Western Civilization, why it’s real and why it matters

Steve’s latest “Power Line Show” features my friend Stanley Kurtz discussing his new book, The Lost History of Western Civilization. Steve’s discussion with Stanley is well worth checking out.

I also recommend this post by Stanley at NRO’s Corner. In addition to announcing the publication of The Lost History of Western Civilization, it provides an excellent analysis of what’s at stake in the academic dispute over Western Civilization.

Stanley argues:

The dispute between campus multiculturalism and traditional American conceptions of citizenship launched at Stanford in 1987 [over the teaching of great books] is now the everyday stuff of our debates. Controversies over race, gender, and ethnicity are ubiquitous. The ideal of global citizenship contends with faith in America and the West. Even the core Western commitment to freedom of speech is challenged now by intersectional orthodoxy.

All of this was in play at Stanford in the late 1980s. It has taken three decades, but today who we vote for has everything to do with how we see these disputes.

The Stanford dispute marked the beginning of what Stanley calls the “second secularization” of our colleges and universities — a collapse of our regard for high culture. The first secularization was the modern university’s subversion of faith in God, described by William F. Buckley in God and Man at Yale.

It’s obvious that the first movement was a secularization. But why was an attack on teaching the great books of Western Civilization a secularization?

Because, in Stanley’s words:

Insofar as the canon constituted a distilled repository of the fundamental alternatives in life, the fruits of a long civilizational struggle, it carried an air of the sacred about it. Even a glint of such sanctity was more than the radicals could bear.

It was so hard for radicals to bear that they have moved beyond a critique of Western Civilization to a denial that such a thing exists.

Stanley’s book debunks this claim. It shows that Western civilization is real, not invented, and that American college students are deeply a part of Western Civilization, minorities very much included.

Stanley summarizes his book here. The whole thing is available here. Video of a conference last month at Pepperdine University about the book is here.

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