The lecture will first offer a brief genealogy of the idea of “the West” as a socio-political idea. The different uses of the term throughout its history will be analyzed and the contexts and reasons for its several metamorphoses will be scrutinized. The differences between the employment of “the West” in English and “l’Occident” in French will be focused on and the impact of French on English uses will be explored. Then the lecture will focus on the most explicit, thorough and systematic elaboration of a concrete idea of “the West” as a self-description (in preference to “Europe” or “Christendom”) and as a political project, in the mid-nineteenth century — with particular emphasis on the thought of the founder of Positivism and Sociology, Auguste Comte. Finally, the lecture will highlight the prominent role of the city of Paris in that story.
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