The West (as a concept)
In this debate, I intend to challenge the widespread belief in the existence of something called "western world", which comprises, exclusively, the nations of the western half of Europe, plus the Anglo-Saxon part of the Americas and Oceania.
I want to prove that there isn't a single element that can define the west while excluding all the rest of the world as a whole.
Since my intention is to disprove the definition of the west, I'll let my opponent provide such definition which in turn will be challenged by me.
I hope to provide an entertaining debate, that hopefully will instigate a broader discussion on this subject.
Thank you to Con for this debate. I've heard this complaint about "the West" a few times in real life lately and so it will be good to clear up the issue once and for all.
"The West" originally referred to Western Europe, but after the age of European colonization, the idea was extended to include the countries colonized by Western Europe, where the the colonizers achieved and maintained a racial majority and cultural control.
For instance, Australia and New Zealand were colonized by Great Britain. English became the dominant language, and the majority of citizens are British descendants. Therefore, Australia and New Zealand are part of "the West" even though they are physically closer to Asia than Europe. The same can be said for the USA and Canada.
A lot of countries were colonized, but the invaders never achieved a population majority - India is a good example of this, and Indonesia. These countries are therefore not Western.
There are no French, Belgian, Dutch or German colonies where the invaders replaced the original population to the extent that the new culture could be called Western, as far as I know.
For instance, although Algeria was occupied by the French for over a century, nowadays 99% of the population is ethnically Arab-Berber. (1) South Africa was colonized for a long time by the Dutch and the British, but racially the population has always maintained an African majority (2), and so South Africa is not part of "the West".
The most notable non-European countries that are counted as "western" are all English speaking.
The West and Latin America
I think that disagreement about definitions of "the West" comes about in relation to Latin America.
If Spain and Portugal are part of Western Europe, then according to my definition above, most of Central and South America should be counted as Western, and they often aren't. Many countries in Latin America - such as Bolivia (3) - do not show a clear European cultural dominance, and so they wouldn't be counted as Western anyway. However, in others, notably Argentina (4), the original population was wiped out almost as completely as it was in countries like the USA and Australia.
However, Spain and Portugal are not always included in definitions Western Europe. For instance, Eurovoc does not include them in its definition of Western Europe (5), but rather in Southern Europe (6).
When I say not always, of course, they are sometimes included in the term Western Europe (for example, on this WTO report (7)). Therefore, I think that the term "western europe" is not fixed, but changes by context.
Similarly, I have sometimes heard people refer to South America as part of "the West". This too changes by context.
When Western Europe is defined along the lines set out in Eurovoc (5), then "the West" includes Western Europe and all colonies and ex-colonies of Western Europe where a clear cultural and racial majority was maintained by the European occupiers.
I thank you pro, for accepting my challenge.
boundaries and prototypes
People can categorize things in different ways. Two main ways are by boundaries or by prototypes.
I would like to reference a book here, and because it may not be available to everyone online, I will quote the relevant paragraphs. Blount is discussing an influential study in the field of cognitive anthropology, which investigated the way cultures partition and label the color spectrum differently.
"Each individual was shown the color spectrum as illustrated on a chart containing "chips" (small squares), and was asked to draw on an acetate overlay a line around the range of the chips for each color term in their language, thereby illustrating a boundary. In addition, they were asked to identify the chip that was the best representative of the color indicated by the term, giving a focal point. The results were interesting. Individuals speaking the same language did not draw boundary lines consistently, and across time the same individual did not replicate accurately ther original boundary line. By contrast, the agreement on the focal color was much more consistent, both across individuals and by the same individual at different times. Cultural influence was on focal salience to a considerably greater extent than on boundaries.
The result of immediate interest here is that the reliance of speakers on focal salience raises the questions aout how domains and their classification are to be characterized. If they are not defined by boundaries, then what is the basis or bases for domain identification? Focal salience indicates that the color domain is partitioned...by focality, a relationship to central representative "objects" in this case focal color. This type of object and domain relationship eventually came to be called prototypes, in which a prototypical object becomes the focal point for domain membership of other, related objects."  pg.16
Thus, people may have a good idea about what "green" and "blue" are, but there is variation (even individual variation) in exactly where the boundary is drawn so that blue is on one side and green is on the other. There is a band of bluey-green and greeny-blue shades in between.
This does not mean, as Pro suggests, that green and blue are "fundamentally subjective" ideas. It just means that we define color in terms of closeness to a prototype rather than in terms of distinct boundaries.
In the same way, we recognize India, Pakistan and China as real countries that exist, even though the dispute over the borders in the Kashmir region have been going on for decades now. 
drawing boundaries and making formal rules about categories
Imagine we worked in some kind of industrial environment where items needed to be categorized as "green" or "blue" and we wanted to reduce variation and confusion in the way this categorization was done. The simplest way is to make a rule, such as wavelengths bigger or equal to 500 nm are green, smaller than 500nm are blue. And all the workers are obliged to comply.
In a different context, say, if we were concerned about color purity, we could define the wavelength ranges for blue and green more narrowly, cutting out entirely the cyan range in the middle.
These rules about boundaries are to some extent arbitrary, but nevertheless blue and green are real concepts, and there is a real difference between them.
the West is a prototype category
When people talk about "western society" they are talking about the beliefs, habits, norms and behaviors that are common to a particular and large group of people, and which correspond to particular geographical territories. Some members of this group are more obvious than others. For example, people in the US and UK are definitely part of western society.
Others are less obvious. What about people in Greece and Brazil? Are they western or not? Harder to say immediately, (although I think not). As I said before, those boundaries may shift, but the prototypes do not.
In the resolution, Pro does not set out a prototypical definition of "the West" but rather defines the boundaries: "the nations of the western half of Europe, plus the Anglo-Saxon part of the Americas and Oceania."
He has called on me to justify these boundaries.
As I said in the previous round, they are consistent with Western Europe as defined by Eurovoc, as well as any colonies or ex-colonies of Western Europe where the occupiers have imposed and maintained cultural domination and a racial majority.
Because the concept of The West is prototypical rather than bounded, there may be disagreement over the exact placement of the boundaries. However, by no means does this "challenge the widespread belief in the existence of something called 'western world'" as Pro claims in round 1.
In the last round, Pro brings an interesting element to discussion. Her idea of boundaries and prototypes seem quite convincing at first sight, but, with a deeper analysis, it’s not difficult to realize that those concepts can’t explain the idea of the West the same way they can explain colors, simply because, while you have objective ways of describing colors, especially those core prototypes, that can be objectively defined as “blue” or “green” without arbitrariness.
Thank you to Con for this interesting debate on the existence of "the West". Actually, I wish the debate were a bit longer, because there are more elements to discuss I think, but we're already at the final round.
In round 1, Con challenged the existence of the Western World. He argued that because the boundaries of "the West" cannot be easily defined, that its very existence be called into question.
However, as I have explained, "the West" is a prototypical category rather than a bounded one. Even though its borders are difficult to define in absolute terms, it still exists.
Lots of categories are prototypical rather than bounded. For example, "nerds" and "Asians" are prototypical categories. We all know nerds and Asians when we see them, and some people are obviously neither, yet a distinct and absolute boundary between "nerds" and "not nerds", for example, would be controversial and difficult to define.
The Western World
Last round, I explained that "the Western World" refers to the beliefs, habits, norms and behaviors that are common to a particular and large group of people - to a general culture, in other words.
Con has criticized this because, he says, no single element of culture is definitive of "the West". He gives examples of religion, language, economy, politics, race and ideology.
It's an interesting argument, which echoes argument I've heard before that there is no such thing as culture. And to some extent, this is true. Culture is not a thing that roams about the globe affecting people. Rather, there are individuals, and individuals who live in close proximity to each other tend to behave and think in compatible or similar ways, but it's only an outsider who will look at patterns of behavior and label it as culture. Some people have gone so far to suggest that the idea of culture only exists in relation to an out-group of some kind.
We can see elements of this in relation to the definition of "the Western World". Even using the term brings to mind the existence of countries and people who are not in "the West". Often the term is deliberately used to exclude them. For instance, you might hear someone say, "In Western Society, women often leave home and live by themselves or with friends before they get married." What that person means is that it may not be acceptable for a woman to do so in other societies.
Pro's argument would be that this characteristic does not define the Western World, that there are other countries where women tend to to the same. This is true. It's kind of like my example of nerds before. Nerds aren't the only ones to get good marks, be interested in technology, read books for pleasure, have bad hair and use pocket protectors. All those qualities can be observed in the population as a whole. Nevertheless, it's a particular combination of qualities, behaviors and social associations that makes a person identifiable as a nerd.
The West really does exist
The West exists in the same way as the Middle East exists. The Middle East can be categorized in any number of ways (1,2,3,4). Cyrus, Egypt, Sudan, Pakestan, and Afghanistan may or may not be included, for example, not to mention Palestine/the West Bank/Gaza (I'm totally confused about how to refer to it, having been told off both ways now).
Nevertheless, it is a real concept. It would be ridiculous and laborsome to refer to a list of countries every time we wanted to talk about politics or society in the region. It's reasonable to group countries together that share similar qualities and refer to them as a group.
The countries of Western Europe (including the UK), the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, have lots of social qualities in common (due to historical and genetic ties) and are often aligned politically, so it is sometimes convenient to be able to refer to them as a category.
Subjectivity and categories
Con has said several times that the West is a "subjective" category. I suggest that all categories are subjective, to some extent. For example, to go back to the color analogy, the category of "green" comprises an infinite array of wavelengths (eg, 5). It's "subjective" and "arbitary" to create a category called "green" and to communicate that category with other humans. The same is true with other prototypical categories such as "fruit" and "furry things".
These categories only exist to the extent that we believe in them, as Con says. Nevertheless, I suggest that these categories are real in a human sense. After all, there is no reality except that which we perceive and share. We perceive and share the idea of "green" and also the idea of "the West". If we accept that our shared perceptions of reality count for something (a fairly basic assumption) then we can accept that the West does indeed exist.
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