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Balance and Imbalance: In the Equation on “Differentiation – Continuity” Between Civilisations 3/4

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“‘Following Scientific revolutions, and through an unexpected transfer, scientists are now facing a different science’. This is the conclusion reached by Thomas S. Khun in his theory on the structure of scientific revolution. In the case of technological revolutions however, the whole world is exposed to a gradual change, and the rate of change depends on the nature of the technologies of impact ad their interaction with the elements of the social environment.”

The Civilisational “Differences – Continuity” Equation                             
The problem raised, herein, can be easily solved if we use the two extremes of this relation in an equation, as follows: if “civilisational continuity”, on the other hand, is necessity imposed – in human terms – by development, renewal and the ability to keep abreast of progress in the different fields of knowledge, then “civilisational differences” are foremost an objective necessity imposed by the order of values as a basis for the specificities of identity, patriotism and nationalism.

While admitting that “continuity” between civilisations means that they influence and are influenced by each other in different parts of the world, the equation will be balanced as long as there is a sustainable “activation” of the elements on both sides.

In this case, we would be performing what is called “civilisation interaction”, but if one side of the equation is activated at the expense of the other side, we shall be faced with an unstable, or unbalanced, operation, in other words, with a “civilisational disorder”.

How can this “disorder” be identified? Or rather, how can we give evidence of a disorder in this equation?

In the first hand, as regards “civilisational differences” and the civilisational specificity that this signifies, the “disorder” will certainly become noticeable by activating this side of the equation at the expense of “continuity”. This can be observed in the case of civilisational “narcissism” or “chauvinism”. And these two consecutive operations necessarily lead to what can be called “civilisational superiority”, so that “civilisational differences” are - rightly or wrongly - transformed into a civilisational “superiority”.

The interesting observation, here, is that this “civilisational superiority” with the - narcissistic and chauvinistic - “centralisation” that it implies, may come true under two conditions: the first one, is by activating the elements of civilisational “differentiation” rather than those of civilisational “continuity” and the second, is that civilisational specificities must develop in an environment favourable to civilisational development and progress, more than other similar or contrasting specificities.

On the other hand, as regards “civilisational continuity”, the “disorder” clearly seems due to the activation of the elements pertaining to this side, at the expense of “differences”. This is the effect that takes the shape of civilisational “dependency” or of civilisational “withdrawal” (to retire into one’s shell), two contrasting phenomena which inexorably lead to what can be called a civilisational “disturbance”, so that civilisational differences are, willy-nilly, transformed into civilisational “monster”.

What matters, here, is that this civilisational “monster” can be traced through examining withdrawal and dependency in their social unfurling in time and space.

Civilisational withdrawal is based on the remembrance of the heritage and the attachment to past moments of glory and self – sufficiency, and on breaking with the civilisation of the “present” by replacing the disappointing present with a glorious past.

It, then, bears the flag of civilisational “differences” and “crystallises tradition” into defensive moulds, concepts and mechanisms that are resistant to discovery and renewal. This means that civilisational “withdrawal” offers a cultural representation of the historic “self” as a central pivot, by leaping over the geographic dimension, or the dimension of space.

As to civilisational “dependency”, which on a longing for geographic space and on hanging on to strong positions of the “present time” as moments of self-sufficiency in the present, it breaks with the civilisation of “the past”, whatever this past may be, and promotes cultural “penetration” while allowing such penetration to materialise by filling the stag and become a whole system of penetration pertaining to the proselytising civilisation that is dedicated to it. This means that civilisational “dependency” provides a civilisational representation of the geographic “other” and revolves around it, by leaping over the dimension of history, or the dimension of time.

We are left with what we have caller civilisational “disorder”. This can be quite clearly observed in the broad area, which lies between civilisational “dependency” and “withdrawal”. This area is full of cases of civilisational “rockers”, which go from “beggary” (when a society borrows whole readymade theoretical, and material, systems in the creation of which it has not participated in the least), to “adjustment”, or “accommodation”, (in which case the “society” seeks to reconcile entirely different systems with each other) etc.

On this basis, we can trace the “disorder”, or rather demonstrate a lack of balance in the civilisational “differences – continuity” equation. So, by being conscious that the three cases of “dependency”, “withdrawal” and “disorder” are the result of the activation of the three elements related to civilisational “continuity”, at the expense of the civilisational “differences”, it becomes clear to us that this civilisational “continuity” is nothing, but the adoption of a foreign culture with the aim of imposing its values within.

If we seek an appropriate appellation for this process, the only possible one is civilisational “invasion”. An “invasion” is, in fact, “attempt by one society to impose its values on another”.

That kind of “invasion” was carried out by the Greeks and by the Romans, for example, to impose their “civilisational values” by force on the countries subjected to invasion, to which they imposed their rulers, their religions, and their economic system. This is, also, what took place from the 15th century in the colonies, where Europe sought to impose its civilisation, although it only succeeded in provoking “disorders” in the “civilisations” of these colonies.

That was no mere civilisational “continuity” or free exchange of “values”, or even an equal “interaction” between two societies standing on a par in matters of sovereignty, self-determination, and freedom of action. It is, at any rate, a find instance of civilisational “invasion” since the new “Western” culture began to exercise its hegemony over the cultural system of the colonised societies as it sought impose its own values on these societies.

Hence, “civilisational invasion” is a reality, not an “illusion”, and what happened in the past might be less ominous than what is taking place in the world today.

In fact, the essence of the problem is that the world is living, at present, a reality, that we must highlight in this context, in the sense that “the Western civilisation” is the strongest civilisation, especially at the scientific, technical, military, and economic levels, and it is the one that can activate the elements pertaining to “cultural” continuity, much more than other civilisations, whether they be similar or different.

Furthermore, this “acculturation from abroad”, or rather this “cultural invasion”, takes place through organised and totalitarian tentatives to surround and besiege, or to swallow and finally to hegemonies completely in a “factual and effective” manner, a “dialogue of cultures”, the necessity of “modernisation” and “keeping pace with the century” in what is dubbed “the new world order”.

Let us take, for example, this last expression, “the new world order”. Regardless of many problems, questions and stands, and concerning this “new order”, and seeing that the most powerful country in the world did not submit a project, for this “new world order”, since the whole world is to cooperate in solving this problem, but considers that this is an entity that was really born, and the people – as watchers – must come to terms with it.

To enforce this “negative, passive habituation”, the “proselytisers”, rather than “explainers” of the “new world order”, relied on four main propagandist points: the definitive victory of the capitalist ideology and the end of the historic phase to it, the hegemony of one axis over the whole world, the resulting denial of the possibility of resistance, the hegemony of technology over the history of progress and the resulting “technological” – rather than human or social – necessities which arose and finally the idea of globalisation that marks the end of nation, with the resultant refutation of pluralism and participation.

These four propagandist premises have the common aim of turning action into “fixed” trends with a legendary “universal” dimension, which means that we should find out the psychological effect induced by the call for this negative and apathetic adjustment, while mentally preparing for a total subjection and “hegemony” and while admitting that this is an inevitable development which we, the poor, backward, persecuted world, the “south”, cannot induce.

Our only reaction is to comment on this “paradox”, that characterises the contemporary world, reflected in the contradictions of the current economic order with, on the one hand, a “globalisation” based on mutual reliance, and on the other hand, the tendency of all the societies in the world to “withdraw” into narrow frameworks, such as sub-cultures and ethnic groups, a civilisation made up of minorities and trends.

The question of this paradox, its aspects, its causes and variations, is nothing, but one aspect of the problem suffered by national cultures all over the world. It is that of “civilisational invasion” by the Western civilisation, which relies on the “power” of science and technology, that is, on political and economic hegemony, to impose its own “cultural” hegemony. This is what countries in the “south” are exposed to in general.


Read in the next issues:
Civilisation and Technology and the Struggle of Informatics

Hussein Maaloum -

Hussein Maaloum is an Egyptian researcher and writer.

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Balance and Imbalance In the Equation on “Differentiation – Continuity” Between Civilisations 4/4
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Last Updated on Sunday, 23 August 2009 23:10  

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