Thursday, April 14, 2005

Empire and "Anglosphere"

The closest anyone has gotten to identifying the phenomenon that we call the Empire of the Pursuit of Happiness is the thesis, popularized by James C. Bennett, of the "Anglosphere"—the civilizational sympathy among those nations influenced by the English language and Anglo-American ideas. Bennett has now written a book on the topic, reviewed here by Australia's Keith Windschuttle.

From what I have seen, the "Anglosphere" concept is very valuable but has two limitations, both of which come from conservative premises. Bennett seems to define the Anglo-American spirit too loosely, missing its moral heart: the egoistic view that the purpose of life is the pursuit of one's own happiness. Instead, he tried to root this essentially radical, anti-traditional idea in the conservative deity of "tradition."

"Sphere of Influence?", Keith Windschuttle, National Review Online, 4/15/05

"Bennett has constructed his own thesis of the Anglosphere out of this Anglo-Protestant historical inheritance. 'It is our core values and characteristics that have made us dynamic,' he writes, 'and it is to those values that we must return': individualism, rule of law, the honoring of covenants, and an emphasis on freedom. The core of Bennett’s Anglosphere comprises the countries where these values are dominant: the US, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, English-speaking Canada, and the English-speaking Caribbean. He also includes the educated English-speaking populations of South Africa and India as important 'nodes.' He describes some other former colonies, including Zimbabwe and the Philippines, as outside the inner circle but still closer to the center than to the periphery. Bennett wants to distinguish the Anglosphere from other models of international alliance that he believes have outlived their usefulness. The principal one is the concept of 'the West': the European-descended countries that constituted Western civilization. The widening gulf between continental Europe and the US shows that the concept of the West is already anachronistic. It was artificially prolonged anyway, Bennett argues, by the need for an identity to tie NATO together during the Cold War. In the post-Soviet era, there is nothing to inhibit the development of a separate identity for the English-descended civilizations."