An important teaching of Hegelian philosophy developed in the nineteenth century was that the march of history proceeds in a dialectic which begins with a “thesis,” followed by an “antithesis.” Progress is achieved through a coming together or “synthesis,” which transcends the conflict between the opposing forces.
Before the fifteenth century, Europe and Asia were in a state of synthesis. They were one continent: Eurasia. At least till the rise of the Greek civilization in the sixth century BC, Europe was Eurasia’s backwater. Europe’s economy was smaller than the economies of India and China until 1450. Most technological innovations before the thirteenth century took place in Asia and North Africa. The major European religions, including Paganism and Christianity, were born in Asia.
In the fifteenth century, Europe (particularly Western Europe) freed itself from Eurasia—it became an independent and warlike entity. From the fifteenth century to 1950 (the end of the Colonial Empires), Europe was the thesis, and Asia was the antithesis. The Europeans went on a rampage, forcing many nations to accept the European thesis. They destroyed several primitive cultures and radically transformed those that they could not destroy.
In the twenty-first century, European or Western civilization has lost its momentum. The European thesis can no longer counter the Asian antithesis. Asia is on the rise. After 1960, some of the major centers of Western intellectualism and political power have come under the control of Asian and other non-Western cultures. This trend will continue in the twenty-first century.
The European thesis had manifested itself in the form of European imperialism which led to a clash of civilizations. This was history’s new dialectic. In the first 350 years of this new dialectic, the European thesis has dominated the world. But the unintended consequence of imperialism, and the clash of civilizations that it inspired, was the rise of nationalistic movements in several nations. The West does not have the power to end the clash.
According to the rules of Hegelian dialectic, the clash will not end until there is a synthesis of the opposing forces. A synthesis means a decline of Western civilization. The former colonial masters are in the process of becoming colonized. By the middle of the twenty-first century, Asia will take control of the West. The next 350 years will belong to Asia.