Professor Toynbee Surrenders the West:
Do the Facts Justify This Defeatism?
SINCE Bertrand Russell in 1948 gave the first Reith Lectures over the BBC under the title “Authority and the Individual,” these broadcast lectures have become almost a national institution in Great Britain. They provide a platform for serious exposition of philosophical opinions to a public far wider than could be reached by writing a book, publishing articles in a learned journal, or lecturing in a university.
For this past year, the Reith Lectures were given by Professor Arnold Toynbee on ‘The World and the West.” They have just been published in book form in the United States by Oxford University Press, at a time when the principal nations of the West are deadlocked in a war with Communist China, when the Assembly of the United Nations still has as its chief immediate problem the ending of the war, when the Middle East is in a (mainly anti-British) ferment, and when Africa is torn by new tensions arising from the opposite extremes of Malanism and Mau Mau. Certainly no subject of high discourse could be more relevant to questions of the hour than that of historical relations between the Western and non-Western forms of civilization, and no speaker could be more appropriate than Professor Toynbee, whose monumental work A Study
of History has been largely devoted to the tracing of such relations. His wide learning and bold speculative mind command the most serious attention for the general view of human history which he has expounded in these lectures. It may be doubted, however, whether his theory is one which adequately explains the phenomena of the contemporary world, and its premises require to be subjected to close critical analysis before it can be taken as a basis for our thinking.
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