Books, Articles, and Items of Academic Interest
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Ten years ago Academic Questions devoted nearly a whole issue to an essay by a little-known Canadian sociologist, Ricardo Duchesne. His AQ essay “The World Without Us,” (22, no. 2, Spring 2009) was the forerunner for his hefty scholarly tome that came out a few years later, The Uniqueness of Western Civilization (Brill, 2011). Our interest in the original essay was that it was that rara avis, a deeply considered and thoughtful defense of the idea that the West differs profoundly from other large scale social orders. Taking nothing from the achievements of ancient Egyptians, mighty Babylon, the Moghul Empire, Chinese dynasties, the builders of Angkor Wat, Mayan priest-kings, or the terror-empire of the Aztecs, the West has a character of its own that has enabled it, over the millennia, to become the dominant force in the modern world.
Duchesne’s thesis was entirely within the mainstream tradition of both sociology and history—and even anthropology for that matter. Claude Levi-Strauss,...