Overcoming the West?

Published by


(The errors of occidentalism)

Ideology is older than the world of modernity. Like religion and metaphysics, it is
“innate” to man as a member of a social community. Just as paranoid manifestations in a
society can sometimes have a protective function – because society responds to a
potentially genuine threat by activating the defense mechanism of fear, which results in a
return to human solidarity – prejudice is not merely a false consciousness, but rather a
way in which a society shapes its self-consciousness in relation to the Other. Ideology is,
admittedly, a modern invention of struggles based on opposing politics and worldviews,
but it also transcends the realm of politics. The entire history of the 20 century can be
qualified as an attempt to subdue culture by means of ideology, beginning with socialist
utopias and totalitarian fascist movements, all the way to the neo-liberal ideology of
globalization with its frightful counterpart, religious fundamentalism. The last book of
essays by the German ideological critic Panajotis Kondylis goes one step further than the
usual neo-Marxist approach to ideology. [1] According to Kondylis, it is no longer a
question of the distorted consciousness of a false social being – which, in Marx’s case,
provided a strong standpoint for criticizing all things extant through the lens of an
imaginary utopian future – but of an intertwining of culture and ideology as almost
identical value structures, from which framework every human action is then judged
through the moral standards of survival. Only when history is viewed from the
perspective of apocalypse does ideology reach its climax. There is in fact not a single
serious ideological power system that desires to implement its “program” in a future
conceived of as a realm of beauty and eternal justice, after having won the formidable
battle against the forces of evil and transforming the world into an idyllic heaven.
Ideology is always only a means to other ends. This is why its resemblance to religion, as a surrogate mode of finding one’s way in a world lacking sure strongholds, is only fitting.
Edward Said’s critical study Orientalism, published in the 1970s – which showed how the
West used all forms of knowledge and power, throughout the history of colonization, to
create an ideological image of the so-called Orient, in order to domesticate it and turn it
into its own reflection, all the better to subdue it by other means (science, technology,
and culture) – created a fertile ground in postcolonial studies and cultural theory on
which to base a different critique of ideology than the one canonized in the works of
critical theory (i.e., by Adorno, Horkheimer, and Habermas). This implies a fundamental
deconstructing of so-called Eurocentric discourse and thought. Using Said’s theory as her
starting point, Maria Todorova wrote a key book on the Balkan problem, which she
defined as an ideological product of the West’s policy rather than an eternal geographic
and cultural twilight zone. The value of ventures such as hers is manifold. They are not
merely an abstract, theoretical penetration into the collective unconscious of history seen
as “scream and fury.” Critiques of orientalism and of the vision of the Balkans as an
“imaginary map” of all the Western ideological chimeras had the clear political function
of dissipating the myths, prejudice, and appalling political incorrectness. And the last is
recognizable at every step – in the case of the philistine British Prince Philip during his
visit to the Aborigines, or in Peter Handke’s adoration of Slobodan Milosevic in his role as
a noble barbarian genius, who, in his “defense and his last days,” is trying to wash away
the sins of his own genocidal politics through a critique of the West.
Admittedly, Said and his critique of the West’s ideological bugbears have changed critical
theory’s dominant discourse in social science and the humanities concerning traditional
societies of the so-called Third World. It is just as undeniable that his critique of
Eurocentrism and Americanism, conceived of as a continuation of the West’s hegemony
at the end of the Cold War era, created a ground for another kind of ideological
manipulation – namely, lack of any kind of self-criticism on the East’s part in the
intercultural dispute/dialogue, even after such a significant turning point as the terrorist
attack on the US on September 11, 2001. Freeing oneself from the colonizer does not
necessarily lead to a positive state of freedom from one’s own ideological specters. Just
as the blinded ultra-leftist fanatics in 1968 France saw in Mao and Castro icons of the
“utopian revolution,” as opposed to totalitarian dictators and tyrants (and this goes just
as well for students and their ideological leaders such as Sartre, Althusser, Foucault,
Derrida, Baudrillard & co.), thus the idea of the West outgrowing itself as a cradle of
reason and insanity is deeply rooted in the ideological picture of the East, conceived of as
a geographical and spiritual locus of purity, virtue, and ingenuity. The last, however, is no
longer just a fiction of the West, attempting to find a way to overcoming its crisis and its
decadence in mystical India or esoteric Tibet, but a dangerous fiction of the East itself, in
its hatred of the West.
Having laid their hands on the ready-made concept of Said’s critique of orientalism,
authors Avishai Margalit and Ian Buruma published a controversial essay entitled
“Occidentalism.” [2] Their notion of occidentalism is simply a set of images and ideas
about the West as they appear in the minds of its foes. The essay takes as its starting
point the thesis that the present hatred of the West by the East, meaning mainly the
Third World countries and leftist and rightist critique of America in Europe, is a result of
a historic fight against the universalism of a new age enlightenment project. It is no
longer merely that anti-modernist anger of the “humiliated and aggrieved” against the materialist culture of capitalism, as presented in justifications of the terrorist fanaticism
of Islamic fundamentalists. The hatred against the West, conceived of as a project of
creating an “alternative” world history beyond capitalist modernization, appeared in the
form of a program to overcome the West as far back as 1942, not long after the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor, when a group of Japanese philosophers in Kyoto discussed the
role of Japan in the world. The ultra-nationalist project of returning to the sources of
authentic culture meant at the same time “overcoming modern civilization.” The problem
is that the expression, taken from Hegelian dialectic, by no means designates a fall into
anti-modernist barbarism. Not even Islamic fundamentalism, despite a commonsense
preconceived idea of it, denotes a road to medieval caves of barbarism, the theocratic
madness of the Taliban regime notwithstanding.
All the alternatives to the modern West that were proposed in the 20 century have in
common a different understanding of the notion of modernity. For the champions of
spiritual revival and return to the roots, it is not questionable when it comes to
technology, scientific progress, and overall economic prosperity of nation-state. However,
it becomes problematic in questions of individualism, consumer culture, sexual liberation,
women’s equality, and secularization of religion. Even before the 1942 Kyoto conference,
overcoming the West in Japan was defined as the cleansing of the great “Asian mind”
from the corruption of decadent Western rationalism. Occidentalism, therefore,
essentially joins the seemingly unjoinable: it combines mystical Zen with the Shintonationalism
and militarism of the samurai fanatics, such as the great Japanese writer
Yukio Mishima. In an interview with Furubayashi Takashi, published under the title
“Mishima’s Last Words,” the writer – who took his own life in a ritual suicide known as , a
traditional rite of samurai adherents to loyalty to the emperor and the warrior code of
conduct – expresses his obsessive hatred of the West’s lack of spirituality. [3]
From Mishima to Bin Laden, the story is always banal, vulgar, and irritatingly
unchanging. Be it Japan, China, India, or Arab countries where Islam plays a leading role
in society, the East keeps looking at its own reflection and seeing itself as a place of great
harmony, candidness, source morality, purity, and spirituality. The West represents the
“Great Other,” as in Lacan’s psychoanalytic exercises in transgression of hatred: it is the
loathsome, the foul, the abhorrent. Just as money signifies impurity in the same way
sexuality does – and this not only in Christianity, but also in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism,
and in fact in all the great monotheistic religions – it is perfectly plain that the notion of
the West remains unchanged to this day. Materialism, liberalism, capitalism, humanism,
rationalism, socialism, decadence – these are all, as Margalit and Buruma show, products
of the culture of “barbarism” and colonization. Opposing it means supporting that which
is in the very essence of Mishima’s philosophy – but also German conservative revolution
and even Nazism: the power of the will, of the mind, and of the soul. The article entitled
“Basic Principles of National Politics” (Kokutai no Hongi) issued by the Ministry of
Education of imperial Japan in 1937 defines the lineal divine origin of the nation as
source of all life and action. National (cultural) identity is the great ideological cliché of
the West’s opponents in general. But not even the spectacular death of Mishima – the
writer, warrior, and fanatic, his eyes turned on the image of traditional, mystical Japan –
provides a solution to the problem of the disappearance of myths and heroes in modern
times. How could Mishima – an incarnation of this phantomlike hatred of the West and
admirer of Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, the thinkers-artists of European nihilism – have so
easily overlooked the fact that Nietzsche himself was the most fervent critic of the ideology of opposing the West and the East based on such vulgar stereotypes? Such
stereotypes are to be found in many recent sociological works on Japanese culture and
“national spirit,” written by American as well as Japanese authors. The so-called rational
Westerner is invariably opposed to the cliché of the imaginary Other’s alleged
intuitiveness. This type of ideological misapprehension is identical to that of the supposed
primordial intuitiveness of female intelligence. This is why it seems appropriate to
differentiate the term “occidentalism,” and say that anti-Americanism is part of the
system of organized hatred of the West, but does not exhaust it. There are four
permanent images in such a projection of the West: the city as a locus of materialism and
obscenity; the bourgeois as a figure of unheroic existence; reason as the fundamental law
of a calculating culture; and feminism as a sign of the decline of strength and power.
Neither the West nor the East are necessarily geographic notions, but rather imaginary,
even ideological fictions. The authors do not draw this conclusion explicitly, which makes
the entire essay look like a mere apology of the West, when it should in fact show why the
idea of overcoming the West is not only untenable, but also leads to the destruction of
those very societies in Asia – the Middle East, India, China, and Indonesia – whose
traditions it is meant to protect.
In the eyes of occidentalists, the West (meaning above all the United States in its capacity
as the last realm in world history where ideals of universalism and the hegemony of neoliberalism
– the ideology of capitalist globalization – still subsist) is a locus of spiritual
degeneration, hypocrisy, and depravity. Just as in Spengler’s The Decline of the West,
they accumulate proof of the decadence of a technologically superior, but spiritually
“barbarous,” civilization such as pornography, infatuation with material goods, and – the
last act of the defeat of thought – a crisis in spirituality, recognizable in New Age
movements and a growing importation of so-called Eastern philosophy. Outwardly, the
West is already overcome, because its true philosophy and religiousness have lost their
power of persuasion for the Other and everyone else – hence all the fast-food of tantrism,
Zen Buddhism¸ and the Dalai Lama’s words of wisdom. Briefly, this is an invasion of
original Eastern spirituality processed to fit the needs of the split-personality Westerner,
no longer even believing that he no longer believes in anything. However, occidentalism
is also something essentially different. It is a belief in a return to the primordial – a
mystical rural place that will breed the spark of world revolution (Mao’s “long march” or
Che Guevara and Castro’s guerilla), the spiritual renaissance of the world. The
ideological structure of all such “spiritual revivals,” with their apocalyptic furor, was
exhaustively analyzed, before Buruma and Margalit, by the German philosophers and
publicists Richard Herzinger and Hannes Stein. [4]
All the powerful ideologies of the 20 century, from communism and fascism, to Islamic
fundamentalism and Japanese Shinto-nationalism, are deeply permeated with religious or
millennial fever. Protest against modernity, and arguing in favor of an authentic, spiritual
national identity, ultimately boils down to the “holy trinity” of nourishment, clothing, and
cult. As for the cult of self-sacrifice and allegiance to an imaginary leader for whose sake
one dies committing a terrorist act, it is an inexplicable part of every religion and
philosophy, not just Western. The modern nihilism of kamikazes and terrorists has its
source in the image of heroic violence. War is a self-purifying act. And this is not just an
occidentalist phantom, but rather a self-evident cathartic act of cultural pessimists such
as Ernst Jünger, with his description of German soldiers’ self-sacrifice in World War One.
A deep understanding of suffering does not explain why it is precisely the countries with
fundamentalist dictatorships that are the West’s fiercest foes, while there are those that
would have far better reasons to hate it, such as African countries, exploited and
subjugated for centuries, all the way up to today’s soulless postcolonial globalist
degeneration: child slave labor for multinational manufacturing companies (for example,
Nestle and chocolate). The story of occidentalism might be a credible critique of ideology
if it showed that it is a double case of ignorance and arrogance of the West on the one
hand, and decadence of the East on the other, with equivalent, though different,
structures of “sin.” [5] In Margalit and Buruma’s case, as Herzinger and Stein’s before
them, this idea is definitely not their departure point for reflection. This is why the
concept of occidentalism, conceived of as a reactive response to orientalism is, in a way,
the cultural ideology of the East seen as a negation of the West, and an obvious paradigm
of the development of the idea of freedom in world history. The question is the following:
In what way are both orientalism and occidentalism essentially equivalent stories
wrapped in a semblance of 20-century ideological critique, and a sequel to the masterslave
dialectic of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind?
We can only answer this question if we have insight into the consequences of the thesis of
the “end of history.” It is well known that Francis Fukuyama actualized the Hegelian
concept within the context of the triumph of liberal democracy over realist socialism and
the end of the Cold War. He derived the thesis of the ideological superiority of the West
over the “surrounding world” from Alexandre Kojève’s interpretation of the concept of
post-history. For Kojève, his reading of Hegel opened the question of the meaning of
Western history, once its inner potential had been fulfilled – insofar as there is a
connection between ontological and political structures of interpretation of the West,
conceived of as a scientific and technological mode of conveying the idea of freedom in
time. There is, however, no doubt that Fukuyama’s reading of Kojève, as an authority on
Hegel, was essentially erroneous, precisely because freedom, as the essence of the West,
cannot be reduced to the concept of liberalism. Freedom, in a world of science and
technology, goes beyond mere freedom of action for an autonomous individual in a
pluralist society. After all, it is more than a mere cult of the individual in narcissistic
Western societies. Kojève, after his reading of Hegel, saw the existential and historical
experience of the “end of history” projected – where else? – in the “Far East” mirror
image of the West: Japan. This is important insofar as it opens a whole new perspective
on the occidentalism/orientalism problem compared to the one given by today’s
ideological critique (cultural studies and postcolonial critique). His journey to Japan in
1959 was all but the expected “mystical” enlightenment for Kojève. Unlike Ouspenski,
Michaux, or a galaxy of rebellious beatniks – those enchanted dwellers of a
counterculture and the New Age colony in their encounter with the Other of the dominant
circle of the scientific and technological West – Kojève did not find in the East the “truth”
of the world’s historical existence, or some kind of trip-Buddhism, as an answer to the
crisis of materialism in Western culture. Quite to the contrary, in the years of the
intensive economic recovery of Japan in the aftermath of World War Two he found a
society traveling the road of post-historic condition. The crypto-Hegelian discourse of his
travel account is, in its intention, akin to the description of the function of knowledge in
postindustrial societies, elaborated by Jean-François Lyotard in his renowned essay The
Postmodern Condition. What, then, did Kojève “see” in Japan in 1959 that is so decisive
for breaking the vicious circle of subject-object dialectics, the only framework in which
the occidentalism/orientalism contrast can safely persist?

Uri Katzenstein POETIKA

Kojève recognized the particular way of life of the post-historic era in the American way
of life, reflected in the presence of the US in a forthcoming world of “permanent
present.” The US remains the only world power and force (hegemon) in the aftermath of
“the end of history” because it fulfills two basic conditions: the rule of science and
technology as a clue to the being of modern world, and the idea of the freedom of the
individual, conceived of as master of the world in general, in relation to the “surrounding
world.” It is in the framework of this relationship between humanity and the Other
(animality) that the adventure of the “permanent present” takes place.
Humanism and animalism become one and the same. The return of man to his place of
origin – that of a highly “humanized animal” – is, in such a way of life, an imminent
certainty. And even though such a philosophical stance foreshadows globalization as the
hegemonic rule of the West (US neo-imperialism), something much more far-reaching,
and therefore more essential for our current understanding of the world, is at stake. In
fact, behind the mask of post-history’s uniform course, Kojève “saw” in Japan a posthistoric
civilization only seemingly other and different from the American, but devoid of
religion, morals, and politics in the “European,” historical sense. The rather peculiar
comment on “Japanese snobbishness” refers to his realization that all the cultural
constructs of Japanese identity (No theater, Shintoism, the tea ceremony, remnants of the
samurai “ethic,” humbleness before natural, cyclical time) are mere ornaments in the
“world of existence,” where an unhindered post-historic development of scientific and
technological progress is taking place. Values of the collective mind of the “people,” now
purely formal, survive only as memories and imaginary signs of an ancient civilization,
which searched for the Other out of its own “snobbishness” – or, as sociologists
researching the “Japanese mystery” demonstrate, out of the essence of a syncretic
indigenous culture. On his “journey” through the Japanese world vision, Kojève drew the
conclusion that the beginning of intercultural dialogue between the West and the East
was characterized by feedback of Eastern “spiritual” elements into Westerners’ lives.
“…the interaction between Japan and the world does not end in the barbarization of
Japan, but rather in
the ‘Japanization’ of the Western world (including Russia).” [6]
Can such a judgment be considered relevant for the goings-on of post-history? Substitute
the undefined notion of “the East” for the phrase “Japanization of Western world” and
you get a diagnosis of the spiritual condition of our time. However, this is by no means a
question of some Pyrrhic victory of the East over the West in a projection of the “war of
cultures.” It is even less a question of the spiritual superiority of the East – a
metaphysical justification of “times immemorial,” which the West gave up on long ago,
even before Heidegger, aided by Hölderlin, went in search of a new approach to the
“events” of being and time in the restless wanderings of historic worlds. Salman Rushdie
gives a discerning literary treatment of this issue in his novel The Ground Beneath Her
Feet. The ironic and sardonic exposure of orientalism and occidentalism, through the
interaction of crossbreed cultural figures coming from two seemingly opposed worlds,
plainly shows that no fixed or determining values subsist. The cartography of power does
not equal spiritual cartography. Finally, what for Kojève was an image of the “humanity”
and “animality” of the post-historic era, seen as the American way of life, became,
through popular culture, a universal trait of the individual freedom cult. In this historical
power relationship, the issue of the “grammar of civilizations” (Braudel), seems less
momentous, if at all. You cannot dispute the obvious. The West, in the hegemonic game of
globalization, overcomes the antagonism between orientalism and occidentalism; impelled by inside critique of the “resistance identity” (environmental, peace, and
feminist movements; multicultural rights and the rights of ethnic and sexual minorities),
it ended up tolerating all the cultural differences.
What Kojève “saw” in Japan in 1959 is today becoming a global fact. There remains no
illusion that somewhere over in the “East” there might subsist an authentic picture of
spirituality and purity of the time out of mind. The Western world has been “Japanized” in
that it has recognized the inadequacy of its own substantial nature. The New Age, as a
syncretic structure of new religious inclinations of the processed East, is a response to
the occidentalist critique. We are already in the “permanent present.” It affects
everything within the world of globalization’s neo-liberal capitalism. The Eastern world is
“Americanized” in that, out of the necessity of economic survival, it adopted “Western
values” operating as universal signs of post-historic civilization: global capitalism, and
new information and communication technologies. However, we surely have not seen the
last of the great myth of history dialectics, conceived of as the overcoming of the subjectobject
relationship between the master (West) and the slave (East). This is precisely why
the possible outcome of both cultural paradigms – orientalism (Said) and occidentalism
(Margalit and Buruma) – could be a step toward rethinking the issue of overcoming the
West as a post-historic structure of the cartography of power. In the global
metapowerplay of today, it is often said that China is the last authentic response to the
West’s hegemony in the forthcoming period of post-history, the “deep-rooted” premise
being that China is the empire-state-nation that has kept the outlines of a cultural identity
opposite to Western individualism. [7] However, this myth of China, within the framework
of cultural ideologies of orientalism/occidentalism, is only a sequel to what Kojève “saw”
in 1959 Japan. No return to “time immemorial” process is at work in China’s position
against global capitalism, seen as the “world” of technology, science, and culture. The
only thing that can be convincingly argued at this point, within the framework of
sociological theories of cultural relativism, is the analysis of the value system inside
complex societies of belated modernization. Thus, when trying to answer the questions
that arise from the application of the social and human capital theory to the issue of
China remaining loyal to collective stereotypes of societal community, we can deduce
that Confucianism is a sort of Chinese secret “cultural code” in the modernity of global
capitalism. [8] Here are some of these questions: How did the Chinese and the Japanese
manage to safeguard traditional customs and the primordial community ethos in the post-historic
era? Is this the universal way to overcoming Western, hence American,
individualization of social survival, and a humanistic answer to the question of the subject
of global capitalism of the “permanent present”? And what, then, becomes of the idea of
freedom as a buttress in the building of the world, seen as an open horizon where all of
us meet, a sphere beyond all cultural differences?
From what we have said so far, it is perfectly clear that occidentalism, the other side of
the coin of “orientalism,” is the particular fear of Western culture (in its form of the
American way of life) of the spiritual emptiness of its own promises. Unlike the bitter,
entirely justified, and still frighteningly relevant, story of the postcolonial critique of the
Western subject in matters of colonialism and neo-imperialism of the (culture of)
subjugating the Third World, the errors of occidentalism unavoidably arise from the
unfounded belief in the spiritual superiority or cultural authenticity of the peoples beyond
the West. In this sense, there are aggressive and distanced ideologies of return to the
sources in the East. The former are religious fundamentalisms with their political form of

postmodern terrorism as a continuation of the “culture of resistance” by other means; the
latter are culturally different hybrid politics of “new identity,” which adapt to the West,
following its patterns and reproducing its symbols of power and success. We find
examples of the latter in Malaysia, Singapore, and Qatar. Thus, an inside critique of
occidentalism is only possible as a critique of the belated (modern) reaction to the
hegemony of the West. In the name of identity (of the people, the faith, the culture),
occidentalism defends something that has already been historically overcome – an illusion
of remaining inside a world devoid of the cult of freedom. This type of critique is not a
way to overcoming the West by means of some “higher” spiritual revival; instead, it only
confirms the negative freedom of an ideologically closed world that, inside its cultural
confines, is essentially despotic, patriarchal, and hostile to the Other (and to women in
Responses to the crisis of the West, conceived of as a cultural cartography of power, are
by no means radical, in the sense of finding a new position of resistance to the American
way of life and the “snobbishness” of Japan, to put words in Kojève’s mouth; not, in any
case, if they reproduce the same model of repression of the Other that the West brought
to a climax through control and punishment of the cult of freedom. It is just as clear that
the alternative to occidentalism can no longer be based on a return to imperialist models
of thought. Modernity and ideology are not colonialist notions, although respected
theoreticians of world religions raised in postcolonial India and schooled in Europe and
the US will keep affirming it. This theory would presuppose the existence of a nonhistoric
idyll devoid of wars, or cultural and religious conflicts, beyond the confines of the
West, which contradicts the historical facts. Overcoming the West, within the framework
of the story of occidentalism from the outside and the inside – that is, if we take Margalit
and Buruma’s theory in this sense – is not even an issue in understanding something as
apocalyptically indifferent and everyday in a liberalist sort of way as the “end of history.”
In the context of globalization, changes in the political distribution of power necessarily
lead to changes in cultural representations of the cartography of discourse, and not the
other way around. Thus the “dialogue between cultures” is merely a charming, but
illusory fiction of understanding the Other in terms of respect for their person. We do not
operate as isolated cosmopolitan co-citizens of a post-historic world, but as culturally and
nationally determined conglomerates of supra-individual world experience – social
constructs that, only through a sacrifice to the universal, are able to offer resistance to
dangerous ideologies of identity as “blood and soil,” “geographical commonness equaling
similarity of cultures,” and “organic origin.” Outside this realization, it might appear
ironic that an interpreter of Hegel, on his journey through Japan, would have “seen”
precisely what was to become, in the forthcoming post-historic era, the most dubious
weapon in the hands of “humanists” and “animalists.” That something is at once sacred
and profane, primordial and falsely authentic: keeping alive age-old customs. The
struggle for identity is the struggle for recognition of the Other in oneself, conditional on
exposing all the ideological illusions representing the West as a universal way of progress
for the Other, or the East as an individual way of preserving the spiritually primordial.
The “orientalism/occidentalism” discourse will only lose its meaning once the following
two conditions have been met: 1) when the West’s universalism in the post-historic era
becomes an individual politics of identity and when, consequently, the freedom of the
Other, including women, homosexuals, and ethnic minorities, becomes a universal
“resistance identity” in the world of globalization; and 2) when the individualism of the
East’s spiritual mysticism becomes a universal New Age of the world, losing its “foundation” in a thing definable as land of origin.
In the global eco-park of cultures and lifestyles, it is as though we were troubled by
another kind of anxiety as soon as we step out of the West/East ideological circle. It is
that last stage of “animalism” reflected in our uprootedness from genuine spirituality,
which, in the global culture, is replaced by the simulacrum of kitsch. And this happens
everywhere, without exception. Henri Michaux’s unerring and timely comment on this
phenomenon was: “Yesterday I was at the Great World zoo. I saw a tiger (a beautiful
tiger) near the entrance and I realized it was alien to me. I realized that the tiger looked
like a passionate monomaniac idiot. But the ways of each individual being are so
mysterious that the tiger could, eventually, become wise. In fact, you can see from its
expression that it feels perfectly comfortable.”
And ultimately, is destruction of the cartography of cultural power still really necessary
in order for us to reject the liberating wisdom of the East and the salutary rationalism of
the West as historically fallacious alternatives for our one-shot existence of the
“uprooted”? And this is what we all soon will be, no matter where we come from and
through what stereotypes we see the Other.


  1. Panajotis Kondylis, Das Politische im 20. Jahrhundert: Von den Utopien zur
    Globalisierung, Manutius Verlag, Heidelberg, 2001.
  2. Avishai Margalit /Ian Buruma, “Okcidentalizam,”, in Europski glasnik, 8/2003.
    (Translation from English: Mirjana Paic-Jurinic)
  3. Europski glasnik, 6/2001. (Translation from Japanese: Vojo Sindolic)
  4. Richard Herzinger/Hannes Stein, Endzeit-Propheten oder Die Offensive der
    Antiwestler: Fundamentalismus, Antiamerikanismus und Neue Rechte, Rowohlt,
    Hamburg, 1995
  5. Peter Sloterdijk successfully develops the idea of equivalence in structures of
    “decadence” of the West and the East at “the end of history” in his book of essays
    Eurotaoismus: Zur Kritik der politischen Kinetik, Edition Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main,
  6. Alexandre Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel. Leçons sur la phénoménologie de
    l’esprit. Réunies et publiés par Raymond Queneau, Gallimard, Paris,1979. p. 437.
  7. Cultural otherness is surely an indisputable means to acquiring a new political identity.
    Moreover, it is the subject of some of the most reflected upon discoveries about the East
    in the20 century Western travel accounts. In addition to this, the possibility of a
    conscious or ideologically created illusion of the Other as “intuitive” “more meditative”
    and “more spiritual” is ruled out, which is the “positive” outcome of Edward Said’s
    orientalist scheme. – The best literary examples of this theory are Henri Michaux’s texts A
    Barbarian in Ceylon and A Barbarian in China. For more on this topic, see the chapter on
    Michaux in Europski glasnik, 8/2003, entitled Je li Kina promijenila Henrija Michauxa?
  8. Francis Fukuyama gives a cogent analysis of this problem in his macro-sociological study of global capitalism and cultural values examining Asia’s success and failure in the world market race. See his book Povjerenje: Drustvene vrline i stvaranje blagostanja,Izvori, Zagreb, 2000. (Translation from English: Sonja Vukovic)

Published 27 October 2004
Original in Croatian
Translation by Barbara Pogacnik
First published in
Downloaded from (
© Nova Istra Eurozine

Author Profile
Žarko Paić

Žarko Paić is a Professor at the University of Zagreb, where he teaches courses in Aesthetics and Media Theory. He publishes frequently in philosophy, social sciences, and art theory. His publications include Theorizing Images, eds. with Krešimir Purgar (2016), and Technosphere Vol. 1-5 (2018-2019), White Holes and the Visualization of the Body, (2019), Neoliberalism, Oligarchy and Politics of the Event – At the Ege of Chaos (2020), Aesthetics and the Iconoclasm of Contemporary Art - Pictures Without a World (2021).