Maria Marczewska-Rytko - The International Academic Forum

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Maria Marczewska-Rytko - The International Academic Forum

Maria Marczewska-Rytko


The Asia Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2012Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, JapanThe Concepts of the West and the East in Contemporary DiscourseMaria Marczewska-RytkoMaria Curie-Sklodowska University0141The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & PhilosophyOfficial Conference Proceedings 201258


The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2012Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, JapanThe Concepts of the West and the Eastin Contemporary Discourse“Also the East and the West are merely temporaryLabels of the poles of our soul”.Unpublished lettersThe concept of discourse became one of the principal categories of social sciencesstarting from the 1980s. In the broad sense this describes a set of statements functioning inthe public space and concerning a specific problem or its scope. According to, for example,Krzysztof Olechnicki and Paweł Załęcki, discourse is “a system of human statements and aform of thinking developed on the basis of assumptions, prejudices and stereotypes shared bya society that apply to some phenomenon, thing or idea and express an ongoing attitudetowards them” 1 . Thus the reality is reduced to discourse, to agreeing on meanings, tocontinually creating it anew, with the objective reality being pushed into the background. AsRichard Rorty observes, whatever is important to a community will become real. He assertsthat “whatever good the ideas of ‘objectivity’ and ‘transcendence’ have done for our culturecan be attained equally well by the idea of a community which strives after bothintersubjective agreement and novelty – a democratic, progressive, pluralist community ofthe sort of which Dewey dreamt. If one reinterprets objectivity as intersubjectivity, or assolidarity, in the ways I suggest below, then one will drop the question of how to get in touchwith ‘mind-independent’ and ‘language independent reality’. One will replace it withquestions like ‘What are the limits of our community?’, ‘Are our encounters sufficiently freeand open?’” 2 . Teun van Dijk points out the need to combine discursive structures withpolitical processes 3 . Stanisław Gajda rightly emphasizes that the concept of discourse isindeterminate and vague, and consequently, unstable 4 . The purpose of the present paper is to1 K. Olechnicki, P. Załęcki, Słownik socjologiczny, Graffiti BC, Toruń 1997, p. 50.2 R. Rorty, Obiektywność, relatywizm, prawda , [translated from Objectivity, Relativism and Truth by J.Margański, Aletheia, Warszawa 1999], quoted after CUP edition, Cambridge 1991, p. 13.3 Dyskurs jako struktura i proces, (ed.) T. van Dijk [Discourse as Structure and Process , translated by G.Grochowski] PWN, Warszawa 2001, pp. 9-10, 21.4 S. Gajda, Współczesny polski dyskurs naukowy, [in:] Dyskurs naukowy - tradycja i zmiana, (ed.) S. Gajda,Uniwersytet Opolski, Opole 1999, pp. 9-17. See also classical texts: Język, dyskurs, społeczeństwo, (ed.) L.59


The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2012Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, Japanintroduce the selected meanings of two categories of social sciences: those of the West andthe East in contemporary discourse. The two concepts appear to have acquired new meaningsin the post-Cold War period (during the Cold War the world was divided into the West, theEast, and the Third World). After the collapse of the Eastern Bloc the global order changed,with new aspirations, longings, notions, and fears manifesting themselves and taking on theforms of new visions of the world. The existing paradigms were challenged to some extent, aswere their supporting structures.From the standpoint of contemporary discourse, the greatest influence on theformation of notions of the West and the East was exerted, I believe, by the conceptionsadvanced in widely discussed publications (including scientific ones). The first large-scaleapproach to the concepts of the West and the East after the Cold War was expressed, withoutdoubt, by Francis Fukuyama. The concept of the West was identified with the ideas andvalues characteristic of liberal democracy. Fukuyama’s optimism shown in the early 1990sabout the prospects of the West’s development and its mission as the provider of the onlycorrect vision of development in the perspective of the twenty-first century should not comeas a surprise. The conditions in which the vision of the victorious West (defeating nondemocraticsystems) was formed and advanced, may have aroused expectations andovershadowed new problems consequent on the changes taking place. Fukuyama appears tohave remained optimistic about the West’s mission and the transfer of Western-developedmodels to the other parts of the world. He continues to express his optimistic viewpoint astaken for granted, indicating only new variables associated with intensified globalizationprocesses..Remember that, according to Fukuyama, there is no alternative to Western models andto the institutions of liberal democracy and free-market economy developed in the West 5 . Hedivided the history of mankind into three periods. The first period covers human history at theperiod marked by the end of the Cold War. The next one, directly associated with thetransformations taking place in political, economic or cultural structures in many states, istermed a transition period. The last – desirable - period means the victory of the West and theliberal-democratic vision of the world. Fukuyama himself admits that in many regions of theRasiński, PWN, Warszawa 2009; D. Howarth, Dyskurs, translated from [Discourse] by A. Gąsior-Niemiec,Oficyna Naukowa s.c., Warszawa 2008. See also: J. Srzednicki, Kłopoty pojęciowe, PWN, Warszawa 1993; P.Bytniewski, Genealogia dyskursu. Problemy niehermeneutycznej koncepcji rozumienia, Wydawnictwo UMCS,Lublin 2000; J. Marzec, Dyskurs, tekst, narracja. Szkice o kulturze ponowoczesnej, Impuls, Kraków 2002.5 F. Fukuyama, The End of History?, “The National Interest”, Summer 1989, pp. 3-17; F. Fukuyama, Koniechistorii,[The End of History], translated by. T. Bieroń, M. Wichrowski, Zysk i S-ka, Poznań 1997; F. Fukuyama,Ostatni człowiek [The Last Man] translated by T. Bieroń, Zysk i S-ka, Poznań 1997.60


The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2012Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, Japanworld there can be and actually are conflicts between states which are still in history. That iswhy his vision concerns indeterminate future. At the same time this interpretation treatshistory as an unnecessary burden that should be discarded. It seems that underlyingFukuyama’s thesis is the assumption about the natural change of consciousness and theacceptance of consensus represented by conceptions of liberal democracy. That is why heemphasizes the role of consciousness, ideas, and ideology in motivating human actions on theone hand, while on the other he declares the triumph of liberalism and the waning of ideologyas a major factor in international relations.Fukuyama introduced into his conception several factors, which, he believes, play asignificant role. He confirms the belief of many scientists that we are currently dealing withmany rivals to liberal democracy, which is synonymous with the West. He names, amongothers, nationalism, ethnic conflicts, Islamic theocracy, Asian soft authoritarianism or neobolshevism6 . However, he states that if modernized economy joins forces with technologicalchanges, borders between civilizations will be eliminated, yielding a single set of political andeconomic institutions. Taking into account the ideological turn towards social democracy inthe 1990s, he asks whether from the perspective of time the year 1988 ( victory of GerhardSchröder’s social democratic party in Germany) will not be regarded as crucial in stoppingdemocracy and marketization? He answers the question thus formulated in the negative,adducing three reasons to support his conviction. First, there is no alternative to globalizationprocesses, the main competitor to globalization – the Asian model of development – havingbeen discredited. He believes that there is no alternative to democracy as a source of politicalsystem legitimacy, as demonstrated by the economic crisis. 7 The second reason is that globaleconomy is governed by its own laws. The problems of economic inequality need to beaddressed at the international level. The third reason has to do with the effects of moderntechnologies. That is why, inter alia, no country can cut itself off from the global media orfrom external sources of information. The information revolution, Fukuyama argues,“hastened the arrival of the End of History and had a major impact on global politics… Thearrival of cheap and ubiquitous information has had a profoundly democratizing impact; it ismuch less easy for hierarchies of various sorts, from governments to corporations to unions,to use their control over information to manipulate those over whom they have authority. It isno accident, then, that authoritarian regimes began to collapse all over the world just as the6 F. Fukuyama, Po namyśle. Ostatni człowiek z fiolki, [Second Thoughts. The Last Man in a Bottle], “ResPublica Nowa” 2000, no. 5, p. 80.7 Ibid, p. 83.61


The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2012Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, Japanglobal economy started to shift into the information age”. 8 Fukuyama points to tworevolutions that we are witnessing. One is the technological revolution mentioned above, theother is the biotechnology revolution. Fukuyama asserts that the technological revolutiondistributed power more broadly and undermined the foundations of authoritarian regimes. 9That is why it is generally regarded as beneficial to democracy and market economy. Bycontrast, the biotechnology revolution is regarded by many with great suspicion. And we mayadd that not only by non-scientists as Fukuyama says. It is feared that in the global era thesovereign state will not be able to implement limits for example to human cloning.Among the statements concerning Fukuyama’s reflections, worth noting is GertrudeHimmelfarb’s opinion that “[...] we are caught between the vise of the old and the new: an oldhuman nature that has given us all the goods that Fukuyama properly associates with liberaldemocracy but also with those ‘irrationalities’ and ‘primitive passions’ that liberal democracywas supposed to have subdued (but so conspicuously did not); and a new human nature thattranscends, for good and bad, liberal democracy but also any recognizable polity, society orhistory”. 10 Robin Fox, who at one time was critical about Fukuyama’s vision, seems to speakin the same spirit. His main objection at that time was against the conception of historyunderstood as closed parts following in succession.. At present he rejects inter alia the beliefthat the course of history is inevitable, or the contempt for “prehistory”, and he asserts quiteproperly that from this perspective all “written history” is shorter than the blinking of an eye,while the “triumph of liberal democracy” is shorter than a flash of light. 11 In this way thespirit of progress that finds its ultimate form in the Western formula of liberal democracytaking over the values developed in other civilizations is rejected. We must admit, however,that Fukuyama’s proposition for the takeover of the East by the West expressed the newglobal order that embodies the dreams of universal happiness of mankind.The conceptions covering the constructs of the West and the East developed by otherthinkers are marked by rivalry, confrontation, and destabilization on a global scale. Thisrivalry – sometimes seen as a zero-sum game – found its forerunner in the person of SamuelP. Huntington. His work The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order8 Ibid, p. 90.9 Ład zostaje odbudowany, Bronisław Wildstein interviewing Francisem Fukuyama, “Przegląd Polityczny”1999, nr 42, s. 112-117.10 Komentarze do tekstu Francisa Fukuyamy, “Res Publica Nowa” 2000, May, p. 101. Quoted after GertrudeHimmelfarb, The New History and the Old, Harvard University Press 2004, 2 nd ed., p. 23211 Ibid, p. 103. compare also a statement by Joseph S. Nye, who is willing to accept Fukuyama’s proposition thatdecentralization effects of the internet will force the trends he (Fukuyama) describes. Nevertheless, Nye pointsout the example of China, where the authorities can still restrict access to the Internet for their citizens. He alsostresses the fact that not all democratic countries lead the way in technological revolution. Ibid, p. 106.62


The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2012Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, Japannations initially functioned as Christian communities, yet with time the idea of nation becamethe dominant one. In North America, on the other hand, the common faith soon lost itsimportance. Although religious worship plays an important role in American life, yet theprinciple of the freedom of conscience is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.Scruton devotes much room to the subject of democracy, saying that “A moderndemocracy is perforce a society of strangers[…] the successful democracy is the one wherestrangers are expressly included in the web of obligation” 26 . He observes that “it is acharacteristic error of the times in which we live [...] to identify the virtue of citizenship withthe democratic spirit, so encouraging the belief that the good citizen is simply the person whoputs all questions to the vote. On the contrary, surely: the good citizen is the one who knowswhen voting is the wrong way to decide a question, as well as when voting is the right way.For he knows that his obligations to strangers may be violated when majority opinion alonedecides their fate” 27 . Scruton believes that territorial and national loyalties characteristic of theWest are collapsing. By contrast, in the Islamic world, in which a law can be legitimated onlyby a command of God, all secular laws are seen as mere expedients adopted by the ruler andin the long run they do not serve to establish a democratic or constitutional government 28 . Theexample of Turkey is an exception to the rule, Scruton maintains, but he also stresses theexpenses that this state had to bear.Emphasizing the differences between the West and the rest, Scruton remarks that“people in the West live in the public space in which each person is surrounded and protectedby his rights and where all behavior that poses no obvious physical threat is permitted. Butpeople in Muslim countries live in a space that is shared but private, where nobody is shieldedby his rights from communal judgment, and where communal judgment is experienced as thejudgment of God. Western habits, Western morals, Western art, music, and television are seennot as freedoms but as temptations. And the normal response to temptation is either to give into it, or to punish those who offer it” 29 Scruton believes that in the face of present-dayterrorist threat the West should underpin the nation-state because its characteristics, presentedabove, are what distinguishes the West from the rest of the world. At the same time hepostulates that globalization processes seen as a threat to the rest of the world be curbed. It is26 Ibid, p. 53.27 Ibid, p. 54.28 Ibid, s. 108.29 Ibid, p. 133.66


The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2012Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, Japannot without good reason that the globalization model is identified with the West, and theconcepts of globalization and Americanization are seen as synonymous. 30 .In this context, problems also arise with the consequences of the answer to thequestion about the universal dimension of liberal democracy identified with the West. If theanswer is in the affirmative, then it should apply to everyone regardless of their civilizationaland cultural circle. With the answer in the negative, we should conclude that liberaldemocraticsolutions are one of the forms of a just social order. Many scholars appear todoubt in the universal character of the Western model and in the dominance of the Westernculture. What is significant, however, are constant choices made as part of the politicaldecision-making process. The point would therefore be not so much to agree with the politicalargument of any party to the conflict as to reach a political compromise. Conflict is treatedhere as a natural state of the society, and the models that reject conflicts and divisions shouldbe treated as utopian. One of the more eminent advocates of this view – John Gray –emphasizes the fact of minimizing the consensus in the liberal social system. Mutualcoexistence of citizens in such a system is not, according to Gray, determined by subscribingto the same values. It is determined, however, by communicating and coming to an agreementon many different matters. This mechanism also covers the sphere of international relationsand, as Gray claims, it is sometimes necessary and applies not only to specific procedures andinstitutions but also to values. But this is still a matter of practical choice and depends on thecircumstances, and on what danger we want avoid. 31 Gray appears as a pragmatist, whoobserves that although it is necessary to respect and strengthen human rights, we should notmake long-term plans for the future to build some universal morality on this foundation..Samuel P. Huntington sees this problem in a broader perspective. He ascertains thefact that the values that are characteristic of democracy are not universal. He also stresses thesignificance of the fact that democracy arose in an individualist culture whereas the East,which does not have such culture, developed nonliberal forms of democracy. Consequently,the chosen governments can act in a very arbitrary manner. All power is concentrated in thehands of executive bodies, the police violate human rights and individual freedoms, torture isapplied, and there is censorship and control of the press. 32 . Huntington rightly observes that30 For more see: M. Marczewska-Rytko, W granicach wyobraźni, czyli o wpływach procesów globalizacyjnychna demokrację or the English version: Within Imagination or on the Impact of Globalization Processes onDemocracy, “Teka Komisji Politologii i Stosunków Międzynarodowych PAN” 2007, t. 2, pp. 39-59.31 Rozmowa z Johnem Grayem. Życie jest bardziej złożone niż tradycyjna etyka, [in:] B. Wildstein, Profilewieku, Politeja, Warszawa 2000, p. 176.32 Rozmowa z Samuelem Huntingtonem, Jesteśmy skazani na konflikt cywilizacji, [in:] Ibid, p. 25.67


The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2012Official Conference ProceedingsOsaka, Japanthe adoption of the principle of appointing the authorities through election does not make acountry a Western state. That is why the Western leaders should, he believes, refrain fromtrying to mold other civilizations in the West’s likeness. What’s more, the principle ofrefrainment, in his view, is a necessary requirement to maintain peace in the multi-polar andmulti-civilization world. Similarly, the problem arises with the ideology of human rights – aproduct of the Enlightenment thought and an important element of the West’s modernity. Ieven omit such an extreme standpoint as that professed by Alain de Benoist, who defends theright of non-Western societies to perform practices that are part of their culture but arecondemned in the West. 33 . These include inter alia the practice of circumcision of women orstoning. We should, however, agree with the author’s proposition that the affirmation of theuniversal character of human rights expresses only the belief that individual values of theWestern civilization are seen by their advocates as higher values which should be imposed onthe whole world. Human rights discourse enables the West to assume the role of moral arbiterof all mankind 34 . Interestingly enough, it is confrontational visions, which set the Westagainst the East (both the Far East, and the nearer East, which is Russia), that are gaining inimportance in contemporary discourse. The authors who emphasize the mutualcomplementation and reception of values that derive from different cultures/civilizations aredecidedly in the minority.33 A. de Benoist, Etnobójcza ideologia Zachodu, “Magazyn Obywatel” 2005, no. 3.34 Ibid, p. 65.68

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