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Renewing the West’s unique universalism

Pabst, Adrian (2022) Renewing the West’s unique universalism. Telos, 2022 (201). pp. 165-188. ISSN 0090-6514. (doi:10.3817/1222201165) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:102206)

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Civilization is the new pivot of geopolitics. Brexit, Trump’s victory and the resurgence of Russia, China, and India have put culture and civilizational identity at the heart of both domestic politics and foreign policy. From identity politics that is sweeping much of the West to the pushback against Western universalism in much of the non-Western world, civilizational norms are as important as military might and economic prosperity.

With NATO united and expanding, the geopolitical West is stronger than its enemies in Moscow and Beijing have assumed but multiple fault-lines continue to run through contemporary Western civilization. First, there is the opposition between the West and Russia. Second, the long-standing divisions between an Anglo-Saxon Atlantic vision and a more Latin continental European vision are once again coming to the fore in the diverging responses to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Linked to this is a third fault-line – between a more secular liberal vision of universal Western modernity and more religious ideas about the West’s unique universalism.

There is a wholly different Western tradition that emerged from the fusion of Greco-Roman philosophy with biblical revelation in Hellenized Judaism and in Christianity. It engendered a distinctive conception of universality paradoxically embodied in the particular. Both within and across nations, this involves a plurality of associated communities and corporate bodies and their unification around a spiritual vision with its own representatives. Whereas for Auguste Comte these are necessarily scientists, for religious traditions they are priests and kings. As Pierre Manent has argued, the West’s pluralism stems from the balance between city-states, empires, and the Church, all of which are in some sense federal and corporatist, over-against the centralized nation state and now the system of global governance. The West in its universal, meta-historical sense (rather its narrow, modern meaning) marks the unfolding of this ‘organic’ plural unique universalism.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.3817/1222201165
Uncontrolled keywords: West; civilisation, geopolitics, universalism
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Adrian Pabst
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2023 12:28 UTC
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2023 12:17 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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