All Disquiet on the Western Civilization Front?

Article excerpt

Western civilization may have hit an existential wall. The decades-long battle between communism and capitalism--essentially two different ways of organizing the economy that became spiritually motivating raisons d'etres for large segments of the world--ended in a pyrrhic victory for capitalists. The "great Satan" defeated the "evil empire," leaving us without purpose and meaning, and the triumph of capitalism brought about increased materialism, less happiness, and diminished well-being of young people.

"For a while, things were looking up" in the West, observes Australian social researcher and author Richard Eckersley. But the burst of the dot-com bubble, punctuated by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, brought "declinology" back into the public debate about Western civilization. Pessimism throughout society is now deepening, Eckersley says. (See "Whatever Happened to Western Civilization? The Cultural Crisis, 20 Years Later," page 16.)

We need a new ideology for changing times, says Villanova University economist Kenneth B. Taylor. The "end of Western civilization" as we know it is actually the end of the beginning of the Enlightenment, and we are now entering the Age of Transformation, he says. Transformation, that is, of human beings: Taylor outlines a new ideology that will inform this transformation as scientists develop ever more powerful tools for engineering a new humanity (See "In Search of the 'Better Angels' of Our Future," page 23. …