What Really is the West? (Western Impact on Developing Nations)

Posted on February 14, 2010 in Specials

Yash Bharadwaj:

What is the West? Who are parts of the West? Or who defines the West? There have been endless questions on the western world and its various aspects. Practically speaking, the word ‘West’ does not hold an international definition; it is a social, cultural and political concept passed down through ages to its present day connotation.

Ordinarily speaking, the Western world comprises the cultures and values of the people, who are direct descendants of the European culture. Europe, North America, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, etc. are some cultures which constitute the West. There is a common thread running between all of them–they have common history, religion, values, beliefs and other traditions. And the whole of the West, taken together, with all its prosperity and failings, have cast a deep influence on other cultures worldwide.

The diverse aspects of the West have gradually seeped into other cultures with time. And the influence is so humongous that modernization has become synonymous with westernization. Huge number of cultural groups have adopted Western values and living in their day-to-day lives. And this has led to a lot of debate time and again. Like all big things, the West also has its good influences and bad. Some look down upon the influences of western civilization with contempt, while others religiously follow their footsteps.

The West has always been the nerve-center for major technological progresses and social evolution. The Westerners keep adding to their cultures and traditions every day and is never static. This practice of continuity and constant evolution has been imbibed by the cultures worldwide. The entire human race takes part in new discoveries, new cultural phenomena, new pieces of art and literature, new ideologies, and many more.

The West has been particularly influential in propagating intellectual freedom and individualism, both socially and politically. Being a democratic society, it lays the foundation to the supremacy of the individual. Even capitalism, which has its roots in the western world, is linked to the individualistic preferences of the West. Freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of life, and more, are all distributaries of mainstream western ideologies. This, in turn, has inspired the rest of the world to become individualistic and socially, politically, and culturally emancipated.

The freedom of the western civilization finds palpable expression in consumerism, which again has Western origins. Consumerism that was in a molecular form with the Occident has now grown to such an extent that people are no longer voracious consumers by choice, but by natural need.

Apart from all these, global influences of the West can also be traced in areas, such as gender equality, civil rights, intellectual freedom, etc. Cultures will continue to grow and perish in the coming centuries, but the deep-rooted impact of the West will, perhaps, never phase out.

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.