Kobukson's Book Recommendation: The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization

We have been taught, inside the classroom and outside of it, that there exists an entity called the West, and that one can think of this West as a society and civilization independent of and in opposition to other societies and civilizations [ie the East]. Many of us even grew up believing that this West has [an autonomous] genealogy, according to which ancient Greece begat Rome, Rome begat Christian Europe, Christian Europe begat the Renaissance, the Renaissance the Enlightenment, the Enlightenment political democracy and the Industrial Revolution. Industry crossed with democracy, in turn yielded the United States, embodying the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...

[This is] misleading, first, because it turns history into a moral success story, a race in time in which each [Western] runner of the race passess on the torch of liberty to the next relay. History is thus converted into a tale about the furtherance of virtue, about how the virtuous [ie the West] win out over the bad guys [the East].

-The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization



This is a book that I discovered recently. It was written by John M Hobson. Here is a brief description from Amazon:

John Hobson challenges the ethnocentric bias of mainstream accounts of the "Rise of the West" that assume that Europeans have pioneered their own development, and that the East has been a passive by-stander. Describing the rise of what he calls the "Oriental West", Hobson argues that Europe first assimilated many Eastern inventions, and they appropriated Eastern resources through imperialism. Hobson's book thus propels the hitherto marginalized Eastern peoples to the forefront of the story of progressive world history.


I have come to a realization that discussion of Asian-American empowerment these days seems to focus too heavily on superficial images rather than ideas. Many bemoan the lack of a compelling Asian-American identity or culture but few have any clue as to how to go about the task of actually creating or building this identity or culture. Too often we are reduced to imitating aspects of the dominant culture but never producing anything genuinely original that can be distinctively called "Asian-American". We also lack an overarching, definitive, and comprehensive narrative.

We dwell in a "dark ages" as an ethnic group. Perhaps it is because too many of us have become disconnected from the knowledge of the history, philosophies, and accomplishments of Asian civilization; knowledge and truths that we were never exposed to us during our Western civilization-centric education. But just as the Europeans were able to emerge from the Dark Ages by reconnecting with ancient Greek and Roman heritage, perhaps Asian-America can also enter a period of Renaissance by reconnecting with the knowledge of Asian civilization. This knowledge should empower us and be a powerful influence in our own efforts in all manner of creative endeavors. It is with this view in mind that I present this book as a recommended addition to one's library.

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