Useful Notes / The West

That extremely vaguely defined cultural, political and economic area, as in the phrases "Western democracy", "Western media" and "Western militaries". Traditionally, the European nations and former colonies have defined the world in terms of cardinal points as follows:

  • The West: Western Europe (Prroooobaably including Greece and Scandinavia, in spite of the actual geographic matters), UK, USA, Canada, and the Oceanic colonies (Which may be defined to include India and South Africa). Sometimes includes Eastern Europe and Western-affiliates in Asia such as the ROK and Japan. The North is usually lumped here (see the following section), but when mentioned separately, it usually stands for Scandinavia.
    • Alternately: Europe and the Anglosphere nations.
  • The East: Nowadays usually means Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, sometimes includes Russia and the Indian sub-continent. In older times (Middle Ages through about the 19th Century) its use in Europe denoted anywhere past the traditionally Christian areas of the Balkans, leading to two or three subdivisions (Eurocentric, since the "Near", "Middle", and "Far" terms are in relation to Europe):
    • The Near East/The Middle East: Depending on which Western country you were in and what year it was, one or both of these terms may have been used to maybe denote the same area or neighboring but distinct ones. The British Foreign Office in the 19th Century drew them up as two distinct (though possibly overlapping) areas, with Near East being whatever parts that were ruled by the Ottoman Empire (including its possessions in the Balkans, North Africa, and Mesopotamia); the term "Middle East" got greater attention in 1902 thanks to American naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan, who defined it as between the Arabian Peninsula and India (this definition includes what is generally called Central Asia nowadays - at the time the British and Russian Empires were playing their Great Game for Afghanistan).
    • The Far East: Pretty much always a distinct subset of the historical East, the terms is at least as old as the 16th Century (King John III of Portugal used it to describe India). Almost always includes China and those heavily influenced by Chinese culture (definitely Japan and Korea, frequently Mongolia and Vietnam), usually also includes (the rest of) Southeast Asia as far south as Indonesia, sometimes includes the Russian Far East (though not all of Russia) and the Indian subcontinent.

Essentially, Western nations are those founded on Greco-Roman philosophical and scientific traditions.

Of course, The West is not one uniform entity and there are considerable variations in world view and media within. The USA is notably different from many of the countries of Europe, with constitutional prohibitions on government interference in church operations, rather than a state religion that no one pays attention to anymore. It also has the death penalty, along with other views that are seen as extremist in much of Europe, and Canada (and vice-versa).

Modern scholars do use the East and West terms, but are just as likely to talk about "the North" and "the South," meaning what used to be called the "developed world" (the West, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Australia, etc.) and the "developing world" (everything else) respectively. At the start of the Cold War, the whole "East vs. West" thing took on an ideological flavor with the East being the communists (the Soviet Union and China following the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War) and the West being the capitalists (the United States and Western Europe). The Three Worlds Theory ("First World" the West(-aligned), "Second World" the communist countries, "Third World" everyone else and economically undeveloped) arose alongside it in academic circles, but as time went on following the collapse of the Soviet Union (and thus the "Second World" disappeared) a related but more cardinal-direction division of the world took hold with the idea of a "Global South" and "Global North".

  • The South will usually mean at least Latin America (sometimes considered West due to its partially Western cultural heritage and its close ties with the United States); adding Sub-Saharan Africa and developing countries in Asia (including those in the Middle East) is what makes this South Global. Antarctica is not a part of the South, nor are Australia or New Zealand. The "Global South" concept has had more use in practice (for instance "South-South cooperation", which refers to cooperation between two countries both considered developing economies rather than a developing country working with an already-developed one).
  • There really isn't as much of a North in this parlance, whatever the Ninth Doctor may state.

Not to be confused with The Wild West.