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Thread: What is the West?

  1. #1 What is the West? 
    Forum Ph.D. Cat1981(England)'s Avatar
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    We hear the term "the West" all the time on radio, tv, newspapers, internet and in everyday conversation, but what is the West?

    Some include South Africa, Latin America and Greece in the Western world whist others do not. Some argue that the West can trace its origins in Greco-Roman civilisation, others in the division of the Roman Empire, the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Christianity, the Great Schism, exposure to the renaissance and the enlightenment.

    What qualifies any particular society as being part of the West? Is it cultural traits, historical ties, traditions, political ideology? If so, what are they?


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    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Well there are some countries that are undeniably included in most people's definition of "The West." These would be the Western European democracies (maybe the Eastern European ones too today) and the former British colonies of Australia, Canada, the USA and New Zealand. I don't think people yet consider Russia to be Western.

    For most of the 20th century the division has been based largely around the division between the democratic and capitalist states against the soviet aligned states. This would place Japan, Taiwan and South Korea in the Western world, and in a sense of political and economic policy we probably do view them as one of us, so to speak. This has also made South America a kind of no man's land.

    The third possible definition is the cultural one you provided, which would be the states that are culturally linked with Europe.

    I think the European Union and NATO has spread what we consider to be Western into Eastern Europe. Countries that were once thought of as foreign, like say Croatia, are starting to be seen as part of the gang. Turkey, which is clearly not a European country, has been accepted into NATO and wants to be part of the EU. It is increasingly one of the most democratic, and the most secular, of the Middle-Eastern states; many might call this change Westernization.

    A final consideration is that for much of the world, the West is probably viewed antagonistically as any country allied with the USA.


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  4. #3  
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    'The West' is just an arbitrary term used to segregate peoples and places. How else can places like S. Africa, Paraguay, and Argentina be western. Can Black Americans, Native American Indians, and Australian Aborigines claim to be westerners?
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    Forum Freshman Brian Foley's Avatar
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    'What is the West?'

    Its strictest sense for today Industrialized Europe, essentially any nation West of the River Oder, that basically is Western Civilization.
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    The West is a set of countries which have a common history and so, developped some similar cultures. Or be populated in majority by people from this culture.

    This is not as early as Greece because Turkey or Syria will be part of the West.
    This is not as early as Roman because Scandinavia will not be part of the West.
    This is not the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, as Scandinavia was not part of it.
    But christianity is definetly a federator common to all. And the fact of being part of NATO is the second.
    Consequently it's a set of parameters defining a period of time roughly from the Upper middle age (500-1000 AD) to the end of 2nd world war with a common history. It's very fuzzy, I know. But I am sure if we were using a machine learning classifier, a computer will find who is from the West and who is not. Actually, I will do it if I have time and give you the results. I will use as many parameters historical and social as possible. Even some which seems irrelevant.
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    What if we saw it as the first, second and third world. The first world is america with its economical stable allies, the second Russia's dominance, the third the rest of underdeveloped world that has been exploited by Europe's colonization.

    We could then define the West as countries that were part of Europe's dominion, including the countries that were not exploited nor have later been taken over by an rebellion uprising. Including the countries that flourished in the cold war between America and Russia (these include South-Korea and Japan).
    Later on this list will include the countries that have achieved a stable democracy with a developed economical system and a low poverty rating. Not to forget that they must have a ideology/culture that is on level with those in the homeland (europe/ north America)
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    The West is a terminology that comes from the US and within the context of the Cold War. It is useless now.

    In Europe, when speaking of Geopolitics (and in France, where I am from), we use the term "Pays du Nord", the North.

    North : U.S., Canada, European Union, Russia, Israel, Japan, Australia, New Zealand.
    South : the rest of the world.

    It basically gathers the countries not infested with civil war/AIDS/corruption/dictatorships/extreme poverty.
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    So I gave a strange job to do to my secretary this afternoon, to compile data from countries from CIA factbook. She found it interesting. I completed it tonight.
    Now, I used these data to find what means "THE WEST".

    There are 52 countries and the parameters are:
    - Religion (catholic, protestant, orthodox, islam, buddhist, other)
    - The historical parameters (Part of west roman empire, influence of Renaissance, of capitalism, member of NATO, WW2 winner, former or present communist country)
    - The demography (population, urbanization, life expectancy, litteracy, GDP per inhabitant)
    - The geography (Continent, language)

    Finally, I rated the class, WEST from 0 to 3. 0 is for example China or Iran. 1 is Brazil,Morocco, Poland, Bulgaria. 2 is Argentina,South Africa. 3 are the core West).
    Now, I used a machine learning software (Orange, excellent...) to crush these data...

    Results are interesting...

    From CN2 algorithm, this is the SINGLE rule for being a core West country:

    IF GDP/capita>20300.0 AND Urbanization>66.0 AND Other religion=['0'] THEN WEST=3

    And here are the rules NOT to be a member of the Club of West:
    IF Life Expectancy<=71.0 AND Renaissance=['0'] THEN WEST=0
    IF Literacy<=93.0 AND Population<=30.0 THEN WEST=0
    IF Life Expectancy<=74.0 AND Communist=['3'] AND NATO=['0'] AND GNP/Inh>6400.0 THEN WEST=0


    Using Classification trees, I got pretty accurate probability (92.6%) for this :
    GDP/Capita > 23650
    Urbanization>67
    WEST=3


    Random Forest Classifier is giving 2 rules to be West:
    Urbanization>72.5
    Renaissance=3
    WEST=3
    Renaissance=2
    Life Expectancy>77.5
    WEST=3


    I made a Naive Bayes analysis to check the less influent parameters for the class WEST=3. These parameters are by decreasing order of influence :
    size of the population, litteracy, protestant, NATO and WW2 winner.
    The 3 most influent parameters to be West are:
    - the continent (avoid Asia and Central Asia)
    - presence of a catholic population medium to strong
    - have been influence by the Renaissance


    So what all that tells us:
    1/ The 'West' is mainly characterized by high urbanization, high life expectancy and high GDP
    2/ The only 'historical' anchor point for the West seems to be a common history at the Renaissance.
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  10. #9  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Krov
    The West is a terminology that comes from the US and within the context of the Cold War. It is useless now.

    In Europe, when speaking of Geopolitics (and in France, where I am from), we use the term "Pays du Nord", the North.

    North : U.S., Canada, European Union, Russia, Israel, Japan, Australia, New Zealand.
    South : the rest of the world.

    It basically gathers the countries not infested with civil war/AIDS/corruption/dictatorships/extreme poverty.
    That's a stupid classification, Russia is just as poor as Mexico and Brazil, and India and most of East Asia is poorer than South America despite being in the Northern Hemisphere. Not to mention the fact that Australia and New Zealand aren't in the North and you're just using a different word to apply to the West for no apparent reason. Russia, likewise, is a dictatorship that is overrun with corruption. Not to mention that South America, and much of South Africa, is culturally closer to Western Europe than Russia is.

    Moreover, the West is not a terminology that came from the US out of the cold war, it is merely an Anglicization of the Latin distinction between the Occident and the Orient that has been made by Europeans since the middle ages. Although, the Cold War did lead to a redefinition of what we considered to be the Western world.

    The Western world is a cultural and political grouping that goes beyond merely grouping the rich and the poor.

    Ou tout simplement, Pays du Nord et l'Occident ne sont pas interchangeables.
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  11. #10  
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    I never said India was part of the North.

    And speaking of Russia, they are the only country capable of defeating the US in an armed conflict (D-Day "débarquement" in Los Angeles is easy as pie for Russia), so yeah, definitely North.

    And Brazil is not poor (It will become top 3-5 in 5 years probably, and is already number 8 ).

    So yeah, there's more to geopolitics than dumb stereotyping.

    And "the West" is not an Anglicization per see, since it meant "anything but those strange yellow people" in the Middle Ages, not the dichotomy we have with the modern term.

    The meaning is new, it's not a transcription.
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  12. #11  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Krov
    I never said India was part of the North.

    And speaking of Russia, they are the only country capable of defeating the US in an armed conflict (D-Day "débarquement" in Los Angeles is easy as pie for Russia), so yeah, definitely North.

    And Brazil is not poor (It will become top 3-5 in 5 years probably, and is already number 8 ).

    So yeah, there's more to geopolitics than dumb stereotyping.

    And "the West" is not an Anglicization per see, since it meant "anything but those strange yellow people" in the Middle Ages, not the dichotomy we have with the modern term.

    The meaning is new, it's not a transcription.
    Now apparently military capability is a consideration? What dumb stereotyping, Russia is clearly a developing country, it's GDP per capita is equivalent with most of the emerging countries in South America. That was the point. It is not about nominal GDP when you have very large populations, but about the quality of life and living standards of the general population. Otherwise, we're to take India as a first world country simply because it is the 11th largest economy in the world?

    The notion that the "North" is a better term is just nonsense, because you're essentially transposing the same categories used for "West" for no reason, while ignoring the cultural and political affiliations of the countries in your list.

    Russia is neither politically nor economically in line with Western democracies. The West as a categorization is more meaningful and useful than North because it encompasses cultural and political factors.
    "I almost went to bed
    without remembering
    the four white violets
    I put in the button-hole
    of your green sweater

    and how i kissed you then
    and you kissed me
    shy as though I'd
    never been your lover "
    - Leonard Cohen
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