Russia’s Enemy is “Westernism,” not the West
Last week's meeting of the Zinoviev Club, an organization sponsored by the Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, was marked by a discussion on what was to be understood when the terms West and Westernism are used.
It will be recalled that the term "Westernism" was coined by the Russian philosopher Alexander Zinoviev, who saw it as a certain social system that couldn't be reduced to capitalism in economics or democracy in politics, even though capitalism and democracy are regarded as the foundations of the modern Western world. (See: Alexander Zinoviev, Zapad. Fenomen zapadnizma [The West. The Phenomenon of Westernism], Moscow, 2003.)
This seeming casuistry is explained by the fact that the Western — or Euro-American — society (or more generally, the West) and Westernism are almost identical and yet are different things. (Clearly, Westernism is the product of the West's development, but ideally the West could have done without Westernism entirely).
I won't analyze the differences in their meanings, as the distinctions between the two could only be understood by professional philosophers well-versed in working with such definitions. I'll confine myself to saying that Europe and the USA are increasingly characterized by Westernism rather than capitalism and democracy. More than that, Westernism represents an increasingly greater threat, both to capitalism and democracy and, hence, to Western society as such. Westernism, moreover, cannot be reduced to globalism, for the former is also a threat to the latter.
How Westernism emerged and how it enslaved the West
Before defining this "quite young" (to quote Alexander Zinoviev) phenomenon, let us briefly review the Western world's evolution. (What I mean by the "Western world" is a larger part of Europe — excluding the European part of the post-Soviet space — and the United States).
I think that the West was established as a special and, I would say, advanced region concurrently with the emergence of seaports in the Eastern Mediterranean as hubs for trans-regional trade and later as the capitals of states engaged in trade. This process was described as well as anyone could by the French historian Fernand Braudel, who analyzed it in a number of his works, primarily La Dynamique du Capitalisme.
It was Braudel, and perhaps some other authors of the Annales rather than world famous economists like Adam Smith or Karl Marx, who unraveled the mystery of the profit margin as the basis of profitability. Accordingly, they described the emergence of a commercial subculture within European societies. Let me add that millennia later — by the start of the 20th century — it gave rise to the just mentioned Westernism.
These early East Mediterranean merchant republics operated on the COMMODITY-MONEY-COMMODITY principle.
Money as the main trade engine brought forth a caste of financiers, who possessed a higher social status than the merchants. The main political centers shifted from the Mediterranean to northern and northwestern Europe and economic development was now based on the MONEY-COMMODITY-MONEY principle.
The plunder of colonies resulting from the Great Geographical Discoveries and a consequent "financial revolution" in the Old World foreshadowed rapid scientific and technological progress in Europe, the beginning of an industrial revolution in a number of West European countries, and the formation of capitalism as such.
Capitalism, in turn, generated a split in the Roman Catholic Church (Martin Luther's Reformation in 1517 was nothing else than the bidding of a new social class, the bourgeoisie) and, most importantly, inspired the financiers to seize top political power in a number of European countries. At the same time, a number of major New World oligarchs founded the United States of America, something that set in motion a process of financiers and industrialists encroaching on the positions of landed aristocracy both in the new world and all over Europe.
The bankers' revolution in the West (stretching over the next two centuries) and the emergence of a privately owned world financial system which controlled both the printing presses and the world reserve currencies, forged the world's path toward the MONEY-POWER-MONEY principle.
According to its logic, all those who opposed the loss of power by the traditional aristocracies (the Houses of Habsburg, Valois, Romanov, etc.) were either destroyed during European revolutions and subsequent world wars or made decorative monarchs like the Windsors, the Bourbons, the Bernadottes, and others.
After World War II and particularly after the collapse of the USSR, the new power groups in Western Europe and the USA (that actually merged to form a united West) began a departure from capitalism proper and democracy proper towards first a controlled market economy and a controlled democracy and later towards a direct oligarchic economy and oligarchic-ochlocratic political systems.
As a result, the first thing that comes to any unbiased researcher's mind is how today's Euro-America has become a "super-society", one ruled not by capital or free markets, or by civic institutions or free and independent media, but by groups of oligarchs far less inclined to use market methods, as opposed to administrative and political springs, as their primary tools for enrichment.
Westernism is about superpower
It is this oligarchic system operating on the POWER-MONEY-POWER principle (where mega-profits are earned not on business acumen and market competition proper but on sheer fiat involving the direct confiscation of the population's assets, while displaying a preference for specific oligarchic corporations and the unrestrained depletion of natural resources) that Alexander Zinoviev had in mind when speaking about Westernism that, in his words, was destroying classical Europe and traditional Christian values at the turn of the 21st century.
In short, Westernism is a superpower generating claims to exceptionality with all the ensuing superhuman ambitions and inhuman technologies.
In the economic sphere, this superpower spawns supermonopolies, global protectionism, super-corruption (the scale of corruption in Ukraine under Viktor Yanukovich or in other post-Soviet countries is dwarfed by the US's super-corruption), global racketeering and raiding (affecting entire states like Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine, rather than individual companies), and "hybrid" violence towards economic rivals.
In the political sphere, this superpower has long been transformed into a sub-global mega-oligarchy (seeking to become global) that imposes on the world new, drab puppet regimes pre-programed to function in the system of pro-Western and oligarchic relations by engineering "revolutions," "integrations" and "free trade zones" (that is, accomplished by way of the complete deconstruction of traditional political systems and national states).
In the social sphere, the superpower is forming a privileged "super society" (the Western elite), on the one hand, and a "mass society" of consumers — submissive and devoid of traditional identifiers — that have to subsist on universal products and standards.
In the information sphere, the superpower is accompanied by super-demagoguery as the core element of mass manipulation. Alexander Zinoviev said this in his work, The West. The Phenomenon of Westernism: "In the socio-political sphere, Westernism seeks to strengthen the nondemocratic aspect of the power and governance system, to enhance the role of the state, to introduce nondemocratic elements into the system of power, and to turn democracy into a tool for manipulating the masses and to camouflage its totalitarian aspect."
In the "information society," as Western experts often describe the Western world, the information phenomenon is narrowed down to the technological aspect, or what could be placed under NSA surveillance, and leaves almost no room for professional journalism. In this connection, men like Julian Assange are an exception in both the direct and figurative sense.
How to oppose superpower and is it worth it?
Let me say that Westernism and other kindred phenomena like American-style globalism, world oligarchy, etc., are opposed primarily by the West itself. Specifically, nowhere in the world is there as active an anti-globalist movement as in the USA and Europe. Even though the current anti-globalist movement is an inalienable element of Westernism (after all, nothing legitimizes a phenomenon as soundly as a powerful movement in favor of its abolition), the majority of its participants are sincere in their protests against both the Americanization of the world and exceptionality, no matter who is imposing it.
Russia, too, opposes pro-American globalism by suggesting an alter-globalist project — a multi-polar world — which implies the abolition of the oligarchic right to exceptionality by providing this right to everyone.
Alter-globalism is the main element of anti-Westernism and of true anti-globalism, if we understand the latter as a negation of American-style globalism. In this sense, Alexander Zinoviev is the most prominent figure of modern alter-globalism and certainly the first sound ideologist of modern anti-globalism, Western anti-globalism included, who has yet to be rediscovered by the world anti-globalist movement.
Speaking at the latest Zinoviev Club meeting, Russia Insider's Charles Bausman remarked that there were a lot of US and European journalists and intellectuals prepared for a dialogue with Russian journalists and experts. In fact, this dialogue is a most important condition for dealing with the technologies and institutions of the superpower. At any rate, the classical West is no less interested in overcoming Westernism than Russia and other world countries.