Is Latin America part of "the West"?

A few years ago a guy from somewhere in South America posted a tangent in a topic here which got no response.

He had recently read Samuel Huntington’s book “The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of the New World Order” (really, it does sound like the title of a He-man and the Masters of the Universe movie) and was admittedly horrified to discover that his home country and indeed all of South and Central America where not considered part of “the West”, despite:

  1. having been established as European colonies;
  2. having the same institutions as European countries.

Any thoughts?

I think so, if only for linguistic and religious reasons. Peru, Paraguay and Bolivia ‘feel’ much more Western than (say) Thailand, Vietnam or China.

Haven’t read the Huntington, but I bet what he was referring to was not the Cold War East/West divide, but the post-Cold-War North-South divide espoused by many poli-sci types. In this jargon, “North” refers to the increasingly post-industrial G-8 countries and their ilk, versus the less-prosperous “South,” consisting of industrializing and modernizing “Second World” nations and the world’s remaining basket cases, previously known as “the Third World”.

I believe that the use of “the West” is a fairly recent one. Up to the mid-nineteenth century, people generally used “Christendom” to indicate European civilization plus the area colonized by Europeans, and their descendants. Since that meant literally “the Christian world”, it obviously included Latin America. I’ve always assumed that “western civilization” was a generic term adopted to reflect the increasing secularization of our civilization. Others disagree, of course. In his book The Death of the West, Pat Buchanan claims that rising populations in Latin America threaten “the West”.

We lack a concise definition for what constitutes “the West” in the modern world. I suppose that centuries ago we might have called it Christendom, but that term has religious overtones and the spread of Christianity into Africa and Asia severely limits its geopolitical utility. Lacking a better method, I might tentatively define “the West” as those cultures and societies which trace their descent in part to the Western Roman Empire. It’s not a perfect definition, but it’s functional enough for me.

In which case, Spain and Portugal are certainly “the West,” and former colonies of those two nations would be the same. In tracing cultural ties back to Really Old Europe, we’ll both end up on the same side of the family tree, so to speak.

No, Huntington regards South and Central American as having a distinct “Latin” civilisation, distinguised from the West.