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Prof Ali Mazrui, Director, Institute of Global Cultural Studies, Binghamton
University, New York.
argues that western culture is the dominant global culture. The validity
of this culture needs to be challenged and is being challenged. But as
Confucian or Islamic cultures assert themselves, their validity also needs
to be challenged. And challenge itself is a process that enriches and
expands the global culture.
The United States,
Germany and Japan are the preeminent economic powers, while the US, Britain
and France are the preeminent political powers. Accordingly, they have
determined the global culture. But this culture needs to be challenged
from within, as well as from without.
Western culture is undermined by violence and erosion of the family, causing
a reappraisal from within. But western culture is also liberal, and Professor
Mazrui is optimistic that western liberalism can absorb other cultural
values, such as the traditional sobriety of Islam.
Islam itself needs to expand and enrich itself, he argues. Some Islamic
cultures have become dominated by narrow, legalistic interpretations.
But in much of the Islamic world, including parts of the Arab world, Islam
is tolerant and varied -- Islamic Pakistan, for example has had a woman
leader, something that in the main western powers only Britain has achieved.
But a global
culture with global validity cannot be achieved by preaching. It requires
an underlying shift in the structure of power -- as when new technology
made slavery uneconomic.
The global information revolution may be the basis for this shift -- although
there is a danger that it could also create a new global underclass of
digital deprivation. But Professor Mazrui argues that the signs are that
the powers of the world are ready for a more inclusive global culture:
'some optimism is defensible'.