Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Countries Are Part of Western Civilization Part 1: General Overview

The part of the Internet that I surf the most spends a lot talking about the state of Western Civilization yet I rarely see defined in terms of what countries constitute as Western. This doesn't mean that most of us don't have a general idea of what countries are western, and I would imagine it would look like the image below.

 For the few individuals who do not know what the above image is, or where it is from, it is an image from Samuel P Huntington's Clash of Civilizations. In Clash of Civilizations the world is divided into 9 separate civilizations. The civilizations are Western, Latin American, Orthodox, Islamic, African, Buddhist, Chinese, Hindu and Japonic. There are a lot of individuals that would disagree with Mr. Huntington's categorizations, and I am one of them, though probably for a reason most individuals haven't heard.

My major issue with the map above is that it is the treats countries Islamic countries as one contiguous civilization while separating Christendom into three or four subgroups.  Christianity, or Christendom when we refer to the body of nations that have the majority/plurality of their people as Christians, is easily recognized as one of the foundational pillars of Western Civilization.  Given that, if being part of Christendom was enough to make one nation Western, then Western Civilization would look like the image below.

Now before I continue, it is obvious that merely being a Christian nation, or a secular nation with a Christian past, is not enough to make it also be a Western nation. Though many of the nations in Africa are Christian, or at the very least have substantial Christian populations, those nations are undeniably not Western as they are missing key aspects of what would constitute a Western Civilization.  This doesn't mean that Christianity is not an important part of being a Western nation, it undeniably is, but it does mean that there are other pillars that we need to think about.  The one that most readily comes to mind is the Roman Empire.  The Romans, more so than any people in my opinion, including the Greeks, laid down much of the fundamental building blocks for what would later become Western Civilization as we know it; it is also not coincidental that the heart of Christianity was Rome until the Schism of 1054.

The map above shows nations that were affected by the Roman Empire.  The nations colored dark maroon had the entirety of the lands that now make up the nation as part of the Roman Imperium.  Nations colored a bright red saw substantial portions of their lands controlled by the Romans during antiquity.  Lastly, the pink colored nations, were nations that were either only held very briefly, or had a very small portion of their lands ruled by the Romans. While not all of the lands that were controlled by the Romans have remained Western, a good portion of the have. 

I could go into great length as to why Christianity and Greco-Roman culture are the two most important aspects of what constitutes a Western nation, but I don't think I need to do so.  The fact that Christianity and Rome are the foundation stone of Western civilization is understood by all, notitia plebis, even if those same people cannot articulate why. There have been volumes written, and courses taught, on why. but I will summarize by saying this. It was those proto-nations, the petty kingdoms that arose with the final dissolution of the western empire, that best adopted those principals that became the most successful. Those peoples who did not, they were either entirely subsumed and their culture obliterated or surpressed.  The development of the modern nation-state is a testament to this.
The nation state, arose out of the concept that nations, being a group of individuals with a similar culture, language and heritage, shall have dominion upon the lands that they occupy. The concept doesn't require a Greco-Roman Christian worldview, however, how this concept was actually implemented. The forms, functions and ideas that contributed to transitioning the idea of a sovereign state for a nation to actual nation state is.  The earliest, often the most successful nation states, used a Greco-Roman Christian worldview to create the foundation and structure that would enable a successful nation state. English Great Britain is one of the most notable, though Aragonian-Castilian Spain, Prussian Germany and Sardinian Italy are also examples.
Western History is full of examples.  For those of us who come from the Anglo-sphere portion of Western Civilization, we only need to go back as far as the Magna Carta.  The notion that even the head sovereign of a state was not above the law and that there were limits to his power, that is a profoundly Christian and Roman perspective. Christian because it our culture tacitly understood that there is only one true sovereign, the create, and that the temporal leaders of this earth, whatever the magnificence of their office, are merely stewards; with all the responsibilities that come with being a steward.  It is also a uniquely Roman perspective because the great charter was a document of law established by a group of peers establishing the kind of governance that would eventually evolve into constitutional monarchy; as an aside it is one of the reasons, along with geography, that the Britain became the most powerful European nation for almost 500 years.
Given that we have identified Christianity and Greco-Roman culture are indisputably the most important faces of what constitutes a nation as Western, then it stands to reason that the nations that possess those characteristics as foundational for their own culture are then Western, to a greater or lesser extent.  Based off this assumption, I have put together a map of what I think constitutes the Western world; though by all means the map should not be considered a finished product.

This map will, I expect, be objectionable to some for the inclusion and exclusion of certain countries and/or regions. The two largest being the inclusion of the regions of the world that Huntington classifies a separate civilizations, Latinate and Orthodox. As I said at the beginning of my post, I disagree wit Mr. Huntington's assessment, and I will articulate why, but before I do so I want to articulate one assumption I make.  This assumption is that Western Civilization is not a monolith.  Christianity and a Greco-Roman heritage are the foundation of Western Civilization, however, the cultures of these individuals nation states need not be identical to one another.
 Along with this assumption is the idea that member nations are Western as a matter of degree.  This often explains the cultural differences between the Nordic nations, Anglosphere nations, and Mediterranean nations.  The degree to which a nation is 'western' varies by degrees, and is up to some judgement, and not every nation in western civilization is as western as others. What makes a nation more western than another largely depends on your point preference and a great deal of time could be spent debating which cultures are closure to the ideals of our civilization than others.  That would be a debate for another time and place. 
Given that those two assumptions I have further broken down the map into subgroups of western civilization.  The subgroups I have, in no particular order, are as following
  • Brittanic: also known as the Anglo-sphere it includes Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States
  • Iberian: which includes Spain, Portugal, Latin America, South America and the Spanish speaking Caribbean.
  • Frank: France and the french speaking parts of Belgium.
  • Germanic: Which includes Austria, Germany, Norway and Finland
  • Volgan Slavic: Which includes Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic nations traditionally under the influence of Russia.
  • Hellenic: Which includes the modern day nations that were Greece, Bulgaria and Macedonia.
  • Central European: Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia
  • Northern Balkans: Slovenia and Croatia
  • Balkan Slavic: Serbia and most of the Balkan nations excluding those with heavily Islamic populations.
  • Carpathian: Hungary, Romania and Moldova.
I must stress that this graphic illustration is hardly definitive as it was pretty difficult to classify the cultural groups.  If I couldn't make a classification based on cultural ties for whatever reason, then I grouped nations based on the linguistic family they belonged too. This map is a work in progress and will be revised as new information comes to my attention, so please, if you have any insights, information or suggestions, please let me know and I will examine it.

Now that I have outlined a general overview of what I consider the foundations of Western Civilization, the cultural impacts of both Christianity and Roman culture, and illustrated which nations I consider unequivocably part of the west, Europe, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, I write additional posts on the arguing the following: 

  • Why the exclusion of eastern Europe, what Huntington labels as the Orthodx Civiliation, from 'The West' is erroneous.
  • Why it is erroneous to exclude Latin and South America.
  • Nations that border civilizations.


  1. So you are saying white and mestizo/white countries (see Latin America) make up Western Civ.

    I'd agree w/throwing the Russians in, not so much w/the mestizos.

    Let's see your reasoning for including them now...

    1. I will write specifically about Latin America, I anticipated that a lot of individuals would disagree with me, however, in the short, yes. The main reasons I do so are

      a) I race, and frankly how we define race, is a poor indicator. I don't think of races as white, black, asian so on and so forth. I think of different ethnicities as races.

      b) Culture. When using that two core components of what I think is Western Culture. Christianity and Roman Cultural heritage. Then the latin provinces are undeniably Western. If we have to exclude Latin America then I would argue that we would either have to exclude both the Iberian nations, or the Anglo North America Oceania as well. Including both Iberia and North America but excluded Latin America is inconsistent in my opinion.

      I will expand on this later. My next post will be on the Orthodox nations of Europe and then the Latin nations next.

  2. If Latin America is not part of the Western culture, then people should stop calling it that way and just call it Southern America.
    Latin American culture is based on the Iberian culture, in regards to their religion, customs, family, language, temperament, music, etc. etc. etc. plus local nuances, which certainly vary from country to country, and touches from other immigrants (most of them also westerners) who arrived in recent centuries to populate it, as it happened in the Southern Cone.
    After living two years in the U.S., a country that I love and admire so much, I became convinced that in general people there know very little about the world history and consequently do not have a precise idea on why Latin America is called so.
    Once, a fellow graduate student told me that in his opinion Chile was a fairly "westernized" country. I replied him that Chile WAS a western country, but he thought I was speaking on a geographic basis. The conversation quickly reached its end.

    1. I agree with your sentiment. I disagree with the idea that Latin America is not part of Western Civilization. If the differences between Latin America and the "West" are considered significant enough to warrant different civilization labels, then we should do the same with America and Europe.

  3. I'd like your opinion on the exclusion of India from your list of western civilizations. I think it should be included, because:
    -They're a stable parliamentary democracy. They have the same legal and political foundations as the western world.
    -They're now capitalist, with the vestiges of socialism gradually being pruned.
    -They have 125 million English speakers. That's twice the population of the UK.
    -Public opinion is mostly pro-western.

    I can think of 3 reasons for their exclusion:
    -Race. They're not exactly white. (Shouldn't matter, since Mexico isn't either).
    -Poverty. However, it seems like they're getting around to solving it.
    -Religion. Not exactly Christian (in your opinion, does that matter?)

    Here's an interesting article about exactly what India is becoming:

    1. Religion and culture is the answer. They aren't of a Christian background and their culture isn't descend from Greco-Roman origins. Those are the two most fundamental items of what makes a nation western. Capitalism and democratic government are often seen in western civilization but they are both relatively recent developments. Moreover, democracy has existed outside of the west well before the modern age. There is evidence that some Indus river city states had democratic forms of governance long before Athens even existed.

  4. I'm not too keen on your classifications. Finland is not Germanic. Sweden and Denmark, more so. The Baltic countries have more in common culturally with Poland, and long dead Prussia than with Russia, despite the recent conquest. (Estonia on the other hand is linguistically tied to Finland, loosely Hungary and far away Asian lands). There are strong cultural ties among the Balkan countries, including those geographically outside the region - Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, the ex Yugoslav republics (except maybe the Catholic ones i.e. Croatia and Slovenia), Greece, Albania - to put them as part of the same sub-civilization. Maybe Western Turkey belongs in this region as well - aside from the religion, many institutions and most food are similar. It's so tough to classify things in groups when geographically it's more like a sliding scale...

    1. Thanks for your information. Admittedly my knowledge on the cultures of eastern Europe is much weaker than those of Western Europe.


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Seattle resident whose real name is Kevin Daniels. This blog covers the following topics, libertarian philosophy, realpolitik, western culture, history and the pursuit of truth from the perspective of a libertarian traditionalist.