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The anglosphere and globalisation

Attending a Bruges group bash at the IEA yesterday, I had the opportunity to listen to the cogent James Bennett elucidating further on the concept of the Anglosphere. As always, the talk was clear and precise, dodging the pitfalls of contemporary topics that can blind many to long-term opportunities through a strong pessimism about Britain’s current predicaments.

Bennett’s arguments on the pervasive individualism that biases the English speaking countries towards liberty proved a welcome long-term antidote to the current gloom. Indeed, his accounts of the spread of English through India, and its transformation from a language of the elite to the masses, was described in terms of a social revolution.

Whilst we are trapped in the short-term carcrash that is the EU, the positive trends of globalisation and the adoption of English throughout India, China, Asia and Africa will prove far more beneficial in the long-term. We will know that the world is becoming far saner and far brighter when we see the outsourcing industry open its first call centres in Kabul or Waziristan. Their turn will come…

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16 comments to The anglosphere and globalisation

  • Thomas O'Neill

    “There turn will come…”
    Whethere they like it or not, I take it Philip.

  • nic

    Pity I missed it. A friend of mine was describing the discussion to me this evening.

  • Nick M

    open its first call centres in Kabul or Waziristan

    “I’m sorry sir, we must put you on hold, we have another insurgency…”

    Alexander the Great had a torrid time in the ‘Stan, the British Empire couldn’t civilise them… So how soon?

    These are Godforsaken shit-holes – always have been, probably always will be.

  • permanent expat

    My impression is that those for whom English is a second language speak it better than the dumbed-down glottal-stop home-grown ‘yoof’.
    An Anglosphere would probably exclude The Septic Isle on grounds of sheer incomprehensibility……innit.

  • permanent expat

    ……………….and Mr. O’Neil’s “there turn will come” isn’t much help.

  • veryretired

    Development is not justy a matter of wealth or investment, although they are certainly factors. There is also a factor that seems almost to be temporal in nature—societies exist in different contexts almost as if they were in different times.

    At the dawn of the 20th century, even the most advanced countries still used horse power, human muscles, traditional methods of farming, manufacture, pen and paper record keeping, etc.

    Of course, there were some modern cities, but most people lived in rural areas, a large percentage of the population was involved in agriculture, most people stayed close to home, married in their faith and race, large numbers never learned to read and write, indeed, education itself was viewed with some suspicion.

    Now we are at the dawn of the 21st century. After decades of utterly wasted and stolen governmental aid, the recipients of which are still the most impoverished and repressed group of countries on the planet, an unplanned and ad hoc development of private factories, assembly plants, call centers, data processing facilities, laboratories and such like has started to make substantial inroads into the poverty and isolation of many previously rural societies.

    Not surprisingly, these developments are uneven, somewhat chaotic in their effects, and the subject of intense criticism by the very people who claimed, when the method was statist intervention, to be in favor of improving the economy and living standards of “underdeveloped” countries.

    Apparently, when the development is done for economic, i.e., profit making, reasons, it becomes suspect in contrast to the benevolent compassion of state run foriegn aid, even if the latter is completely futile.

    At any rate, we are now witnessing the process that the developed nations went through last century being repeated, in large part, by the underdeveloped nations of this century—the confusion, dislocation, populism, desperation, migration, and hostility that so many people went through then are being repeated now by people in traditionalist cultures around the world.

    I used to marvel at the fact that my grandfather was born on a farm, at the end of the 19th century, on which horses supplied much of the power, and lived to see men walk on the moon. Many people in the “third world” will experience a similar journey.

    We think the world is supposed to be this open, travelled, connected, interwoven network. It’s worth remembering that for billions, that world is disneyland, and an intimidating disneyland, at that.

    The genius of the Anglosphere is that it has said that everything can be done differently, and has struggled to embrace the changes necessary to reinvent human existence from something nasty, brutal, and short into something better, cleaner, and longer.

    The terror that the Anglosphere strikes into the hearts of traditional cultures is the demand that everything be done differently, and the implicit suggestion that most of what they thought they knew was wrong.

    The modern conquistador flies in on a jet, wears a nice suit, and brandishes a laptop. He, or she, might even speak the language. But the conquest is just as complete, and just as frightening.

    We are the ones for whom nothing is sacred.

  • Tuscan Tony

    veryretired says:

    At the dawn of the 20th century, even the most advanced countries still used horse power, human muscles, traditional methods of farming, manufacture, pen and paper record keeping, etc.

    ….errrr, 20th? You’ve just described Tuscany, where fax machines whirr all day, pen and paper are de rigeur, agriculture is still taken seriously, and even the odd horse can be seen actually working the fields, all firmly in the 21st century I’m afraid!

  • What evidence is there, that the future is more frightening than the past?

    Best regards

  • Julian Taylor

    Because it is an unknown quantity and we are always afraid of the unknown.

  • @Julian, who wrote: Because it is an unknown quantity and we are always afraid of the unknown.

    That’s hypothesised causation, not evidence.

    Evidence would be looking at the future of all the pasts that have existed, and working out whether what happended in those futures was more frightening (or would be judged by those then living as more frightening) than what had happened in those many different pasts.

    Best regards

  • It was an interesting evening Philip. I hope that Jim will be over this side of the pond to put his case more often. Good of Bruges Group to hold such a meeting.

  • Paul Marks

    In Australia government spending is a bit smaller than it was ten years ago (35% of G.D.P. as opposed to 38%) but I do not know any other major “Anglosphere” country where this is true.

    Government spending and regulations are expanding (even on top of their already vast size) and most people just want more government spending (“to help the poor”) and more efforts by the government to “do something” about this or that problem (i.e. more regulations).

    Even in India (not normally considered part of the Anglosphere) there is pressure for the introduction for more welfare programs and more quota laws (in spite of the fact that there are clearly too many poor people for any government to look after and that there have been various quota laws for discriminted against groups since 1950).

    Sadly the voluntarist (which I hope is what is meant by “individualist” – as what we are talking about is voluntary civil interaction not atomistic individualism) spirit of the Anglosphere would seem to be a myth.

    It is possible that our societies will reform and avoid collapse (it is certainly is technically possible to avoid collapse by timely rolling back of state schemes), but there is little evidence that this will actually be done.

  • ADE

    The terror that the Anglosphere strikes into the hearts of traditional cultures is the demand that everything be done differently, and the implicit suggestion that most of what they thought they knew was wrong.

    The modern conquistador flies in on a jet, wears a nice suit, and brandishes a laptop. He, or she, might even speak the language. But the conquest is just as complete, and just as frightening.

    We are the ones for whom nothing is sacred.

    Always enjoy your comments and insights, veryretired.

    The conquest is by the modern world, and for the “traditional societies”, inevitable, not surprising.

    What does surprise me is that for our cousins, the French, the conquest is traumatic. Surely they could not have forgotten Agincourt so quickly?

    Most of what I’ve thought I knew was deliberately challenged by my professors. I am grateful to them. Most of what I did know was wrong. But being Anglosphere, my internal world did not change. I daresay neither did your grandfather’s.

    Funnily enough, none of my professors was able to challenge Shakespeare for insight to la condition humaine.

    Could something have been afoot even that far back?

    ADE

  • Probably they don’t keep in mind Agincourt, because it was an embarrassing speedbump in a race that the French *won*, and decisively to boot…

  • veryretired

    I don’t know of any evidence, Nigel, but that sure seems to be the common feeling down through history. I explicitly use the word feeling because there seems to be a highly emotional component to the “doomsday” scenarios and predictions that appear regularly, more so than any facts or evidence.

    I recall a quotation, supposedly from ancient Egypt, lamenting the foolishnes and lack of piety among their young, and predicting future disaster. Considering the lengthy relative stability of the Pharoic dynasties, that seems a good example.

    On the other hand, many people at the opening of the 20th century were filled with optimism, and thought that they were entering a new golden age. Instead, the future for Europe and much of Asia was madness and death on a scale unknown since the Black Plague.

    Of all periods, I suppose, the plague years in the 14th century seemed the most apocalyptic, at least in Europe. Tuchman describes the devastation and gloom that pervaded society in her book, “A Distant Mirror”.

    Not unjustly, she uses that dismal period in a comparison to the 20th century.

    I can remember the endless predictions of nuclear disaster, plagues, famines, ice ages, overpopulation, environmental disaster and more that have been issued regularly and continuously by the “jeremiahs” of our age and culture. The stereotypical figure of the robed and bearded prophet holding a sign that said “The end is near” is now a cartoonish joke, but was an everyday reality for much of the latter half of the 20th century, at least psychologically.

    A continuous state of crisis is valuable to those who are trying to convince others that everyone must line up, stop arguing, and do as their told. The current drumbeat about global warming as a symptom of modern industrial culture, which must, of course, be placed under the supervision “those who know better” is a good example.

    The medical crisis, the cancer palgue, the looming energy shortage, the coming (fill in the blank) disaster, are all attempts to play on age old fears and primal suspicions that things are going to hell.

    The anglosphere’s uniqueness is not that the people are somehow better or smarter, but that the culture accepts and encourages finding new ways of doing and new ways of thinking. Most other cultures want to believe they have it all figured out, that they have the answers, that everything will, and should, remain the same as their forefathers knew.

    Innovation is not only rejected, it is evil.

    I sometimes wonder how much of the hatred and violent response to modern global culture rests in the fact that changing how things are done, and the concomitant challenges to how everything is thought about, is anathema to most traditional cultures. Indeed, there’s been plenty of resistance in our cultures also.

    Empiricism, the scientific method, and the constant questioning of everything and anything is acidic to a mind dependent on revelation, tradition, and a mythic past made up of morality stories more than history.

    The conflict between the evolutionists and the believers in the Genesis story is about much more than just what gets taught in biology class. In the final analysis, it’s about whose worldview prevails, or, even more, whose universe we’re going to live in—the one where supernatural powers trump all, or the one where human reason can discover the melodies of the stars and galaxies.

    I know where I want to live, but there’s plenty of people who disagree.

  • Millie Woods

    The power of the anglosphere is that today it is the prime language of access to knowledge. And the knowledge explosion in the anglosphere is truly phenomenal.
    I taught for twenty-five years at a top-rated French university where in terms of innovation and yes I dare say creativity francophonie was ten years behind what was going in the anglosphere.
    People learn languages not for cultural reasons but for access to communication or knowledge or both. Thus I continue to speak French when in my native Quebec for communicative purposes but I get no access to knowledge benefits from the exercise.