Moving Center


Over at Rants and Raves, Steve Brown is posting a series of entries about the value and state of western civilization. In his most recent post he observes:

Like it or not -- and believe me, a lot of Europeans, Brits and Canadians do not -- America is the center of power of Western Civilization, which stands or falls as America does. If America does not maintain its power and confidence, the rest of the West will surely not.

It's interesting to note that America is geographically on the periphery of the original home of Western civilization, as are our closest allies: Australia, much of Eastern Europe and Israel.

This is consistent with Carroll Quigley's analysis of civilizational evolution. Do you think the Greeks were happy when the Romans became the center of classical civilization? There are plenty of such examples. Typically, especially during the imperial phase of a civilization's history, the center of power moves to the periphery. Western civilization is unique in that it keeps cycling through the phases of expansion and conflict, without moving on to empire and decay. During its first phase of expansion (~970-1270), the center of western civilization was probably northern Italy; during its second phase of expansion (~1420-1650), the center moved north and west to Flanders, northern France, and (later) England; during its third phase of expansion (~1725-1915), the center moved north and west again to England and (later) America; during its fourth phase of expansion (~1945-????), the center has decidedly skipped over the Atlantic and is firmly planted in North America. There's nothing to be lamented about that fact -- better a western civilization dynamically expanding from a center in North America than a western civilization in decay.

Peter Saint-Andre > Journal