East meets West means what?

Lesson 1: Topic 6 of 25

In addition, concepts vary about what “East” and “West” really mean. Depending on which experts you consult, the dividing lines could be drawn using economics, strict geography, political, or cultural lines. Economics considers the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of nations to determine wealth. Geography is older and refers to the eastern and western hemispheres, as used for example during the pre- and early colonial “Age of Exploration.” Politics played into the use of the terms east and west to distinguish European countries during the Cold War, and in various ways politics are still used. Think of the desire to spread democracy in order to “modernize” various countries. Using cultural constructs to determine who is eastern and western is a more complex, yet ultimately more helpful means for our purposes. 

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The concept of the West is from the Greco-Roman civilization in Europe and the advent of Christianity. The Western world has been influenced by the traditions of the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and the Age of Enlightenment and was shaped by the colonialism of the 15th-20th centuries. This mass exportation of culture to the rest of the world was known as Westernization.

All of these factors resulted in exported Western cultural mindsets that interacted with cultures already in place. This happened over hundreds of years, and across a great number of nations. The results truly do vary widely, but broad concepts are again helpful for the purpose of this course. Roughly, “the West” includes the United States and Canada, Latin America, much of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. “The East” is Africa, the Middle East, Asia,  and pretty much everyone else! Minority groups mixed into all of these nations, many of them native peoples, sometimes have maintained a good deal of “original” worldview, despite colonization and other factors.