Anglosphere Update

2005-02-07

Recently I've found the following articles of interest regarding the Anglosphere:

The blog entry by Scottish SF writer Ken MacLeod is especially revealing. MacLeod is no friend of "conservatives" (he's something of a left-libertarian, I guess you'd say), yet here are his thoughts on the prospect of Scottish independence:

There used to be a Scottish nationalist T-shirt slogan: 'England is foreign to me.' For myself, I'd prefer to be a true commonwealth's man. I refuse any politics that would make me a foreigner in England. I love England, I believe in England, I believe in the principles of the English Revolution: a revolution that Scotland started, and that in the ruins of Dunkeld, Scotland saved; that became America; and that a wider world will yet complete.

Meanwhile I checked out the Wikipedia page on the Anglosphere, which I find to be quite muddled both conceptually and organizationally. Rather than clearly describing the concept of the Anglosphere with reference to Jim Bennett's book and related historical research, and then discussing the evidence and arguments for and against the concept in a dispassionate and objective manner, the page launches into a discussion of "proponents and critics" (proponents and critics of what? it's not clear, since the term is undefined). Worse, the page plays the racist card by asserting that the Anglosphere is "an obvious and divisive application of ethnocentrism to diplomacy". First of all, nothing is obvious, and all claims must be backed by evidence. Yet if one reads Bennett's book, one knows that he is very careful to define the Anglosphere not as a racial or ethnic phenomenon but as a cultural concept founded on the distinctive history of England and of countries downstream from the England. As Bennett explains, the Anglosphere is best described as a loose network of nations that partake of the English heritage of common (rather than Roman) law, individualism, scientific inquiry, a market economy, a strong civil society, industrialism, and the like. Even Marx and Engels knew that these features were characteristic of English society before they emerged in other nations. The distinctive features of Anglospheric culture have been clearly and extensively delineated by older writers such as Montequieu, Adam Smith, and Alexis de Tocqueville (two Frenchmen and a Scot, not jingoistic Anglo-Saxons), as well as by modern scholars such as Alan Macfarlane and David Hackett Fischer.

Finally, the Wikipedia page doesn't even get basic facts right: until today (when I made a change), it described James C. Bennett (author of The Anglosphere Challenge) as a journalist. Now, it is true that after many years as an entrepreneur and executive in the aerospace, Internet, and nanotechnology industries, Bennett was invited to write an occasional column for UPI, called "The Anglosphere Beat". But the fact that Bennett wrote a syndicated column for a while no more makes him a journalist than it makes Paul Krugman a journalist or Michael Jordan a baseball player (yes, Jordan once played baseball, but a few seasons in the minors does not a baseball player make, especially when Jordan spent many more years focused on basketball). Yet even this seemingly innocuous change to the page provoked controversy and opposition. If this be the state of Wikipedia and Wikipedians, I am not hopeful for the future of the service.


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal