The Probable Development of a Common World-Culture

With increasing centralisation operated through a World-State, and the increase of uniformity of process and functions as the World-State intervenes in the political, economic, legislative, judicial and cultural aspects of the various nations, Sri Aurobindo notes that he expects there would develop a common world-culture.  His insights have been amply supported in the intervening 100 years or so by the facts.  The rise of global travel and communications, the pervasive influence of television and radio to deliver cultural images and values around the world, and the rise of the commercialism that characterises so much of Western culture, we have seen a blending and smoothing of cultural differences.  The resultant culture is not all Western or Eastern, as there are also cultural flows moving into Western society from the cultures of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.  Many of these strands, however, are subordinated to the larger impact of science and commerce as defined through Western civilisation.  it remains to be seen which ones survive and thrive in this environment and become integrated parts of the larger amalgam that will result.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “Uniformity is becoming more and more the law of the world; it is becoming more and more difficult, in spite of sentiment and in spite of conscious efforts of conservation and revival, for local individualities to survive.  But the triumph of uniformity would naturally make for centralisation; the radical incentive to separateness would disappear.  And centralisation once accomplished would in turn make for a more complete uniformity.  Such decentralisation as might be indispensable in a uniform humanity would be needed for convenience of administration, not on the ground of true separative variations.  Once the national sentiment has gone under before a dominant internationalism, large questions of culture and race would be the only grounds left for the preservation of a strong though subordinate principle of separation in the World-State.  But difference of culture is quite as much threatened today as any other more outward principle of group variation.  The differences between the European nations are simply minor variations  of a common occidental culture.  And now that Science, that great power for uniformity of thought and life and method, is becoming more and more the greater part and threatens to become the whole of culture and life, the importance of these variations is likely to decrease.  The only radical difference that still exists is between the mind of the Occident and the mind of the Orient.  But here too Asia is undergoing the shock of Europeanism and Europe is beginning to feel, however slightly, the reflux of Asiaticism.  A common world-culture is the most probable outcome.  The valid objection to centralisation will then be greatly diminished in force, if not removed altogether.  Race-sense is perhaps a stronger obstacle because it is more irrational; but this too may be removed by the closer intellectual, cultural and physical intercourse which is inevitable in the not distant future.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 26, The Need of Administrative Unity, pp. 232-233