Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilizationby Anthony Esolen
Pub. Date: 06/03/2008
Publisher: Regnery Publishing
Everything you should know--but PC professors won't teach--about our Western heritage
Western civilization is the envy of the globe. It has given to the world universally accepted understandings of human rights (rooted in Judeo-Christian principles), created standards for art, music, and literature that have never been equaled, and originated political and
Everything you should know--but PC professors won't teach--about our Western heritage
Western civilization is the envy of the globe. It has given to the world universally accepted understandings of human rights (rooted in Judeo-Christian principles), created standards for art, music, and literature that have never been equaled, and originated political and social systems that have spread all across the planet.
Unfortunately, the fog of political correctness now obscures these and other truths about Western civilization. Leftists and Islamic jihadists find common cause in assailing Western "colonialism," "imperialism," and "racism" as its defining characteristics. Guilt-ridden Western leaders and public figures speak of their cultural patrimony in disparaging terms they would never dare to use about a non-Western culture. And in the academy, "multicultural"-minded professors flatter students into believing they have nothing really to learn from Sophocles or Shakespeare.
But now, Professor Anthony Esolen--one of the team-teachers of Providence College's esteemed Development of Western Civilization Core Curriculum--has risen to the West's defense. The Politically Incorrect Guide(TM) to Western Civilization takes on the prevailing liberal assumptions that make Western civilization the universal whipping boy for today's global problems, and introduces you to the significant events, individuals, nations, ideas, and artistic achievements that make Western civilization the greatest the world has ever known.
Today--with the West imperiled as never before by the global jihad and threats from China and elsewhere--defending the West has become an urgent imperative: if we don't value what we have and what we have inherited, we will surely lose it. The Politically Incorrect Guide(tm) to Western Civilization is an essential sourcebook for that defense.
Table of Contents
Ancient Greece: Love of Wisdom and Beauty 1
Laws that cannot be amended
Athens: Better than the rest
Father, not mother
The Greek Isles effect
Tradition and the natural law
Beauty is not merely in the eye of the beholder
The universal Good
The State and the end of man
Rome: An Empire of Tradition and Patriarchy 39
Respecting your elders
Father knows best
Tradition's wisdom vs. democracy's fickleness
Peace through strength
The real reason Rome fell
Israel: How God Changed the World 67
A God above nature, not a nature god
Not a political god, but the King of kings
Knowing God yields science
They that humble themselves shall be exalted
A thousand years are as a day
Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews
The peace of God that passeth understanding
The Early Church: Charity and Tolerance Are Born 97
How Christianity saved the West
Christianity brings equality and tolerance
The State, that pagan god
How Christians elevated culture
The truth about heretics
The Good News brings charity
The High Middle Ages: The Bright Ages 131
Islam vs. civilization
Warmer is better-someone tell Al Gore
The Bright Ages: Life in the cathedrals
Drama's rebirth: Another fruit of Christianity
PC myth: The Middle Ages were the Dark Ages
When love and nature were richer
PC trope: Dancing angels and pinheads
Before PC: When intellectual curiosity could thrive
The Renaissance: It'sNot What You Think 167
The PC myths about the Renaissance
Is there a nature in this man?
Honoring the past
Shakespeare on his knees
Where the Renaissance went wrong: Undermining authority
The Enlightenment: Liberty and Tyranny 203
The will enslaved
"Enlightenment" yields tyranny
The Pilgrim Fathers
America's forgotten models: Rome and Athens
Saving reason from itself
Rousseau and the State
The Nineteenth Century: Man Is a God; Man Is a Beast 243
The Romantics' new religion: Nature
What the Industrial Revolution wrought
Is there such a thing as bad art?
Nietzsche: The honest atheist
Conservative champions of human dignity
The Twentieth Century: A Century of Blood 281
Walter Mitty, rugged individual
The empire strikes back
The health of the State, the poverty of the soul
Art from the people; Art against the people
Science without knowledge
The Pill's bitter effects
History can restore us
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Finally, a book that does not merely defend the West but positively commends its values and achievements to the world. There's a reason it's called 'Western Civilization.' To the extent that other cultures are Westernized, they become increasingly civilized. If a culture shows itself to be civilized, you can safely assume it has been Westernized sometime in its recent past. Away with all false modesty, self-loathing, and guilt! The world owes a debt of gratitude for the pervasive influence of the West. Only to the degree that we understand this to be so will the world remain civilized. To depart from our Western heritage is suicidal. All cultures are not created equal. This book clearly demonstrates the moral, cultural, political, intellectual, and spiritual superiority of Western Civilization. 'Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Western Civ's the way to go!'
A little complicated, but promotes dwelling on problems facing us today, which ancient civilizations had also. Very enlightening - not the usual things we hear today
Wnile amusing and thought provoking, the book has appeared thusfar to be somewhat one sided and overly-conservative.
This book cuts through many myths about history, and manages to balance accuracy with satire so that it's easy to tell where one leaves off and the other begins. In other words, the editorials stand out as editorials, while the facts are presented as facts that can be easily verified in other sources. In many places, Esolen relies on primary sources from the periods that he's covering, so that we're given contrasting points of view from the people who actually lived at the time, or, in other words, what those people thought they thought, rather than our thoughts about them. Yes, there are many satirical barbs about today's politically correct shibboleths, and I imagine a proponent of those shibboleths might find them irritating, but at least they aren't presented as inarguable truths, as are so many subjective myths in current "histories." I might add that Esolen's prose style is brilliant. There were times when I stopped and reread a sentence several times because it was so beautifully turned, sometimes rising to the level of poetry. (I realized, with one of them at the end of a paragraph, that it was a perfect iambic hexameter.) And in response to the reviewer who presented his or her credentials as a well-published historian, I too am a well-published scholar in literary history and social history, as well as a published poet.
Does Educated_Reader as an historian and published author (according to him) fail to see the irony in his remark regarding the burning of books? "Uncle Joe Stalin could have used a guy like him!
Full disclosure: I am a historian and a published author with several books in print. "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization" is is a study in cognitive dissonance and so full of historical errors and self-contradictions I could easily write a review as long as the text itself, stating (and documenting) its errors page by page. Just a few examples--it cites the Enlightenment as a major source of all that is wrong in the world, the evil force that germinated (gasp!)democracy, a quest for equality (with particular venom for "feminazis" who refuse to accept their proper place(s) in the kitchen, bedroom, and nursery--choosing instead to pursue higher education and positions of influence while simultaneously destroying family). Esolen posits that abortion is the sign of modernity's self-destructive direction and praises classical cultures in comparison--all the while ignoring (or showing his ignorance of) the widely-accepted Spartan practice of abandoning unwanted babies to die. He decries the abomination of another threat to family--homosexuality--while ignoring the prominence of pedophilia and rape in "the more civilized" Greece and Rome. Esolen credits Judeo-Christianity with all that is good in the world, but ignores decades--no, centuries!--of violence conducted by Christians in the name of religion: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the explorers of America who enslaved or obliterated native cultures, and so on. I propose a minor change in the title for the next printing: "The Incorrect Guide..." Better yet, let's just go back to the time-"honored" practice of burning books. Place this one on the top of the pile.