious tendencies. For that, you'll have to read more of his work.

(if you read his apologias on empire and the white man's burden, you'll see these views reappear in many contexts)

What that does is take Asian Americans out of the West and America.

Eric, that is simply an inference you draw. It is equally, if not more likely, that his intent is comparative, not exclusionary.

Do you see anything there that might suggest an ethnic component to being "American"?

Not particularly since (1) the premise (the decline of American athletic supremacy) is a construct and (2) athletics, by its very nature, is a meritocracy--one might say one in which athletic prowess is all too often allowed to excuse other, less salutary behavior, e.g. the Steelers' and Eagle's starting QB's.

That said, there was a relatively brief time when some quarters were disturbed that African Americans were integrating sports to the detriment of whites. Most of them are dead now, fixing that problem.

Eric, that is simply an inference you draw. It is equally, if not more likely, that his intent is comparative, not exclusionary.

No, I believe that is a conclusion based on what he has written. Read the whole piece.

Not particularly since (1) the premise (the decline of American athletic supremacy) is a construct and (2) athletics, by its very nature, is a meritocracy--one might say one in which athletic prowess is all too often allowed to excuse other, less salutary behavior, e.g. the Steelers' and Eagle's starting QB's.

Not sure how either of those responds to my hypothetical in any substantive way.

Whether you call the national leader a king, an emperor, a chief or what have you, and regardless of the form of vassalage supporting that structure, that was virtually the sole form of what passed for gov't back in the day.

The most significant element was the Western European introduction of the market economy replacing the former command economy of the feudal system.

To me, with respect, this all seems extraordinarily oversimplified.

A variety of the institutions we think of as "western" -- some kind of republican political organization, established and recognized individual rights, market economies -- have been in the mix for many many centuries, at various times and places.

The idea that it was all kings, dictators, and other forms of absolute sovereigns, right up until 'the west' invented capitalism and constitutional governance ignores a hell of a lot.

I'm curious what Ferguson or anyone else thinks the western genius thing is - the unique, unprecedented innovation, created purely by the western mind.

Natural and/or civic human rights?
Private property?
Broad participation in government?
Limits on the authority or reach of government?
Market and/or trade-based economy?
Scientific innovation?

I don't think there is anything uniquely 'western' about any of this.

In the 10,000 years, more or less, that human beings have been living in organized political groups, as opposed to purely extended family networks, 'the West' as we think of it today is *perhaps* 1500 years old, and for a considerable amount of that 1500 years has demonstrated few of the traits folks are claiming as its invention and legacy.

Let me break his argument down in pieces:

1. The US is in decline.

2. An indication of that decline is that Americans are losing their traditional work ethic.

3. As evidence of #1 and #2, I point to the fact that Asian Americans are excelling/overrepresented at American Universities.

Question: Why wouldn't #3 be evidence that Americans...are excellingat American Universities?

You honestly don't see

It is equally, if not more likely, that his intent is comparative, not exclusionary.

But what's the comparison? Comparing:

Asian Americans to...regular Americans?

Asian Americans to...Americans?

In which of those comaparisons are Asian Americans not treated as somehow less American or at least outside the American experience?

Not sure how either of those responds to my hypothetical in any substantive way.

Then I'll restate: no one is saying that the "great Western tradition of excellence in Athletics is in decline." Further, no one is saying that it is in decline because African Americans are over represented. And if they did, the complaint would fall flat because athletic success is achieved solely through effort and ability.

What is being said, as I take the guy, is that Asian Americans are outworking their contemporaries and this is not a good thing, not because of the Asian element, but because of what it says about everyone else.

Now, to try to take your example of athletics, if someone were to say that it's not a good thing that only [pick your demographic] shows any real interest in athletics and physical fitness and this is a crying pitiful shame for rest of the country, that would not be a complaint that the demographic group in question was pushing others aside, it would be a complaint about all of the other the lard asses (again, biblical ass, not anatomical) who are couching it.

1. some kind of republican political organization, established and recognized individual rights, market economies -- have been in the mix for many many centuries, at various times and places.

Russell, do you have any examples?

2. The idea that it was all kings, dictators, and other forms of absolute sovereigns, right up until 'the west' invented capitalism and constitutional governance ignores a hell of a lot.

Again, I would be interested in examples.

In both instances, I would be interested in examples of countries/societies/cultures outside of the Anglo American West that are responsible for a culture of blended:

Natural and/or civic human rights?
Private property?
Broad participation in government?
Limits on the authority or reach of government?
Market and/or trade-based economy?
Scientific innovation?

I am aware of none.

'the West' as we think of it today is *perhaps* 1500 years old, and for a considerable amount of that 1500 years has demonstrated few of the traits folks are claiming as its invention and legacy.

Which is specifically why I and others were careful to point out that the Western Canon did not begin to significantly unfold until the 16th century and this itself was a process that took almost all of 5 centuries to get to where we are today. But, absent some historical references that I've managed to miss beginning in my undergrad days, I am totally unaware of any meaningful contribution from sources external to the West of what I defined above as the Western Canon (which, incidentally, is not a McKinney-invented concept).

But what's the comparison? Comparing:

Asian Americans to...regular Americans?

Asian Americans to...Americans?

In which of those comaparisons are Asian Americans not treated as somehow less American or at least outside the American experience?

The latter of the two: Asian Americans to Americans, minus Asian Americans. And in this comparison is not treating them as less than other Americans or as outside the American experience, he is simply making a comparison.

I see nothing wrong with making such a comparison, assuming the factual underpinnings are accurate, which I believe them to be, on the whole.

My take on history, FWIW, is that the Western Canon is, on balance, far superior to any contemporary society, then or now.

Shocking news: Member of culture thinks his culture is the best in all of history, film at 11!

I am totally unaware of any meaningful contribution from sources external to the West of what I defined above as the Western Canon

Considering that you included "scientific innovation," you may want to re-think this one, considering how much we owe to the Islamic world on this front.

Then I'll restate: no one is saying that the "great Western tradition of excellence in Athletics is in decline." Further, no one is saying that it is in decline because African Americans are over represented. And if they did, the complaint would fall flat because athletic success is achieved solely through effort and ability.

Sweetness and light McTex, it was a hypo.

To respond that you're not going to engage the hypo because it's all...hypothetical is...not constructive.

Further, no one is saying that it is in decline because African Americans are over represented. And if they did, the complaint would fall flat because athletic success is achieved solely through effort and ability.

But educational success is achieved through effort and ability too. And it is claimed to be in decline in America, and the evidence is the over-representation of Asian Americans.

What is being said, as I take the guy, is that Asian Americans are outworking their contemporaries and this is not a good thing, not because of the Asian element, but because of what it says about everyone else.

But that's clearly not what he's saying even if it is what you are saying.

1. What he is saying is that the US is losing its traditional work ethic.

2. As evidence of this, Ferguson points to the over-representation of Asian Americans in universities.

But you can only use #2 to support #1 if you argue that Asian Americans aren't really Americans, but some different group that are putting Americans to shame.

Now, to try to take your example of athletics, if someone were to say that it's not a good thing that only [pick your demographic] shows any real interest in athletics and physical fitness and this is a crying pitiful shame for rest of the country, that would not be a complaint that the demographic group in question was pushing others aside, it would be a complaint about all of the other the lard asses (again, biblical ass, not anatomical) who are couching it.

Yes, that's exactly my point. Precisely.

Ferguson isn't saying it's a shame for the "rest" of the country. He's saying it's a shame for "the" country. And "the West" writ large.

That's where he crosses the line.

He's saying America is in decline, and the West is in decline, and his evidence is that Asian Americans and Asians are overrepresented, and have a stronger work ethic.

Clearly, he wants "Americans" to step it up and compete. But by that token, Asian Americans are the ones that need to be competed with by Americans.

And in this comparison is not treating them as less than other Americans or as outside the American experience, he is simply making a comparison.

I see nothing wrong with making such a comparison, assuming the factual underpinnings are accurate, which I believe them to be, on the whole.

That depends.

If your thesis is that the, and I quote, "European" Western traditions are in decline, and you use America as your exemplar, and then use Asian American academic performance as evidence, your comparison is not so benign.

If Asian Americans were truly and entirely American, it would be utterly pointless to say that Americans have lost their work ethic. As proof, this group of Americans is performing well.

Proof would be comparing Americans (including Asian Americans!) to other nations.

Let me try to put it differently, and see if this would make any sense to you:

1. The US, as exemplar of the West, is in decline.

2. To support this, I cite a loss of work ethic amongst the American people.

3. As evidence of #1 and #2, I point to the fact that White, protestant males are overrepresented at universities in America.

If one were to make that argument intstead of the one Ferguson made, the reader would scratch her/his head.

That doesn't make any sense. How could the overrepresentation of one American demographic be indicative of American decline?

How preposterous.

It only works as an argument, and as a "comparative" tool, if the American demographic is seen as part of the "Rest" to use his terminology.

Considering that you included "scientific innovation," you may want to re-think this one, considering how much we owe to the Islamic world on this front.

I am aware of this impression. It is born out by some, but pretty much minimal, evidence. Early on, when science was in its infancy, some very useful insights and discoveries were made in the Islamic world; however, weighed against the whole range of Western accomplishment over the last 500 years, those pale into relative nothingness by comparison.

Member of culture thinks his culture is the best in all of history, film at 11!

And the proof is in the number of countries who've adopted the basic Canon. I'd be happy to hear from you which societies you think to be superior.

The "killer apps," that Ferguson mentions, along with meritocratic diversity, which Noah Smith mentions, along with imperialism and some other less pleasant things, have resulted in combination to provide an extremely high standard of living for most people who live in the wealthy West. I don't say that our culture is "superior" in all ways, but it certainly is comfortable.

Niall Ferguson seems to be afraid that competition from other countries is a threat to our standard of living. I think our standard of living may be unsustainable for other reasons, including failure to care for the environment. Although Niall Ferguson seems misguided (from what I'm seeing here), I don't think that his views necessarily indicate white supremacy (at least not the portion that's excerpted either here or in the linked reviews).

He believes that Asian societies are becoming more effective on the world stage than Western societies, partly because (he believes) they have incorporated a strong "work ethic" into their culture. As evidence for this, he points to the fact that Asians and Asian-Americans (both influenced by Asian culture and its work ethic) do better, academically, than non-Asian-Americans. He assumes that Asia will "win" because it successfully adopted this "killer app" of work ethic. This is because America as a whole has lost the "killer app" since most Americans don't have it anymore - the only ones who now seem to have it are Asian-Americans (since they were influenced by Asian culture), who constitute only a small part of our population.

I think he's wrong about a lot of things that I've just described, but I don't think he's being a white supremacist, or is saying that Asian-Americans are less American than other Americans.

It may surprise you, but there are people in the world who don't sit around worrying about whether the culture in which they live is OMG TEH BEST EVAR, but rather about how it is succeeding - or not - in allowing its citizens to live decent lives. I know, I know, it's unthinkable that there are people who don't see everything as a world historical competition, but here we are.

This word, "proof," I do not think it means what you think it means. Trust me when I say that 10,000 years from now, the universe will not give one (1) rat's ass about "the Western Canon."

"weighed against the whole range of Western accomplishment over the last 500 years"

Arbitrary, cherry picking timeframes - you're soaking in them!

I don't think that his views necessarily indicate white supremacy (at least not the portion that's excerpted either here or in the linked reviews).

For the record, I did not claim that he was a white supremacist, but that there are undertones - a point both pieces make. And that his work indulges in white supremacist ego stroking - a point the Mishra piece highlights.

In his books, Ferguson absolves the sins of Western imperialism, extols the benefits bestowed on the target populations, and shows an ahistorical appraisal for just how much Western civilization developed on its own.

He is also repeatedly stoking fear/anxiety about the loss of "Western" supremacy - which is, as evidenced, infused with a version of "Western" that excludes a good many people.

Those are not, per se, white supremacist views. But there are undertones, and they do stroke the white supremacist ego.

I think he's wrong about a lot of things that I've just described, but I don't think he's being a white supremacist, or is saying that Asian-Americans are less American than other Americans.

Again, I didn't actually say he was being a white supremacist.

But, for the reasons stated above, I do believe he was saying that Asian Americans are part of the "other."

the only ones who now seem to have it are Asian-Americans (since they were influenced by Asian culture), who constitute only a small part of our population.

Further, this is also not supported by actual data. Asian Americans might punch above their weight proportionally, but the American university system is still dominated by Caucasians.

Again, a variation to highlight the absurdity of his position:

1. The US, as exemplar of the West, is in decline.

2. To support this, I cite a loss of work ethic amongst the American people.

3. As evidence of #1 and #2, I point to the fact that White, protestant males are overrepresented at universities in America.

If one were to make that argument intstead of the one Ferguson made, the reader would scratch her/his head.

That doesn't make any sense. How could the overrepresentation of one American demographic be indicative of American decline?

How preposterous.

It only works as an argument, and as a "comparative" tool, if the American demographic is seen as part of the "Rest" to use his terminology.

Those are not, per se, white supremacist views. But there are undertones, and they do stroke the white supremacist ego.

So, in other words: maybe he's not a white supremacist, but he's playing up to them?

Honestly: I cannot tell what kind of point you're trying to make, here. If you're trying to say that some of his stuff might be misinterpreted by white supremacists as being supportive of their worldview, have at it. Or if you're saying that he's deliberately playing up to white supremacists so as to boost book sales, please say that. Or that he might not be a white supremacist, but plays one on TV. Or some fourth or fifth thing.

But this? This is mud, widely flung. I'm not saying you're doing him a disservice so much as that you're not being clear.

Which from me...well, I half-expect you to FedEx me a gauntlet, spring-loaded.

Slarti,

There is a long tradition of the type of ethnic-based, anxiety stoking that Ferguson has engaged in over the course of the past decade, through several books.

See Mishra's review for a discussion of same.

Further, there is a long tradition of apologia for empire (with a distinctive ethnic component) of the type that Ferguson has engaged in over the course of the past decade, through several books.

He is a pronounced European chauvanist which in itself is not a crime, but his chauvanism is supported by terrible, terrible scholarship (which seems to indicate a predisposition, or a preconceived idea, in search of evidence to support it, rather than the other way around).

Now, where and what are the motives? Hard to say. But there are, without a doubt, white supremacist undertones to several of his recurring themes: European culture is superior, produced seemingly in a vacuum, and its disemmanation through oft-brutal imperialism has been a massive boon to the benighted masses it has been inflicted upon (who would not have found their way to similar conclusions if left on their own, unplundered by the kind imperialists).

Now, this isn't necessarily the crude, overt form of white supremacism that dresses up in white sheets and lynches the coloreds. But rather a more intellectual, softer, chauvanism with supremacist undertones that advocates a very dangerous brand of empire to be enforced at the barrel of a gun.

This worldview strokes the ego of those that feel ethnically and culturally superior in their whiteness/European heritage, while, again, it doesn't advocate segregation, slavery or anti-miscegenation.

Apologies if you find that description muddy. But I blame the raw materials.

It has spread beyond the traditional "West" because of its desirability such that the original West may be surpassed by younger, more energetic societies.

What? There are no such things as "young" societies and "old" societies (with "younger societies being "more energetic"!). Societies are not born, nor do they age and die like organic beings. That's adopting the organic fallacy straight out of 19th century political philosophy.

I had in fact given Mishra's review a once-over, but it was more of a quick scan.

I interpreted his point as being more that Ferguson is saying our culture is better because look we conquered some of you and bested some others in the game of commerce, which game stops when I say it does, rather than saying our culture is better because white people are inherently better than any other shape and color of other kinds of people. Heck, we don't even consider them people at all!

Probably I need to read more deeply, but to my way of thinking there is a very, very bold line between one kind of thinking and the other, in terms of being worthy of the label "white supremacist". Spread that label around too much and it gets diluted, and all white people become white supremacists because we're all racists deep down inside.

Which I think robs it of no small amount of potency.

Again, I didn't actually call him a white supremacist.

I said what I said about the undertones, and its appeal to same.

In retrospect, I would rather that I not used the term at all seeing as how distracting it's become.

PS: The whole notion that the "work ethic" was monopolized by the West, and was not applicable to Asian nations like China, Japan and Korea until the West brought them there is...ridiculous.

Again, an example of European/white chauvanism with very little to support it. Which is...I don't know, pick a more neutral term.

PPS: My grammar and diction sucks.

F-ing sleep deprivation is a mind killer.

I think the point about Mr. Ferguson is best made without reference to the term 'white supremacist.' Noah Smith seems to avoid the term and I think he made the right call.

There are no such things as "young" societies and "old" societies (with "younger societies being "more energetic"!). Societies are not born, nor do they age and die like organic beings. That's adopting the organic fallacy straight out of 19th century political philosophy.

Really? Pre and post WWII Japan, Korea and Taiwan are not markedly different from one another in myriad ways, the latter being relatively new (young) and the former being ancient (old).

Damn. That last sentence should have ended with a question mark.

Really? Pre and post WWII Japan, Korea and Taiwan are not markedly different from one another in myriad ways, the latter being relatively new (young) and the former being ancient (old).

I don't think that's a helpful way of looking at things at all. How was pre-war Japan "old"? The institution of the Emperor? Granted that there's been an Emperor for umpteen hundred years, the Emperor as political leader only dated to the Meiji restoration. And of course Japan still has an Emperor. In 1950 it had a new Constitution, but the Meiji Constitution was promulgated only in 1890, so that in 1941 Japan's Constitution was actually "younger" that it is today. So I don't think the biological paradigm presents any kind of useful model.

I read some of Ferguson several years ago, probably around 2003-2004 when the white man's burden was all the rage even among some "liberals" who wrote for the NYT and the New Yorker. We were going to invade Iraq and teach those Ay-rabs a thing or two about how to be civilized. I'm using the term "white man's burden" somewhat sarcastically and sloppily because I don't really know that it's a racial thing with him and others like him--it was really more of a cultural imperialist thing. Ferguson and likeminded types not only think our culture is best--they wanted to impose it at gunpoint. I don't know that skin color matters to him so much, though maybe it does subconsciously (but then all of us presumably have some nasty things floating around down there.)

Anyway, I do remember reading one or two of his books on the history of the Empire and/or colonialism and my impression was the same as Mishra--he tended to downplay the truly horrific and massive crimes of imperialism and yes, he would describe some of them while glossing over others. It gives you more credibility if you do that. If I recall correctly, he was very critical of the British in India during the early part of the their rule, but said nothing about the massive (and avoidable) famines in the late 1800's that Mike Davis wrote about in "Late Victorian Holocausts".

I don't think that's a helpful way of looking at things at all. How was pre-war Japan "old"? The institution of the Emperor? Granted that there's been an Emperor for umpteen hundred years, the Emperor as political leader only dated to the Meiji restoration. And of course Japan still has an Emperor. In 1950 it had a new Constitution, but the Meiji Constitution was promulgated only in 1890, so that in 1941 Japan's Constitution was actually "younger" that it is today. So I don't think the biological paradigm presents any kind of useful model.

Ok, not "young" but "dynamic" or "emerging". Not "old" but "static" or "ossified." Whatever. The context here is adoption by other cultures of the Western Canon. Those that have done so recently, as in "new" or "newly", are doing so enthusiastically. Americans, if I understand Ferguson's point, or one of them, have grown complacent, they are in a decline, with the exception of some subsets of the whole.

I am aware of none

In terms of cultures outside of the Anglo-American orbit, there's always Rome.

The Greeks, of course, are the prime example of a non-Anglo-American polity with representative self-government.

Less known, the Lycian Federation of the late Bronze age. They're cited, twice, in the Federalist Papers.

The Haudenosaunee had (and have) a polity based on representative government and a written constitution since the 15th C. They ruled the American northeast for a couple of centuries.

The merchants who sailed around the world from Europe to develop the Western "market" economy bought and sold in markets that had existed for a long time, long before they showed up.

And the Anglo-American "free market" of the 16th, 17th, and 18th C's was anything but. It was an explicitly mercantile economy, engineered by elite property-owners for the enrichment of the nation and of themselves. Where "the nation" and "themselves" were in many cases indistinguishable.

Not a free market.

The US, for most of its first century, operated under the American System, an explicitly mercantilist economic model designed to build the American industrial sector and enhance federal revenue and power.

Not a free market.

I see two notable things about the West, and about the English and Americans in particular:

1. Once the Europeans figured out long-distance navigation, they jumped right into first place in the intensity of their avarice and their willingness to enslave and despoil any other nation they could find their way to.

2. The English and the Americans most definitely took the lead with the Industrial Revolution, which literally did change the terms of existence for humans on the planet.

And it's really the technology that came with the Industrial Revolution that put us "over the top".

The latter -- the embrace of technology to automate what had previously been the province of brute labor -- is what I see the rest of the world adopting as quickly as it can under the heading of "the way the Americans do it".

Not transparent representative government, not human rights, not respect for private property. Those things are always in some process of finding, and losing, toeholds in various places.

But I don't really see people looking at the US as the model for those things. Not anymore.

People want to have a car, and a dishwasher, and a nice apartment or house, like Americans do. Our politics and our society, not so much.

I think it’s safe to say the Woodrow Wilson, progressive President and all, was certainly a white supremacist. He didn’t hate non-whites, and he wasn’t a NAZI or Klan member, but he did believe in a racial hierarchy, wherein, whites were to bring civilization to the world, and stay at the top of said hierarchy. You couldn’t be a part of US power elites, if you did not believe in the racial hierarchy of the world. There were biological racists, geographical racists, and cultural racists each having a different theory for the reason white supremacy was logical and natural. But in the end, they all believed there is a global hierarchy and the Europeans, who had morphed into white people over the last few hundreds of years, were rightfully and logically, at the top.

Nail Ferguson’s view, that Western Civilization, as he has understood it, is basically another version of this type of thinking.

By the way, doesn’t Locke use the Semitic people of the Old Testament, to begin his theory of private rights?

And if doing well in Universities is so important, why aren’t those hard working Asians represented in the top industries in the US?

I think a recent article in Harpers? The Atlantic? by an Asian male, trying to complicate the fetishization of the Chinese-American mom (The Dragon Mother?). His argument, that institutions love the stereotype of the well behaved Asian-American student and worker, but they’re just not “leadership material.”

Just want to point out, briefly, that when he points to Koreans working more hours and going to school longer than Americans that's not necessarily an indicator of decline. Does he argue anywhere that Americans are working less than they did in the past or getting less done in those hours or going to school fewer hours than they used to?

If not, then whence the jeremiad?

russell, just speaking for myself, when I'm thinking about the history of Western Civilization, I include Greece, the Roman Empire, then Christian Europe (including Byzantium), then Europe west of the Mongol invasion. I haven't read much Niall Ferguson, so I don't know what he thinks, but I'm pretty sure that McKinney wasn't just referring to Anglo-American civilization when he spoke about the about the end of feudalism. In fact, McKinney specifically mentioned Europe. If you read the "great books" (and there are different collections, but the same basic people are included) they include Greeks, Romans, Europeans, etc. Obviously, Western intellectual history includes those people (including people like Augustine of Hippo - from Northern Africa - part of the Roman Empire). Anyway, any good dead white male would incorporate those cultures into the intellectual historical legacy that formed him.

I don't know about the term "superior." There are chauvinists everywhere, and it's difficult to be objective about which culture is "superior" or "inferior." I would suggest that no culture is "superior." However, Western culture does have some attributes that make me feel comfy here: relative material wealth, some degree of freedom, some degree of participation in government, some acknowledgement of human rights (including racial and gender equality), and probably a lot of other things, including the fact that my family lives near me. These things were hard won (except that my family lives near me), and I think fairly rare.

If you travel around (which you probably have), I'm sure you'll see plenty of cool sights and interesting art, lovely music and wonderful stuff. But the degree of freedom and possibility in the West is remarkable. Talk to a Chinese person, and see where s/he wants to go to university. I hope that we can get the USA back on track before we lose it, but we have a really good thing going here.

Early on, when science was in its infancy, some very useful insights and discoveries were made in the Islamic world

You know, when 'science was in its infancy', Mohammed had not yet been born. Mohammed's great-grandpappy to the 25th degree had not yet been born.

Not that that takes anything away from the Islamic contribution to science.

Who invented, or more properly discovered, the simple machines?
Who first tracked the progress of the stars in the sky?

Who first made a ceramic pot, or a sheet of glass?
Who first heated and processed some rocks to create tin, or bronze, or iron?
Who first understood how to combine carbon with iron to make steel?

Who first discovered how to turn raw plant and animal fibers into paper and cloth?
Who first discovered how to render an animal's hide into usable leather?

Who first learned how to manage fire?
Who first learned how to heat foodstuffs to make cooked food?

Who first invented writing?

Check this out: who first figured out how to bang a couple of rocks together to make a usable sharp edge?

Check out the Solutrean industry. The sophistication and utility of what those folks accomplished by *banging rocks and sticks together* is absolutely amazing.

The history of humans generally is so full of absolutely epochal discoveries and inventions that it is, in my opinion, an act of absolute freaking insane chauvinistic hubris to think that any one group of people is any more intelligent, creative, risk-taking, innovative, or in any way able than any other group of people.

It's just stupid. Head-in-the-sand, willfully historically ignorant, stupid.

The ability of the Western nations to impose their will upon the rest of the world was largely due to their being first out of the gate with the technology that came out of the industrial revolution.

The fact that they were first out of the gate with industrial production was their lucky penny. They stood on the shoulders of giants, who stood on the shoulders of giants, who stood on the shoulders of giants.

The number of factors giving rise to Western success that come down to sheer dumb luck and circumstance beggar any claim we might want to make to being some special exceptional race, where please construe 'race' any way you like.

Seriously, the lack of perspective and basic common-sense humility behind these kinds of claims just amazes me.

Here's another lesson from history:

To the degree that Americans are lazy / unmotivated / lacking in competitive edge and spark, why do you suppose that is?

It's because we are fantastically, stupendously wealthy. We have more than we could possibly know what to do with. We piss away more, in terms of sheer raw resources, than most nations live on.

If you gave me a knife, a fishhook and some line, a blanket, a tarp, some rope, a big box of matches and two gallons of water, and dropped me in the woods, I'd probably be dead in less than a week. 99% of the people I know, same/same.

We're soft and lazy because we're rich and we not only no longer know how to do for ourselves, we don't even know what 'do for ourselves' means. We think if we wake up in the morning, take a shower, put on presentable clothes, and do something constructive in an office somewhere for 50 hours a week, we're 'doing for ourselves'.

The 'big achiever' groups, with the fires in their bellies, are folks who haven't been here that long yet, and for whom every day in the US is like living in a world where they can pluck golden coins from the air if they just have the energy to reach out and grab them.

To the degree that 'white folks' are on the decline, it's because we've come to believe the golden coins should just fall in our pockets by some weird law of nature.

Nail Ferguson’s view, that Western Civilization, as he has understood it, is basically another version of this type of thinking.

You might think of it that way, or you might think of it as cultural supremacy. Which is also not nice, but distinctly different in character. Particularly when cultural supremacy includes people from multiple ethnic descents. Maybe some people will disagree with this point of view, but it's where my disagreement is coming from.

Look, I think Eric is now regretting his phrasing, for one reason or another, so I am going to give this horse just one more whack, and be done with it. Where I am coming from is here: phrasing like "undertones of white supremacy" to me means that there is white supremacy at work here, overtly or covertly. If Eric did not mean to imply either of those (and, by the way, I don't have a problem if he does make one of those claims if it's substantiated), I have no quarrel with him.

Not that it was much of a quarrel to begin with.

South Korea is not majority Christian. It seems to break down like so:
1/4 Buddhist
1/4 Christian
1/4 Atheist
1/4 Non-really religious, maybe vaguely Buddhist, kind of sort of.

We're soft and lazy because we're rich and we not only no longer know how to do for ourselves, we don't even know what 'do for ourselves' means. We think if we wake up in the morning, take a shower, put on presentable clothes, and do something constructive in an office somewhere for 50 hours a week, we're 'doing for ourselves'.

Ummm, if we do that, we are "doing for ourselves." We don't have to be roofers to be "doing for ourselves." Of course, we can make our own pies and clothes, and grow our own veggies, and keep bees and chickens on our off-hours. But we live in an economy where we have the luxury of 1) going to the store, 2) going to a restaurant, 3) working at a store, 4) working at a restaurant, 5) going to a bank, 6) working at a bank, 7) reading a book, 8) writing a book, 9) selling a book, 10) publishing a book, 11) litigating someone's copyright in a book, 12) writing a program that tracks book sales, 13) running a program that tracks book sales and interpreting the results ....

All of those things, in part, constitute "doing for oneself."

russell, you really need to go be a roofer again. Why'd you ever give it up?

We're soft and lazy because we're rich and we not only no longer know how to do for ourselves, we don't even know what 'do for ourselves' means.

That could have been taken verbatim from Sallust bemoaning the decadence of the late Roman Republic. Which of course proceeded to dominate the Mediterranean basin for the next 500 years and remained a significant regional power for at least another 500 more in the form of Byzantium. All of which is to say that "decline" tends to be in the eye of the beholder.

The world-wide influence of the Western Canon is largely the result of the world-wide influence of Western cannons, not its intrinsic superiority. Now other people have cannons, too, which tends to equalize things a bit.

I agree with Eric (and Russell, too, as usual). The notion that medieval Europe was all barter-based, with vassals getting land and attendant serfs in exchange for service to their feudal lord, is way too simplistic. What about northern Europe's Hanseatic League, or the city states of Italy?

The world-wide influence of the Western Canon is largely the result of the world-wide influence of Western cannons

And Western cannons were the result of the Western Canon, of course. Which includes Europe, of course. Which includes northern Europe and Italy (don't forget about the Renaissance and everything else included in the concept of Western Christian Civilization - Greco-Roman empire, Shakespeare's plays about Italy ... ). Sorry people, but didn't you ever take a Western Civilization class? When we talk about the Rise of the West, we're including all of the things you're mentioning. So is Niall Ferguson!

Not to say that I agree with Niall Ferguson. But please let's get it straight what we're talking about here.

"And Western cannons were the result of the Western Canon."

What? Literature led to improved armaments?

"Sorry people, but didn't you ever take a Western Civilization class?"

Why yes, in fact I did. And my teachers, excellent historians all, cautioned me about making the sort of sweeping generalizations Ferguson makes.

I think Eric's fundamental point is correct. Ferguson is the darling of those who, although perhaps not racists, believe that Western civilization is somehow superior and mourn the passing of the days of Kipling's burden.


russell, someone should give you an award. It has been an absolute delight to read you over the years.

"Russell, someone should give you an award. It has been an absolute delight to read you over the years."

Seconded, from this frequent lurker.

[...] the Western Canon (which, incidentally, is not a McKinney-invented concept)
Indeed not; it's an argument about books and literature and art, and which should be taught and how.

I'm not following how the commonly-known concept of "the Western Canon" relates to that which you call by the same name, McK. You:

And the proof is in the number of countries who've adopted the basic Canon.
Is that Library of America, or Modern Library, Harold Bloom, Harvard Classics, Penguin Classics, University of Chicago Common Core, or... what?

What countries have adopted "the Western Canon" in teaching literature, let alone shaping their entire educational system, let alone shaping their entire culture?

The non-Western countries, particularly, that is?

The context here is adoption by other cultures of the Western Canon. Those that have done so recently, as in "new" or "newly", are doing so enthusiastically.
Could you perhaps name three countries as examples? If so, thanks.

Ferguson wrote an entire book about the glories of the British Empire. (Mind you, he wrote another entire book about how the British should not have fought against the Germans during World War I.) It's fairly obvious that he's a reactionary, and while this doesn't automatically make him a white supremacist, it suggests uncomfortable leanings in that direction.

Oh, by the way, on the subject of non-Western polities which are not tyrannies, both the amaXhosa and the baTswana of South Africa evolved non-tyrannical chieftainships -- in the Xhosa case based on distributed rule focussed on a nominal but actually almost powerless king, and in the Tswana case based on democratic debates called lekgotlas.

The West came in and stomped that all flat in the nineteenth century. But we did get Bibles and Martini-Henry rifles, so it all evens out.

The whole notion that the "work ethic" was monopolized by the West, and was not applicable to Asian nations like China, Japan and Korea until the West brought them there is...ridiculous.

Yes, but like every lie it needs a grain of truth to be effective. Why did Japanese manufacturing surpass American? For a large part because they adopted the statistical process control and leadership ideology of W. Edwards Deming - a "prophet" who was not accepted in his home country.

Edwards Deming was also a devout Christian, and promoted the idea of the leader as someone who serves, helps others - not an idea entirely unique to Christianity, but an idea pretty radical to the strongly authoritarian Japanese culture. And maybe Weber's theory of the "protestant work ethic" is dubious, but Edwards Deming believed in it, because certainly he encouraged taking pride from your work itself rather than the wealth or status it may give you (and also taking practical steps to remove things that prevent workers from feeling proud about their work, e.g. quotas which encourage sloppiness).

So let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Cultures do carry with them ideological baggage to the others the come in contact with, and some of this baggage is genuinely good. There's bad baggage too, of course, but it's by no means certain that it always add up to zero for all cultures.

That could have been taken verbatim from Sallust bemoaning the decadence of the late Roman Republic

And he would have had a point.

The question under consideration is why some populations within the US appear to have more drive than others.

My observation is that, all other things being equal, the more generations you are away from some form of privation, the more you take for granted.

It's certainly not an original thought on my part.

russell, you really need to go be a roofer again. Why'd you ever give it up?

Actually, I liked framing more. It has more of an interesting puzzle-solving side to it.

But I gave both up for the same basic reason. Fear of heights.

I have no regrets, the software thing has worked out fine, and it's an easier trade to get old in.

Long story short, for me, is that I find Ferguson and people like him tedious.

There's no freaking magic Western pill that we all ate that makes us supermen and women.

Nations and civilizations wax and wane. Ours is in the process of doing so, just like every other one ever has or will.

We bring some good things to the table, and some absolute crap.

For someone to call themselves a historian and simultaneously display such a simplistic, one-sided, myopic view of human history boggles my mind.

And above and beyond all of that, arguments like Ferguson's always seem to come bundled as apologia for why we really do, after all, deserve to rule the world.

So, I find them suspect.

We in the US did well to embrace the ideals of representative government, rule of law, and individual civil rights. We *did not* invent these things, they have a long history, but we did well to recognize their value and embrace them.

We also did well to steal the early technical industrial innovations of the Brits and then build on them to make ourselves wealthy. If nothing else, it gave us an alternative to a future as the world's largest onshore slave-based plantation economy.

None of these things were a given, none of them were inevitable, none of them occurred without significant resistance from folks here in the good old USA.

But these two particular things won their respective days. Good for us.

Every other nation and group of people on the planet have their own fates to work out. What we do may be a good fit for them, or may not. More likely, some parts may be and some parts, not.

It's not our hash to settle.

We are not the answer to the world's problems. As a matter of fact, we have our own problems to solve without worrying about telling everybody else what to do.

russell, someone should give you an award. It has been an absolute delight to read you over the years.

Total agreement from this quarter.

Where I am coming from is here: phrasing like "undertones of white supremacy" to me means that there is white supremacy at work here, overtly or covertly. If Eric did not mean to imply either of those (and, by the way, I don't have a problem if he does make one of those claims if it's substantiated), I have no quarrel with him.

I think "undertones" has an actual definition, and it doesn't mean what you say it means Slarti. I regret using it, because people are focusing on that phrase, and misconstruing how I am using it to describe Ferguson's work.

Someotherdude's comment does a good job of capturing my intent, and what I meant by "undertones" and that his work strokes the ego of white supremacists.

his work strokes the ego of white supremacists

Eric, his words do not have their own agency. They don't have any intention other than his. Either he's doing the stroking, or the white supremacists are stroking themselves with it. Which (latter) presumes more than I think you can substantiate, now that I think of it, unless you have some particular people in mind that you haven't mentioned for some reason.

Possibly there's some middle that's being excluded, here, but I'm damned if I can see it.

Please consider this (now, anyway) an excercise of my own personal clarity, rather than a critique of yours. If you want to just chalk Ferguson's purported white-supremacist undertones (to which I am, evidently, tone-deaf) up to collective white man's guilt (or something similar), fine.

This my-culture-is-the-best can be cast as racist point of view, but it's at the very least pervasive even from one European nationality to the next, which is why (in my youth at least) there were whole jokebooks written about Poles and Italians and Frenchmen. And, incidentally, why Frenchman and Englishman weren't instant, fast friends from the moment they espied each other from a distance, and spent centuries fighting each other for dominance. With occasional diversions into battle with the Dutch and Germans.

None of the above is meant to dismiss the existence of actual white supremacists, or to claim that Ferguson isn't in any way racist, but more to see if "strokes the ego of white supremacists" is simply a slur, or an accusation that has some merit to it. I don't think there's any middle ground there. I'd guess that if I'd said that about you, or you about me, neither of us would be seeing a middle ground.

Slarti,

Can I give that dead horse on more whack?

You might think of it that way, or you might think of it as cultural supremacy. Which is also not nice, but distinctly different in character. Particularly when cultural supremacy includes people from multiple ethnic descents.

Ferguson includes all the ethnicities that fall under the European/White framework, which makes my point. He obviously doesn’t see the advances of Asian-American ethnicities as part of the US’s strength. At least the “melting-pot thesis” folks, as much as that theory had its own faults, included all races and ethnicities in the strength of growing empires.

Harald Korneliussen

W. Edwards Deming was certainly a Christian, but more to the point, he was a Presbyterian, or some High Church Calvinist. He wasn’t Roman Catholic, nor was he a Pentecostal. I bring that up because you follow the observation with Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which really should have been called The American Calvinist Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Weber had a more nuanced understanding of Protestantism than the title reveals. And his case studies, was primarily the US, and not say overwhelming Calvinistic Scottish highlands, who did not enjoy the fruits of the Industrial Revolution, and could only become successful imperial subjects, if they left Britain. He also only saw value in Methodism as it contained it Calvinist influences. In other words, it’s Calvinist Protestantism that made Industrial Capital possible. How much of Calvinism influenced the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian Churches?

http://www.selcukuygur.com/2011/08/26/questioning-aspects-of-the-protestant-ethic-and-the-spirit-of-capitalism/ "> Questioning Aspects of the Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism


And Weber doesn’t include the ability to exact mass death and genocide on non-European groups. Although his other works recognizes the influence of the states’ ability to monopolize violence, but I think he only was concerned with “citizens”. One wonders how successful the Capitalist project could have been, if it afforded the victims of the Protestant work ethic, the exact same rights and privileges Euro-Christians assumed they had.

And I do say this as a practicing Calvinist (Orthodox Presbyterian).

Again, what someotherdude said.

I think the point about Mr. Ferguson is best made without reference to the term 'white supremacist.' Noah Smith seems to avoid the term and I think he made the right call.

The Mishra piece used that term, and other variations of white superiority, more than I did.

And Noah Smith said this in reference to Ferguson's approving citations of Charles Murray (Charles effing Murray!):

When you admit to taking your cues from America's most prominent academic racist, you've pretty much laid your cards on the table.

This makes me sick, and not just because of the racism. It's because Ferguson's offhand exclusion of non-whites from the "Western" world is, in fact, what I believe to be the biggest threat to our civilization.

I'd say that my "white supremacist undertones" is mild in comparison. I'd also like to repeat that the white supremacism I'm discussing has softer, more intellectual edges - not the KKK version in support of segregation, slavery or anti-miscegenation, to repeat myself.

It's a form of chauvinism-plus that I think would be hard to read "out" of Ferguson.

...if "strokes the ego of white supremacists" is simply a slur, or an accusation that has some merit to it. I don't think there's any middle ground there. I'd guess that if I'd said that about you, or you about me, neither of us would be seeing a middle ground.

Some people are proud to be white supremacists (or European chauvinists), while others try to dress it up as something else. People in the latter category don't like being recognized, which isn't really relevant to whether or not they actually are white supremacists (or European chauvanists). "You wouldn't like it if I said it about you" likely has no bearing on the truth of the statement in question.

I can't say if Eric is right or wrong about Niall Ferguson because I haven't read anything that I can recall by or about the guy before this blog post, which probably isn't supposed to be a stand-alone proof of Niall Ferguson's European chauvinism.

I guess my question to you, slart, is why you feel the need to defend Ferguson. Do you have a greater familiarity with him than I do, such that you've formed an opinion on his thinking that differs from Eric's? Or is it just that Eric's post doesn't prove its point to you, all by itself?

I got interrupted by a phone call while typing that last one. A number of comments hit in the interim. If it looks like I was piling on, I wasn't.

Safe to say that my grammar and diction will continue to be atrocious for the near future.

Apologies in advance and for past occurrences alike.

I'm not defending Ferguson, hsh; I'm simply looking for the basis for even the mention of white supremacy. The basis for which, so far, seems weak in my estimation. It's a fairly serious kind of insinuation, in my opinion.

This is what did it for me:

Labeling Asian Americans as "non-Western" gives away the game completely. By "Western," Niall Ferguson is not referring to a geographic region, a political system, an economic system, or a religion. He is not even referring to a specific set of countries. He is referring to a set of people; people who have pale pinkish skin, fine wavy hair, and prominent eye ridges. By "Western," Niall Ferguson means "white people." Asian Americans may have American passports, Ferguson thinks, but civilizationally speaking they are permanent foreigners.

And Noah Smith said this in reference to Ferguson's approving citations of Charles Murray.

I agree with that, although I have to admit I read a lot of Kevin MacDonald’s stuff. I get ideas and find avenues to hunt down, as a result of his research, but because of his “Euro-Chauvinism” (his words), and because a lot of outright racist organizations embrace him, I have to find more “legitimate” academics that share and agree with certain numbers and theories. Eric Kaufmann and Steve Bruce share tiny threads with him, without the biological and cultural European "pride" ;-).

"You wouldn't like it if I said it about you" likely has no bearing on the truth of the statement in question.

Proving/disproving wasn't the intention of the statement; it was instead what the statement was prompting.

someotherdude's explanations (that Eric keeps deferring to) do to white supremacy something like what mortgage-backed securities did to bad loans. IMHO, of course. Not picking at the scholarship, just noting how diluted white supremacy is looking (to me) at the end of the explanation.

Having finished this two hours later than I started it, I probably missed some important discussion. I'll catch up on any of that when I get a chance.

Who invented, or more properly discovered, the simple machines?
Depending on how you define a machine, e.g. fulcrum/lever, wheel, paddle, no one really knows. Wheels showed up maybe 5000 years ago in the mid-East.

Who first tracked the progress of the stars in the sky?
Maybe the Beaker People, assuming that's who build Stonehenge, and assuming the question encompasses using higher math as a part of tracking celestial movements.
Who first made a ceramic pot, or a sheet of glass?
IIRC, the first pottery shards are found in Turkey circa 10K years ago. I could be wrong.

Who first heated and processed some rocks to create tin, or bronze, or iron?
Well, you are talking about a time frame of several thousand years here. The Bronze Age and Iron Ages are largely associated with the mid-East and south eastern Europe, though I couldn't say whether the technology migrated from farther east or not.

Who first understood how to combine carbon with iron to make steel?
I am pretty sure this was a European/mid-Eastern advance.
Who first discovered how to turn raw plant and animal fibers into paper and cloth?
Probably the Egyptians.

Who first discovered how to render an animal's hide into usable leather?
No one knows, probably Neanderthal, depending on how you define "usable".
Who first learned how to manage fire?
Maybe Neanderthal, depending on how you define "manage." More likely homo sapiens.

Who first learned how to heat foodstuffs to make cooked food?
If you mean as a routine, systematic practice, probably homo sapiens.
Who first invented writing?
The Ur civilization, predating Sumeria.
Check this out: who first figured out how to bang a couple of rocks together to make a usable sharp edge?
Homo erectus made the first hand ax, which remained pretty much the standard tool kit, along with very crude scrapers, until about 40k years ago, when there was a major shift in the stone tool kit. Thereafter, the sophistication level was fairly slow in developing even as other indicia of culture, e.g. Lascaux and other sites, fertility statues, etc, are found contemporaneously.
Check out the Solutrean industry. The sophistication and utility of what those folks accomplished by *banging rocks and sticks together* is absolutely amazing.
I have. It was a big step up from the hand ax, but still left a lot of room for improvement. The most refined examples of stone working are 12K and less years back.
The history of humans generally is so full of absolutely epochal discoveries and inventions that it is, in my opinion, an act of absolute freaking insane chauvinistic hubris to think that any one group of people is any more intelligent, creative, risk-taking, innovative, or in any way able than any other group of people.

Who is saying this? Not me. First of all, none of the questions you raise address systematic, applied science or a social contract that respects individual rights and gives individuals a say in how they are governed or the rule of law or any of the other indicia of the Western Canon. The Western Canon is one end product of a vast range of social forces—war, famine, religion, philosophy, technology and so on. The governing model for every culture of historical significance was some form of feudal autocracy with the exceptions of Greece and Rome for parts of their history and neither survived other than has traditions for later generations to study and adapt to their own needs. This, meaning some form of feudal aristocracy, was the case in Europe and the rest of the known world . You can pick your point of departure: the Magna Carta, the Renaissance, whatever. My take is that the Renaissance is the clearest marking of the genesis of the individual being focal point of a society. It took centuries for that notion to evolve into modern liberal democracy and plenty of bad things happened along the way. Systematically applied and studied science, literature, the printing press, spreading literacy and so on can trace from that time period. There is nothing comparable in recorded history, including Rome.
None of this is the product of European brilliance or superiority. The mid-East—modern Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Palestine—is the not called the Cradle of Western Civilization for nothing. None of those peoples were Europeans. Europeans, at the time, painted themselves blue and collected heads. They were barely Neolithic, country rubes, what have you.
What distinguished Europe, for a variety of historical cause/effect reasons, from, say, China or Japan was the dynamic change in social structure for a period of 500 hundred years beginning in the late 15th century. During this same period, Asia, the mid-East and India remained relatively static. Neither the dynamism nor the conservatism of the various cultures has any kind of ethnically induced feature.
The end result of the "West's" dynamism was a better social and economic order than feudalism. Which is why the Canon is migrating, and will continue to migrate, and why it will evolve in a variety of ways as it does so. Conceptually, the Canon is no different from gunpowder. Regardless of who invented gunpowder, it is superior as means of projecting something than a drawn bow or an atlatl. The Canon is the same: it is a concept that works better than competing concepts.

Indeed not; it's an argument about books and literature and art, and which should be taught and how.
This is part of it, not all of it. I defined it generally. Whether you think the name fits, the substance of what I intended by it is set forth clearly and if you'd prefer another name, I'm fine with that.

Regardless of who invented gunpowder, it is superior as means of projecting something than a drawn bow or an atlatl. The Canon is the same: it is a concept that works better than competing concepts.

Ironically, or not, Ferguson's call-to-arms often center around the notion that "non-Western" peoples have adopted the Western Apps and are using them better than us.

Why this is a problem...well, why?

Enter the less savory underbelly of what he's discussing...

I can't seem to get Pink Floyd out of my head right now, specifically:

us...us...us...

and...

them...them...them...

Is this guy just a more hoity-toity version of Pat Buchanan?

Is this guy just a more hoity-toity version of Pat Buchanan?

Exactly the way a good friend put it.

Why this is a problem...well, why?

Now we are on the same page. Don't we want everyone to be free, have the rule of law, equality of opportunity, blah, blah, blah? Wasn't one of the underlying principles of neo-conservatism that democracies don't make war on other democracies? That the people, given a choice, will opt for peace over war?

But, oddly, McTex, Ferguson sees that as a problem.

Slarti,

For the sake of our discussion, would you consider Pat Buchanan a white supremacist? I would - at least, I would consider his ideas as in close proximity to some of Ferguson's writings on the same spectrum.

Pat's most recent work, The End of White America, is microcosmic. A sampling from Pat's book:

http://bit.ly/twgcWF

Buchanan is a bigot, anti-Semitic, etc. How is that different from a supremacist? Degree, kind, what?

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