On Culture and Nationality

As someone once wrote, the most intriguing and sophisticated job or occupation a person can have is to explore and learn about different cultures, peoples, and nationalities. Arguably, diplomats and politicians put themselves in their positions in order to explore and learn about different cultures and traditions, in addition to enjoying the different perks of such an endeavor such as the foods and the feminine beauty of different cultures and nations. And, in a sense, a study of history and politics is the study of the evolution of different cultures, nations, and traditions.

As the 20th century American historian and scholar Carroll Quigley wrote, the history of a particular culture or civilization requires a “periodization” which divides the history into different periods or stages, such as “rise” and “decline” and so forth. Other factors such as a change in living standards, changes in ideology, changes in the level of creativity and ingenuity, as well as biological and environmental factors contribute to a change or evolution of a culture and civilization. 

All cultures and civilizations also have to react to an inevitable decline, and as Quigley noted, there are three ways in which a culture or civilization can react to decline. For one, there is “reform” whereby vested interests and the people in power decide to make sacrifices in order to reorganize economic and social life and in turn thwart the decline to a certain extent. Second, there is “circumvention” whereby the vested interests and people in power maintain their “privileges” while finding ways to build a “surplus” for society at-large. And third, there is “reaction” whereby vested interests and people in power cannot overcome the phenomenon of decline for reasons such as ignorance, intransigence, and so forth. 

The social phenomenon of “rise and fall” also has seven different stages, according to Quigley: mixture, gestation, expansion, age of conflict, universal empire, decay, and invasion. Also, all of these various stages of a culture’s “rise and fall” occur within a broader chronology of world history with its own periods and stages. For one, there was the nomadic period of world history, followed by the agricultural period, then the modern period, and now the postmodern period. 

Cultures also operate based on a set of ideas, myths, structures, principles, and functions. As Claude Levi-Strauss wrote, recording these ideas, myths, structures, principles, and functions as well as collecting data on these various cultures is known respectively as “ethnology” and “ethnography.” And the reality is that the study of cultures – or “ethnology” and “ethnography” – has gone from being a “literary” endeavor to a “scientific” endeavor in the modern and postmodern age, according to what Le Bon wrote during the fin de siècle period of Europe. 

Le Bon also differentiated between the “physical” and “psychological” elements of a culture, and in turn argued that the psychological elements of one culture can be compared and contrasted with the psychological elements of another culture once we compare and contrast the psychological dispositions of “the most elevated elements of each race.” In turn, the “most elevated elements of each race” are differentiated from one another mainly through two factors, namely, religion and the cosmology or weltanschauung of the elevated elements of each race. Thus, both the formal and informal interactions between the “elevated elements” of each culture and nation are directly and specifically impacted by the religious and cosmological viewpoints – or weltanschauung – of these elevated elements. Thus, rather than being some abstract meandering of the mind, one’s weltanschauung is actually the main determinant of the most minute and subtle interactions which occur between different persons both within and between different cultures and nations.

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