Triumphalism  

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Triumph of Christianity by Tommaso Laureti (1530-1602), ceiling painting in the Sala di Constantino, Vatican Palace. Images like this one celebrate the destruction of ancient pagan culture and the victory of Christianity.
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Triumph of Christianity by Tommaso Laureti (1530-1602), ceiling painting in the Sala di Constantino, Vatican Palace. Images like this one celebrate the destruction of ancient pagan culture and the victory of Christianity.

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

Triumphalism is the attitude or belief that a particular doctrine, religion, culture, or social system is superior to and should triumph over all others. Triumphalism is not an articulated doctrine but rather a term that is used to characterize certain attitudes or belief systems by parties such as political commentators and historians.

Contents

Definition

The term triumphalism is what anthropologists call an "observer's category"; it is generally taken as having a pejorative sense (see the Oxford English Dictionary) and few members of groups would identify themselves as being triumphalist.

The term is sometimes used to refer to relatively inconsequential behavior, such as excessively demonstrative glee at the defeat or failure of a sports rival. People experience triumphalism in this recreational form as collective pride (e.g., school spirit) or sports fanaticism (“We’re Number One!”).

Triumphalism also takes more consequential forms, including extreme forms of patriotism, nationalism, ideological, or religious extremism.

A triumphalist may derive a sense of pride, security, or virtue from their sense of superiority and expectation of ultimate triumph. However, those who believe in their own group’s superiority or inevitable ascendancy do not typically claim the label ‘triumphalist’. Instead, the term usually has a negative connotation and is used by those who do not accept the superiority of the belief or group in question, or by those who are warning against the effects of over-confidence and hubris within their own group.

Analysis

Triumphalism may both benefit and prove detrimental to the survival of a doctrine, culture, or social system. Dangers include:
  • Impaired ability to judge the value or morality of the group's actions; <li>Cessation of creativity and innovation within the group; <li>Blindness to other groups’ strengths and innovations; <li>A tendency to over-reach against the group’s competitors, based on an inflated sense of the likelihood of triumph in conflict.</ul> At the same time, triumphalism also provides impetus to proselytization, conquest and the general expansion of a group or doctrine. Many successful historical movements have worked from a triumphalist base. Examples include the Islamic conquests of the 7th century, European colonialism, and the concept of manifest destiny which helped the United States to dominance in North America, in the process transforming itself into what some call the American empire. Movements need not be triumphalist to be dynamic and successful. The Western drive for the emancipation of women and the civil rights movement, for instance, succeeded on the basis of egalitarianism rather than triumphalism.

    Quotations

    2008, Capitalism

    • However, soon after this euphoric capitalist triumphalism, capitalism seems to be heading to another cross-road, which is capable of undermining the aforesaid euphoria. As capital is now set to continue its accumulation, expansion and profitability, unemployment is on the rise, as government ability to create lasting employment has become ineffective due to the privatisation of the public sectors, retrenchment by private business, etc. The state of affairs is exacerbating the crime rate (both within nations and globally), ethnic and global tension, poverty and ill-feeling. Hence, there could be other better global alternatives to the current single capitalist triumphant orthodoxy. Wilfred I. Ukper, Andre D. Slabbert

    2005, Muslim

    • The upshot of the matter is that to reduce Islam—with its transcendental moral essence which is based on commitment to 'enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong’—is universal. (Qu'ran 3:103) Those who reduce Islam to an ideological agenda, under the socio-political reality...and all the Muslim triumphalism that this brings, simply have not understood the message of Islam comprehensively. Tarek A Ghanem, in Islam Online

    2004, Jewish

    2004, American

    2001, scientific

    • A better understanding of science should lead not to triumphalism but to the kind of humility recently expressed by Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Francois Jacob in Of Flies, Mice and Men: "Science cannot answer all questions. . . . It can, however, give some indications, exclude certain hypotheses. Engaging in the pursuit of science may help us make fewer mistakes.” Jon Beckwith, in American Scientist Online

    2001, Christian

    • Christian triumphalism has been the energy that has marred our missionary efforts around the globe and in all ages. Consider what we have done to the Native Americans in this country - from the time of Columbus to the time of the great Western Migration. .... Just read Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible to get a sense of the effects of Christian triumphalism.” The Rev. Canon Elizabeth Kaeton, in a sermon preached at Christ Episcopal Church, New Jersey on September 23, 2001

    1994, Soviet

    • But not only did Soviet triumphalism eventually provoke the Reaganite reaction in the United States, but, Kissinger suggests, it produced the over-extension of Soviet resources that led directly to economic and ultimately political collapse. Michael Howard, in Foreign Affairs.

    See also




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