You may remember Max Weber - I wrote about him few times already. Finally, I have read most of his works (or rather, most description of his works) and I think I know what was it that he wanted to answer with his work.
A simple question. Why is Occident diffrent from Orient? Why the Western culture is diffrent from the Eastern one?
Weber died before he had the chance to finish all of his work. He never completed studies on Islam and Japan - but what he did I think was enough. He has finished studies on China, India, Judaism and Christianity. He wasn't able to summarise them, but after reading about him for past few months I have reached a conclusion. Now, I don't know if it is the same conclusion he has reached - if any - but my answer to this question is simple: an accident
There were several accidents. Climate, animals - those two were desicive for answering why advanced civilisation have NOT developed in Americas, midde&southern Africa or Polinesia. But why Europe have dominated over much bigger Asia? Weber writings, in my opinion (humble, of course) point in one direction: religion
To be short. Monotheism is rare, and various elements in judaism, later taken up by christianity have allowed the evolution of capitalism, democracy, law rationality and modern state.
Now don't take me wrong. Neither I, nor Weber, are saying that religion was the only factor here. But it was without any doubt - an important one.
In India, religion supported the caste system that slowed trade and development of economy (and freedom of thought). In China, taoism was opposed to any changes, while confucianism supported by literati discouraged trade and law rationality (see links above for more arguments). Aspects of Christianity (an accidental byproduct, noted Weber, but nonetheless an important sociological force), on the other hand, promoted equality (all man are equal before God, after all), work and trade (he who works does not have time to sin) and development of an urban status group (note that such a united group has not developed in the Orient).
And thus I have reached a dillemma. Becouse if I want to be, errr, politically correct, and say that diffrences between West and East are accidental, it sounds good, right? But follow the chain of thought and logic: when I say that christian religion was important here, I am threading on dangerous grounds. Becouse some religious people can say that God wanted West do be dominant, otherwise he would have given his revelations in another place then Judea. I can just imagine writing an article about Max Weber ideas and getting flamed for the religion part...
Ouch. Theology makes my head hurt. Perhaps at some later time I will be able to find a nice solution for this. In the meantime, when somebody asks why West is dominant, my answer is: it was in a right place in a right time.
Sounds safe enough, doesn't it?
Till another dillemma...
Update. Found an interestning article on Wki: sociological theory of the formation of religions
Makes some interesting points, doesn't it?
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