Dialogue, debate or disagreement? How useful is the distinction between ‘East’ and ‘West’ in today’s world?

From Himal Southasian:

East If it was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who preached that the East and the West are inseparable, it was Rudyard Kipling who became famous for advocating the idea of their perpetual incompatibility. Today, the foremost characteristic of any East-West discourse continues to be a wrangle over a mutual cultural misunderstanding. The ‘West’, the East Asian studies scholar Martin Bernal has suggested, is as much a construction as the ‘East’ of Edward Said’s Orientalism. Likewise, Victor David Hanson, the author of the influential book Why the West has Won: Carnage and Culture fron Salamis to Vietnam, wrote in 2002 that “the East continues to stereotype the West, with not a clue about its intrinsic nature.” Hanson mockingly portrayed non-Westerners as baffled by a “mysterious Western paradigm – the freedom to speak freely”. For Avishai Margalit and Ian Buruma, Occidentalism, or the popular understanding of Western cultures, constitutes “a cluster of images and ideas of the West in the minds of its haters”. They infer that what is really hated about the West by those who only know it from afar is its secularity and rationalism. But do such vague notions on either side really hold any water in today’s globalised context?

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