East–West dichotomy  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

East-West dichotomy is the concept of two separate cultural hemispheres, an Eastern world contrasting with a Western world. Although the geographic orientation can be variable, the traditional concept places the Occident in opposition to the Orient. The Occident or Western world includes Europe and areas where European cultures became dominant, such as the Americas and Australia. The Eastern world or Orient includes the Middle East, the Islamic world, India and the Far East (East Asia and Southeast Asia). Sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific fall outside this dichotomy.

Another more recent development of East-West dichotomy describes the clash between the communist nations of the Soviet Bloc and China and the democracies of Western Europe and the United States. These cultural contrasts were emphasized by the geopolitical divide created during the Cold War. The Marxist cultural revolution caused Chinese historians to create historiography which highlighted the West-China divide.

The East-West discourse has roots in differences between Greek and Chinese worldviews and philosophical origins, and became popular during the orientalism movement of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The concept often defines the West as an objective analytical society, usually in regard to technology and industrial advancement. In contrast, the East is viewed as a subjective intuitive-based society, usually emphasizing spirituality and mysticism. Those who advocate the doctrine find it reflected in art, demography, education, history, ideology, linguistics, medicine, philosophy, politics, psychology, science-fiction, sociology and gender roles.

The contrast between the Orient and the Occident has been made by both Westerners and Asians. These include historians, scientists, educators and philosophers, such as Gu Hongming, Juergen Habermas, Edmund Husserl, Claude Levi-Strauss, Lee Kuan Yew, Li Dazhao, Ji Xianlin, G. E. R. Lloyd, Halford Mackinder, Kishore Mahbubani, Donella Meadows, Joseph Needham, Richard Nisbett, Kitaro Nishida, Edward W. Said, Amartya Kumar Sen, Oswald Spengler, Rabindranath Tagore, Arnold Joseph Toynbee, Ikeda Daisaku, Wei-Ming Tu, and Max Weber.

Most historians reject the concept of East-West dichotomy as being oversimplified. The contention is that both Oriental and Occidental cultures are too diversified and varied to be viewed as singular societal forms. Instead, they emphasize that analysis of philosophy, technology, art and other historical subjects needs to be examined from both regional and global perspectives.


Further reading

  • Gu Hongming (2005), Spirit of the Chinese People, Shanxi Normal University Press, Shanxi
  • Landes, David (2000), “Culture Makes Almost All the Difference”, pp. 2–14 in Culture Matters, How Values Shape Human Progress, Basic Books (Perseus), New York
  • Mackinder, H. J. (1904), “The geographical pivot of history”, The Geographical Journal, Vol. 170, No. 4, December 2004, pp. 230; 298-321
  • Nisbett, Richard (2004), The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently… and Why, Free Press, New York
  • Nishida, Kitaro (2006), Complete Works of Nishida Kitaro, Volume XIV, pp. 402–417, edited by A. Takeda and K. Riesenhueber, Iwanami Shoten, Tokyo
  • Pye, Lucian W. (2000), “Asian Values: From Dynamos to Dominos?”, pp. 244–256 in Culture Matters, How Values Shape Human Progress, Basic Books (Perseus), New York
  • Spengler, Oswald (1917/1922), The decline of the West, Alfred A. Knopf, New York
  • Tagore, Rabindranath (1931), The Religion of Man, Unwin, London

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "East–West dichotomy" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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