Re: the comments to my last post, JR’s comment framed it in terms of colonialism, but that wasn’t the intent of my original post, although I can see why one would get that impression. But those who say culture is everything bring up examples that are independent of this. Like Weber compares the relative economic superiority (during his time) of Protestant northern Europe to Catholic southern Europe. Nothing to do with colonies. Zakaria brings up other people (including Lee Kuan Yew) who discuss examples not of people in their own country, but around the world. Chinese, Indians, and Jews do well all across the globe. Can’t really explain this phenomena by colonialism (or lack thereof) – these people attribute it to culture.
I’m with Zakaria. It’s too strong to say culture is everything. But culture clearly really really matters a whole lot. To argue otherwise requires one to ignore empirical reality. That or attribute things to myriad complex causes in lieu of the obvious simple one. And I think Ockham’s razor applies here. Culture isn’t everything, but it’s a heck of a lot.
SN. Did you know William of Ockham, for whom the razor is named, was a Franciscan priest? And that the application of his razor was theology? This is one thing that annoys me about contemporary liberal education. They’re big into contextualizing everything unless it involves religion, in which case it’s neatly edited out. In college we read Descartes, learn about Ockham’s razor, other things, and they never say how the fundamental point of their writings is theology. I’m not saying you have to believe it, but isn’t it more intellectually honest to at least talk about God if that was the main reason they were writing?