By David Marquand
Princeton University Press, $24.95, 205 pages
According to author David Marquand, a former member of the British Parliament, the Rudyard Kipling-inspired world division of East versus West is archaic and offensive. Marquand believes it must be replaced with a more contemporary worldview in which ethnicity, integration, and economic cohesion are addressed openly and with moral intentionality. In his newest nonfiction work The End of the West: The Once and Future Europe, Marquand argues that Kipling’s 1889 poem The Ballad of East and West describes a North Atlantic myth that originated more than 2500 years ago when the ancient Greeks believed that they were fighting in the Persian wars for civilization, while their eastern opponents represented barbarism and tyranny.
“Why does Kipling’s drumbeat still reverberate today? The answer is that his antimony of ‘West’ versus ‘East’ encapsulates one of the most venerable narratives — and most cherished myths — of the North Atlantic world. Its emotional essence has changed very little in the last twenty-five hundred years.”
Marquand’s book provides an insightful look at where our mindsets have become culturally stuck in an imperialistic mindset that ultimately negates our attempts at integrating comfortably with an increasingly more global world. As Marquand writes, if Europe and America are to play a worthy part in the future world, we must abandon our “self-centered and patronizing beliefs”: “The world in which most of today’s American and European adults grew up – the world structured by Kipling’s imperialistic certitudes, by dim memories of the glory that was Greece, by the American dream of a ‘city on a hill,’ by the myth of the ‘Judaeo-Christian civilization’ and the countermyth of a monolithic ‘Western’ Enlightenment, by the teleologies of Marxism, liberalism, and allegedly scientific rationalism – is vanishing as surely as did the ancien regimes of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Europe.”
Reviewed by Jennie A. Camp