The Gothic Fox

2003-11-13

The other day I stopped by my local library branch and picked up a big pile of books -- specifically, the books recommended as further reading in James C. Bennett's essay the Anglosphere. While I'm reading them all in parallel, the first one I've finished is The New World of the Gothic Fox: Culture and Economy in English and Spanish America by Claudio Véliz. Fascinating. Véliz compares and contrasts New World cultures that are downstream from England (mainly America, but also Canada) and those that are downstream from Iberia (the Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking parts of the Western Hemisphere). The differences are legion: Protestant vs. Catholic, forward-looking vs. backward-looking, change-loving vs. change-averse, industrial vs. spiritual, common-law vs. Roman-law, and much else besides. Véliz boils these down to an application of Isaiah Berlin's distinction between hedgehogs (who know one big thing) and foxes (who know many things). The hedgehogs in this story are the Iberians (who long for the protective shade of the cathedral dome), and the foxes are the English (who are comfortable in, even foment, the chaos and creative destruction of the economic and technological bazaar that is the modern world). Well worth reading and much to reflect on. More to follow...


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