Niall Ferguson reviews Walter Russell Mead’s God and Gold

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The resurgence of China and India, to say nothing of the “energy empires’’ of Iran and Russia, means that, in relative terms, Anglo-American hegemony is already on the wane. Above all, Mead overlooks the extent to which the very un-Weberian culture of consumption, which has become the motive force of the Anglophone economies, has rendered them as dependent on foreign capital as were the moribund empires of the Ottomans, Qing and Romanovs a century ago.

Meanwhile, over Iraq, fissures have opened within the English-speaking world. There is abundant evidence, not discussed here, that other Anglophone peoples feel a diminished affinity with their US counterparts. Mead is quite wrong to assume, for example, that religion is as “persistent’’ in the rest of the Anglosphere as it is in the US.

Though there’s no harm in celebrating what we have in common – and Mead does it well – the differences between Anglos and Americans are much greater than he implies. Divided by much more than just a common language, it will take much more than a hyphen to reunite us.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsForeign Relations* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.England / UK

3 Comments
Posted December 31, 2007 at 8:24 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. William P. Sulik wrote:

I mentioned awhile back that I like the Hugh Hewitt podcasts of his author interviews, the following is taken from a transcript of Hewitt’s interview with Mead:

HH: All right, and so you were raised in a Church family or not? Because religion’s a big part of this book. 

WRM: Yeah, my dad is an Episcopal minister, and when I was a kid, he was in a parish ministry. And then he started something called the Alban Institute, which does a lot of work with congregations. 

HH: Okay, and are you still attending the Episcopal Church?

WRM: Yes, I am. I go to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Jackson Heights, Queens, where I live.

HH: Interesting. Now when you are at a young age, they send you to Massachusetts where you experience victor’s amnesia. I kind of like that phrase which we’ll come to. Was it Andover?

WRM: No, it was Groton.

HH: Okay, Groton.

WRM: …which is also an Episcopal boarding school where we had chapel seven times a week, twice on Sunday.

HH: Are they still doing that?

WRM: Yeah…well, they’re not now, but they were when I was there.

HH: Okay, and then off to Yale. Now before we go much further, explain to people what victor’s amnesia is.

WRM: Well, it’s a condition I noticed when I went up north, that as a kid growing up in the South, we all knew everything about the Civil War. You know, people could sit around and say you know, if only Stonewall Jackson had gotten two hours earlier or whatever, in the North, in Massachusetts, they didn’t know anything about it. And sometimes, usually it would be kids whose ancestors’ names I knew. They did not know anything about the Civil War. They won the Civil War. It was over. They’ve moved on. In the South, they hadn’t. 

HH: And as a result, the South nursed some wounds that are lingering still, and that will apply to other places in the world, vis-à-vis the West. 

WRM: That’s right, and that’s one of the things I was very lucky to have that Southern experience, because we know what it’s like to be crushed by Yankee imperialism. And to know that you have to get along in the system these other people are making, whether you like it or not. And also, as a Southerner, you realize well, in some ways, do I want slavery back? No, I do not. So you have this kind of mixed thing of you resent their victory, you resent their arrogance and their ignorance, and at the same time, you’ve got to acknowledge that well, yes, probably Lincoln was right about slavery, and Jefferson Davis was wrong. 

HH: I first visited Charleston a few years back, and it was the day that they raised the Hunley, the Confederate submarine that had sunk in the harbor. And they referred to the Civil War not as the war between the states even, but as the lost cause. And I thought to myself, this is 130 years later, 120 years later. It’s the lost cause? 

WRM: Well, for my great-aunt, it was the war of Northern aggression. So yeah, it really was a living memory, and my Dad’s first Church in South Carolina, Pinopolis, South Carolina, there was an old lady there who went to the Church who could remember being the daughter of a plantation owner before the Civil War, and remembered listening to the singing of the slaves in the cotton fields.

HH: Now you refer in God And Gold to the ‘doxies’…I just want to know, are you orthodox by Episcopalian standards? Are you sort of a book of common prayer believing Episcopalian? 

WRM: Well again, what is an Episcopal standard of orthodoxy? But you know, I’m pretty traditional in my theological beliefs.

HH: Are you worried about the schism that threatens your communion?

WRM: Of course I am. I’ve actually been fortunate enough to meet the archbishop in Nigeria, and then among some of the bishops in the U.S. who are leading some of this, and I also know many of the people on the other side. In fact, the guy that God And Gold is dedicated to was an Episcopal priest who used to work with Frank Griswold, who for many years was the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. So I know all these people, and I’m indescribably unhappy. 

HH: How does the…you discuss in the book God And Gold quite a lot the difference between open religion and closed religion. How does that split of the Anglican communion fit into that paradigm?

WRM: I would actually think the model I might use for this is more the Diet Coke model, in the sense that you know, you go now to a store to buy Diet Coke. You don’t just have Diet Coke. You have Diet Coke with lemon, Diet Coke with lime, Coke Zero, Cherry Coke Zero. And I think we’re going to see Anglicanism in the same way, a lot of different…you know, you’re going to be able to select your brand of Anglicanism. Maybe overall, it increases the market share that Anglicanism has. But there’ll be different types.

HH: We’ll come back to that, because religion figures prominently throughout this book, and why Britain and America have so dominated the last three hundred years with an aside to the Dutch….

[end of relevant clip]  The whole transcript is here:
http://tinyurl.com/2sq4bm

December 31, 10:14 am | [comment link]
2. Andrew717 wrote:

Thanks for posting that William

December 31, 11:53 am | [comment link]
3. Tom Roberts wrote:

Indeed, #1 was quite good, as opposed to N Ferguson’s review. I guess book reviews tend to be flip due to length restrictions, but the superficial dismissal of Anglosphere hegemony in favor of Chinese or “energy empires” ascension to world power just shows that Mead and Ferguson disagree on history in the most basic of terms. I have trouble imagining that Ferguson has not read Mead’s other work, but Mead’s point about hegemony isn’t that the hegemonist calls all the tunes. To use a slightly out of fashion descriptor, being a “hyper power” is all that is sufficient. The hegemonist just needs to be able to prevent total defeat or unfavorable outcomes. He doesn’t have to win all the battles all the time. Think of Rome or England during the Napoleanic Wars.

December 31, 7:40 pm | [comment link]
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