The West–Where Are You Heading?

EDITORIAL, 11 Sep 2017

#498 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

A world map shows the West is big, from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, from the Arctic Ocean to the Mediterranean-Black Sea-Russian border; but not that big.  However, that is only Europe. Add Anglo-America, USA-Canada, from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans, from the Arctic Ocean to Mexico. The West is huge, enormous.

It covers geographically the Northern Arctic and temperate zones.

It houses religiously the three Christianities, much of Judaism, but not Islam. Muslims and all others count as minorities, here and there.

It is the seat of another major faith, Enlightenment: humanism-liberalism-marxism-nationalism-statism-capitalism-regionalism.

It is the seat of the major IGOs, NGOs and TNCs in the world.

It identifies West as “developed”, and Rest as “developing”.

West has attacked, invaded, conquered, colonized almost all the Rest of the world (China only partly, Japan only recently, from 1945).

The overwhelming majority of wars are intra-West, or West-Rest.

It has converted successfully the direct violence of war into the structural violence of exploitation, justified by cultural violence, by using, importing, robbing resources, processing them, exporting the products, pocketing the value-added, patenting what they learnt.

And in spite of, or rather because of, all of this now declining relatively speaking, with the Rest headed by China-India taking over (not “emerging”, that was long time ago). But today this is old hat.

What, then, happens to the old West?  That extremist West, fundamentalist under Trump, fights back, trying by military means to reconquer past economic and political leadership, exploiting-deciding over others, was to be expected. That extremist West tries to lead West against Rest defined as “barbarian” was also to be expected. Both efforts will fail. The Rest is sick and tired of Western “leadership”, and prefers China’s more even-headed win-win positive diplomacy.

The Rest was slow in getting the trick.  Decolonization helped politically. But much more important was regionalization, first in ASEAN and Africa, coming in Latin America-Caribbean, slowly in Asia.

More important was economic self-reliance by processing their resources themselves rather than demanding better terms of trade;  learning from Japan, not from Latin America in a misguided period.

Equally important was doing it all the Japanese way; the tigers-dragons learning from Japan; China from them without acknowledging; Africa-Latin America now learning from and soon overtaking China.

The wrong step was terrorism, however understandable given the enormous Western violence against the Islamic Rest.  It backfires.

Most important: Rest drawing on all cultures: in Rest and in West.

A historical model is the fast decline of extremist West Rome and East Rome contracting, but surviving. West Rome fought back with Crusades also against East Rome, and came back in alliance with Germany, “The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation”.

Is this going to happen again?  USA declining fast, returning to Anglo-America (poor Canada if USA keeps old habits), Europe hanging on to a softer imperialism, more self-reliant, ultimately with the strongest Europe, Germany relating to Washington?  Not impossible, but if so with the speed of contemporary accelerated history.

And again at the expense of the huge Russian part of the huge European part of the huge West.  Is this underlying the schizophrenic policy of EU countries, with a majority “refusing to fight US wars”, yet dehumanizing Russia through US-led sanctions, paving the ground for a neo-Napoleon, a neo-Hitler? Coming out of a recently reborn French-German EU, liberated through Brexit from Anglo-America?

Similar contexts may generate similar forces that may generate similar action, “history repeating itself”. Any reason that history should not?  The West has repeated itself all the time. So may the Rest.

Let us explore another scenario, also inspired by what happened to the Roman Empire.  West Rome contracted into small polities, counties, duchies &c, became more spiritual. USA may do the same, using Christianity-Humanism against expanding Islam. And then be reborn to its old expansionist Self, already exploring Moon, Mars, &c.

And East Rome, Europe?  Not a neo-empire, but simply reaching out to Islam, China-India, South and East in general, aiming at equity and harmony.  Much apology-work has to be done; Italy-Berlusconi showed the way.  There is a lot to build on, like the positive aspects of the Commonwealth and the Communauté. Germany will have to redo its failed amateurish “reconciliation” with Namibia over the Prussian genocides in Southwest Africa in 1904.  All it takes is a statesman, or -woman rather, of some format. They appear occasionally, also in the West.

That would give us a very divided West with the USA gradually settling in outer space, and Europe in equity and harmony with the Rest. With no German comeback in the cards–no Fourth Reich after the First, Second and Third–deeply regionalized and globalized, as the others.

This may inspire USA to change backyard policies in Latin America and Japan–and “foreyard” polices in Canada–in favor of equity and harmony and of an independent Japan. At the expense of divine chosen people, promised land exceptionalism yielding to normality, something new. This could happen sooner rather than later, defining a new and more important American Left, not only as old-fashioned socialism.

It would carry in its wake the individual level counterpart: there are no chosen individuals, with promised status.  We are all chosen as humans by the precious gift of life, with guaranteed survival, wellness, freedom of options, identity.  In a nature with guaranteed diversity and symbiosis; not vicious human attacks on both.

The future of the West?  No West, forget about it. Together with the Rest in a world from regionalization to true, diverse globalization.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of TRANSCEND International and rector of TRANSCEND Peace University. Prof. Galtung has published more than 1500 articles and book chapters, over 470 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and more than 170 books on peace and related issues, of which more than 40 have been translated to other languages, including 50 Years100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives published by TRANSCEND University Press. More information about Prof. Galtung and all of his publications can be found at

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9 Responses to “The West–Where Are You Heading?”

  1. Our wonderful Johan contionues to dream of an unreachable world. He pinpoints at “a very divided West”. This is EXACTLY what our polioticians want. “Globalization” has in fact been used to ensure a divided world, not a UNITED world, as the term would indicate.

    The dream is enhanced by suggestions to the US, in order to “favor equity and harmony”.
    Politicians are not magicians. Thet cannot achieve a united world, of equity and harmony at the same time that we force them to increase military manufacturing and trading.

    The ONLY way we can help politicians create an united, just and harmonious world for us, our children and grandchildren is by telling them “No More WEAPONS, No More ARMED fORCES!!”
    Politicians would not need then to create Terrorism for us; to create fear in societies would aldo become unnecessary, for Governments would not need to “defend us”.

    We must achieve Universal Demilitarisation. I hope thos who are in or near London will joing me and a distinguished pane at our Peace Study Day. Detasils here:

  2. I wanted to say “panel” (not pane!)

  3. Mika Chang says:

    Seen from Asia, I very much doubt the “clarity” Johan Galtung is imposing on the World. China is a growing power. Long time out of the “developing” phase as J Galtung correctly states, but “growing” is also “amassing power”.

    A few years ago one of the buzzwords in global trade was China’s new so-called “silk road”, that would link China with Europe over a series of links thru Asia. We hear much less of it today, mainly because many countries have second thoughts about it.

    Standing up to the West is not the same as embracing China. In fact many colse neighbors have severe net negative opinions about China, and the more China grows, the more negative the view.

    I have no doubt that the West is contracting, but many nations will seek balance (and even protection) against Chinese (and Russian) power. This will balance out some of the contractions.

  4. Gary Corseri. says:

    I don’t see any contradictions between Alberto’s comments, Mika’s comments, and Johan’s broad-perspective article.

    In the past couple of years, I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of Johan’s voluminous work–reading some of his books and articles, catching YouTube interviews of him with Amy Goodman, and others, interviewing him myself.

    In these overview pieces that he posts at the TMS Weekly Digest, he is provocative and stimulating. He does not provide blueprints for how the world should be and how we get there; rather, he shows us what’s cooking, reveals the ingredients, offers a taste of what may come.

    He thinks speculatively/creatively, not algorithmically (Occasionally such cognitive styles may coalesce.) I think Alberto and Mika raise good points, and I suspect Johan, a great believer in dialoguing in order to reach consensus and “harmony” about projects of mutual benefit, will have no problem with their considerations.

    • Mika Chang says:

      Dear Gary

      Appeciate your comments. You are probably much more in to what Johan Galtung has written and his style and leanings, so I’ll refer that to you. Though I must say I also agree with Alberto’s points.

      And re-reading Johan I see some of you points about the “non-linear” way he analyzes and describes the world. Though I still think that the picture he paints – algorithmic or not – is not an accurate description or prediction. I’m not a better or gambler, but if I was, smart money would predict a multipolar development with US hard power waning and US soft power growing and China the other way around. These two poles will contract and expand as heartbeats and form much of the rest of this century.

      My short-term guess. US/West contraction for some years filled by Chinese capital and influence, followed by Chinese contraction when the housing bubble and unsustainable growth hits the fan. This contraction aand the growing resitance against chinese hegmony will let the West expand again to a certain extend. Mainly driven by the West’s (especially USA’s) realigned economy and the global death of manufacturing. ALl within the space of less than 20 years.

      • Reply from Johan Galtung:

        Mika Chang, we have different analyses and predictions: normal.

        As to my predictions in the past, have a look at the chapter on prognosis in A Theory of Peace (

        I think they corresponded well with future reality, all based on social theory–not any “crystal ball guessing”.

        Best regards and thanks for all comments,
        Johan Galtung

  5. Mika says:

    Dear Antonio,

    Appreciate the reply! I don’t any real counterpoints, but agree with Johan that differing predictions are normal. Developments tha last couple of years are in support of my predicition i think, but will refer judgement to the power of history…

    Thanks for civil exchange!

  6. Erika Butler says:

    If we’re going to use the Rome analogy, I’d say the West in the 19th and early 20th centuries was more like Classical Rome, with the West ruling virtually the entire world. I think it’s the modern-day West that is more like the Eastern Roman Empire, with it essentially trying to hold onto its power with occasional attempts to recover its former glory, but continuing to decline more and more while new peers rise and challenge it.

    And if you want to know who our Anatolia is, I’d say it’s hard to tell. Domestically speaking (not counting outside threats), the US seems to be the most like Byzantine Anatolia. Read this article on the Turkification of Anatolia by W. C. Bruce and compare America’s cities and suburban sprawl that were built up quickly and aren’t really in tune with the environment to Byzantine Anatolia’s cities which “were artificially grafted on to the country”; American cities being highly dependent on roads and highways for food and other supplies to Byzantine Anatolian cities being highly dependent on the same; the complex administration of American cities to the same of Byzantine Anatolian cities; the environmental degradation under US administration to the same in Anatolia under Byzantine administration; Americans’ tendencies toward lots of unusual religious interpretations to Anatolians’ strong tendency toward heresy in the Christian era; Americans’ historical tendencies toward seeing labor as a religious duty (under Calvinism) to Anatolians’ historical tendency towards closely linking their rural economies to their pagan religions before the Christian era; and Americans’ loss of skills due to offshoring and other factors to Anatolians’ loss of farming skills which had been maintained by their pagan religions:

    In other words, Anatolian society was already quite dysfunctional by the time the Seljuk Turks arrived.

    Of course the US is in a much safer position than Anatolia was and Europe is in today. Nevertheless, due to the fact that the US has rich soil and can probably support hundreds of millions of people more than it currently does, it’s possible that countries strongly impacted will blame the US for global warming and demand they allow the settlement of their citizens in the United States as climate refugees. If the US gets much weaker I think we will have to agree.

    In all, I dispute that America will stay the bastion of Western values. I think this country is actually becoming ripe for a cultural sea change. This is why you are seeing such anomie in America today which is expressed in the form of mass shootings, the opioid epidemic, political extremism on both sides, the inability of Congress to come to an agreement on important issues, and other rank dysfunctions.

    • Reply from Johan Galtung:

      Erika Butler has a very interesting approach. We seem to agree very much in the assessment of the state of affairs in the USA.

      So, to me there is a division in the West like once in the Roman Empire, and like then the Eastern part will survive the Western part for a long time.

      But, like East Rome was conquered by Anatolia and found refuge in the “Third Rome”, Moscow, the Eastern European part of the West may be conquered if not militarily but culturally, economically, politically by China, and find refuge in Moscow, now with considerable experience with China.

      Like Islam gradually took over large pars of the former Roman Empire, China will increasingly, with Islam leave its stamp on the West, both the Western and the Eastern European part. The Old yields to the New.

      —-Johan Galtung 18-10-2017