One continuous, highly exciting theme in Weidner's book is the development of European sciences out of a desire for an order that the social and political life of the war-torn, catastrophe-ravaged Europe of the Middle Ages and the early modern period could not provide.
According to Weidner, this led to a transfer of the schematic orders of nature that had been explored by science to large sections of society and culture, drying up transcendental sources of order. Nature became a source of order because God – much less humankind – was no longer to be trusted.
If Weidner's call for a new cosmopolitan transcendence is justified, a decisive question must be asked: can the West really move beyond itself and be completely absorbed into a new, stronger, multiperspective cosmopolitanism if being-the-West is possibly much more of an attribute given to the West by others rather than its own description of itself? Is it not the case that those outside the West have long since taken back the authority to interpret?
Although Weidner points out that anti-Western thought is also rooted in the West itself, where its roots reach right back to the Counter-Enlightenment and the Romantic Age, he could have devoted more space to arguments that provide a critical defence of the West – such as those made by Ian Buruma's Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies (2004) – in order to test his own theory.
Moral decline and soulless materialism
Buruma notes that the enemies of the West always give the same four reasons for their hatred: moral decline in globalised large cities, the soulless materialism of Western bourgeoisie, the sacrilegious godlessness of entire nations that believe that man-made laws could replace a divine order and the emancipation of women coupled with the accompanying loss of male privileges.
Do we really want to give up the West and its powerful utopia in order to live up to the demands formulated in this hate? Certainly not. So, if there is really to be a "Beyond the West" as envisaged by Weidner, then we have to ensure that the reactionary enemies of the West will derive no joy from it. This is the task that Weidner sets us as the curators who will manage the legacy of the West.
© Qantara.de 2018
Translated from the German by Aingeal Flanagan