In recent decades Western civilization has arguably starting to morph into the first truly Global civilization.
Of course it has been a “Global civilization”, in one sense, for centuries, ever since it started to span with planet with its trade networks and colonial offshoots. What has been new, since the Second World War, is that non-Western countries around the world have been emerging as centers of political, economic and cultural influence, whilst the influence of the old centers of Western civilization in Europe and North America have been in comparative decline.
Word Wars One and Two shattered the economic power of the old European powers, and the Cold War made it quite impossible for them to cling on to their world-wide empires. In the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s more than a hundred new countries emerged from the fragments of old European colonialism.
The Cold War divided the world into two major camps, the USA-led Western bloc, and the Soviet Union-led Communist bloc. A “Third World” of non-aligned countries made up the rest. In the 1970s and 80s some of these “Third World” countries began to emerge as major centers of the world economy in their own right. Most notably the “Asian Tigers” – South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and to some extent Malaysia and Indonesia – began to provide their people with a level of wealth that equalled, even surpassed, that of Europeans.
In the 1980s, too, China began to open its economy to the world. It was soon rising to economic superpower status. In the 1990s India also began to moved towards a more open economy. On the back of their increasing wealth India and China are both moving towards political superpower status. Other countries which seem likely to do the same are Brazil, Indonesia and perhaps Mexico.
These might not be the countries which actually succeed in achieving this goal, but it seems certain that, within the next couple of decades or so, major centers of political, economic and cultural influence will be established around the world, well outside the old Western heartlands.
It might be argued that, to do so, such nations will have had to take on the West at its own game, and therefore become “Western”, or at least “Westernized”, states. But this is what rising centers of civilization have always done: the Greeks took on a huge amount of ancient Near Eastern know-how (the alphabet, mathematics, engineering, art and architecture) to lay the foundations of its own civilization; the civilizations of Japan and Korea owed a huge a debt to China. And already the Non-Western influences emanating from these countries are beginning to shape Global culture, in terms of cuisine, music, design and much more.
As time goes by these trends will all become clearer. Of course, it will provoke – already is – some people all over the world to draw in on themselves. But, though it takes longer than some people expect, it is a process that cannot be stopped. What will emerge is a civilization which puts down roots in, and draws inspiration from, different parts of the world. Scientists, programmers, thinkers, poets, artists, architects, entertainers, entrepreneurs and statesmen from right around the world are already playing their part in global advance, and this will become more and more the case in the future.