The West has dominated world politics and even economics since almost or more than three centuries. This time span includes its colonial and imperial encounters with the non West which includes the world of Islam. But, Western dominance might be coming to a close. The reasons might not pertain to economics, wherein it is conventionally assumed that the center of gravity of economics is moving to Asia and that this shift would render Western dominance infructuous. The real reasons might lie in domain of ideas, values and, most importantly, reason. This assertion is not meant to denigrate or demean reason but to point out that when reason becomes the be all and end all of everything, so to speak, disaster ensues.
It may be pointed out here, to employ a business abbreviation (and phrase), the West’s USP, after its Renaissance was reason. Its trailblazing and foundational philosophers put reason on such a pedestal, that what occurred in and within the West was a veritable revolution. It was believed that man(humankind) was a creature endowed with reason and that there was and there is nothing beyond it. This became the West’s new religion. But, reason appeared to have fed the West’s narcissism which was reflected in its colonial and imperial adventures( a thematic constant which it never really overcame as is perhaps best reflected in the Second Gulf War, a “war of choice” which, stripped of rhetoric and accretions constituted the elevation and the primacy of reason in a warped and convoluted manner).
Disaggregated, the ostensible premise of the war was “democratization of the Middle East” with Iraq constituting what may be called a “laboratory” experiment. Democracy, the hand maiden of reason was held to be the “panacea” and cure for everything that ailed the Middle East. The West( or its lodestar , the United States) appeared to have deemed reason’s concomitant, democracy, as the ultimate value, towards which it could expend and take blood and treasure. But, the world beyond the West is defined by diversity-of thought, faiths, cultures and so on. This applies more poignantly in the world of Islam, defined as it is, by adherence to the core tenets of the faith. If democratization through force, in the Western schema, meant banishing Islam from the consciousness of Muslims, then it was (and is naturally)doomed.
But, perhaps more poignantly, the United States was so zealous in its crusade for democracy, that it failed to read and understand one essential fact: the march of reason was incomplete within the country and in other parts of the West- an empirical fact corroborated by the gale of populism that has swept the country , in the form of Trump and Trumpism. (That there can be pure reason and its tour de force in human affairs constitutes sheer conceit and hubris). All this is not , to repeat, denigrate and demean reason and its ally, democracy, but to put matters into perspective. Mankind, to make a philosophical point, is not a utilitarian bundle defined by “utils” which can be subjected to the techniques of mere rationality and rationalism but a political animal whose locus of being is defined by the unconscious, the transcendental and a deeply spiritual component. But, nay, the protagonists of the drama of reason choose to ignore this and opted to apply the techniques of reason in the service of social engineering and political ends( again without realizing that the so called march of reason was incomplete in their very own societies).
The consequences of making a fetish out of reason are for all to see. There is not only a veritable backlash against the United States and even the West but also a reaction within it. Populism within and the fluid churn that is defining international relations and politics is one eloquent example of the trend. In the process, the West’s dominance-ideational, cultural, and politics-is being challenged , left , right and center. The confluence of these rather structural and ideational trends and their locus might lie in the gradual decline of the United States, with Europe retreating further into itself and constituting what has been called “ fortress Europe”. How long will it take for these trends to denoue and pan out and who (or what) will replace the West remains to be seen. And, while reason will not be banished from human affairs but one glaring lesson that needs to be absorbed and learnt is to have a perspective on reason, rationality and its techniques thereof.
—The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org