Coming Closer to the Truth
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Vladislav Inozemtsev

PhD in Economics; he is Head of the Department of World Economy at the Faculty of Public Administration, Lomonosov Moscow State University, and Director of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies.

What’s So Great About America by Dinesh D’Souza//: Regnery
Publishing Inc., Wash. (DC) 2002. XIV+218 pp.

Vladislav Inozemtsev – Doctor of Science (Economics), Director
of Research of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies; Chairman of
the Board of Advisors of the Russia in Global Affairs

Over the year that has passed since the tragic day of September
11th dozens, if not hundreds, of books analyzing the causes and
consequences of that desperate and cruel challenge to the U.S.
hegemony have appeared throughout the world. The book by Dinesh
D’Souza, a leading home policy expert in Ronald Reagan’s second
administration and an influential analyst at the American Institute
of Business occupies a special place in that stream of literature.
It can justifiably be considered an outstanding event on the U.S.
social scene in 2002. This does not mean that the analysis it
offers has no drawbacks, yet the study is clearly distinguished by
a bold search for the truth.

Essentially, the book deals with the unique American model of
social development and the United States’ special role in the
modern world. “The genuine patriot loves his country not only
because it is his, but also because it is good,” the author writes.
At the same time D’Souza analyzes the causes of a negative attitude
to the American model in various regions of the world and in
America itself. In doing this, he singles out three current
attitudes that differ radically.

First, a skeptical attitude to Americanization is widespread in
Europe and South-East Asia. Incidentally, this attitude is not
hostile at all – it merely reflects disagreement with the idea of
global domination by one nation. This view is augmented by a sense
of threat posed by Americanization to national languages,
traditions and cultures. Moreover, in Asia people believe that the
West is paying too much attention to economic problems to the
detriment of culture and morals.

Second, there is the Muslim “criticism” of Westernization based
on “the Islamic argument that the West is based on principles which
are radically different from those of traditional societies”
(p.19). Strictly speaking, this is not criticism per se – this is a
total rejection of the very essence of Western civilization.

Third, there is the attitude of some Western, including
American, intellectuals that stand out separately. These people
hold that the United States should be considered the source of
world evil and that a new world order should be established. The
author does not share this view – he is confident that America is
exerting a beneficial influence on world processes.

D’Souza finds an explanation for the West’s unique role in the
modern world in the history of Western civilization. But by
equating the West with America the author considerably narrows the
possibilities of his extremely fruitful approach in general. His
arguments about the advantages of Western civilization are thus
turning into an apology for the American society, which somewhat
devalues the book’s general content.

Following the tradition that has taken shape in Western
sociology, the author notes that, historically, the opposition of
Western civilization to Islam is the most important confrontation
the West has ever participated in. “Islam and Christianity,”
D’Souza writes, “are the only two religions that can truly be
called universal.” They “clashed not because they failed to
understand each other but because they understood each other
perfectly well” (pp. 12-13; 88-89). These arguments are strikingly
similar to the conclusions made by Samuel Huntington.

Up to the 14th-15th centuries, D’Souza maintains, Western
civilization could hardly be considered dominant. But then, what
had really turned the West into the main locomotive of social
progress? Actually, it was only Christianity that declared that man
could and even should participate in implementing God’s will. “The
idea of progress [has thus become] a secular expression of the idea
of providence” (p. 64). The firm belief that man is predestined to
actively participate in carrying through a divine plan helped the
West to become “an open civilization” (p. 50) extremely susceptible
to the achievements of other cultures.

So, in a Western society man is given the opportunities and the
right to speed up progress by a rational use of knowledge obtained
through experience. On this basis, D’Souza formulates his key idea
– he believes that it is Western civilization alone that has a
legitimate basis for an external expansion. The Indian-born scholar
gives an accurate and unbiased assessment of the history of Western
colonization, and this can only cause surprise and admiration.

D’Souza reminds the reader that colonialism is far from being a
Western invention. Most of the known empires emerged in the East
and it was they who set their eyes on the West. He sharply and
ironically criticizes many advocates of the “oppression theory” who
believe that the West’s current prosperity is based on its plunder
of the South (p. 47). “Colonialism and imperialism,” he writes,
“are not the causes of the West’s success; they are the result of
that success” (p. 66). The author proves that Western colonization
gave a push to the development of modern statehood in the Third
World, facilitated economic progress in the colonies and also
transformed the way of thinking in peripheral nations. The latter
factor actually allowed the colonized peoples to resort to Western
methods in their victorious struggle for independence.

It may well be that Dinesh D’Souza’s book is the only
constructive answer so far to the ideology of multiculturalism
widespread in the Western world today. The author sees no reason
for refusing in shame to recognize Europe as the main motor of
progress in the period between the 16th and 19th centuries. He
urges the reader to remember that “the vast majority of Muslims are
not terrorists” and never to forget the irrefutable fact that “the
vast majority of terrorists are Muslims” (p. 9).

At the same time D’Souza does not call into question the
intrinsic value and non-transient importance of non-Western
civilizations. He only stresses that humankind as a whole cannot
and will not be able to further advance without having a starting
point or a benchmark to keep one’s bearings.

Equality and meritocracy are considered the main principles of
the American social establishment today. “In the United States,”
D’Souza emphasizes, “the social ethic is egalitarian, and this is
unaffected by the inequalities of wealth in the country” (p. 78).
Moreover, in America people who become wealthy on their own enjoy
the highest respect. Whatever shortcomings D’Souza finds in
American reality, “America is the greatest, freest, and most decent
society in existence. It is an oasis of goodness in a desert of
cynicism and barbarism” (p. 193). The reader may share or reject
this viewpoint, but in any case he or she should acknowledge that
the author upholds American values and principles unequivocally and

Assessing racial tensions in modern America, D’Souza arrives at
the conclusion that Afro-Americans, despite their centuries-long
life experience in that country, are a part of the American society
more alien to it than recent Indian, Mexican, Chinese or Russian
arrivals. Back at the time of the British colonies in America, it
was believed that Negroes deserved their forceful exclusion from
society, whereas all the rest deserved their forceful inclusion in
it. Today, however, Afro-Americans do not wish themselves to
integrate into the society that once rejected them. The psychology
of American immigrants differs from that of Afro-Americans – as
distinct from the new settlers, the latter are confident that the
United States is far from being a Garden of Eden. The former
forceful exclusion of Blacks was replaced by a non-coercive
exclusion which has proved to be even more dangerous and
insurmountable. To remedy the situation, the age-old American
principles of equality and meritocracy should be followed more
consistently. The “reparation policy” Afro-Americans have actually
forced the U.S. government into in recent decades will not yield

Many of D’Souza’s conclusions seem paradoxical at first sight.
Yet his book is a rare example of an exceptionally consistent
social analysis. America’s experience, whatever its future history
may be, shows that recognition of the principle of meritocracy, if
only it does not infringe on the principle of equality, cannot
result in inequality. This is the principle underlying the
greatness of America. Any attempt to reinterpret or reject it
requires an adequate assessment of all the ensuing