Western civilizationism and white supremacy: The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation

Henry Maher, Eda Gunaydin, Jordan Mcswiney

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4 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the intersection of discourses of ‘western civilizationism’ and white supremacy through a case study of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, a philanthropic foundation that has established undergraduate degrees in ‘western civilization’ at Australian universities. Proponents of the Centre argue there is nothing harmful about celebrating western civilization and reject any suggestion of a link between what Maher, Gunaydin and McSwiney describe as a ‘civilizationist discourse’ and racism. The authors draw on neo-racism scholarship to inform a critical discourse analysis of the Centre and supporters’ publications, demonstrating that the themes of western civilization articulated by the Centre are linked to the logics of white supremacy. Accordingly, they argue that the Ramsay Centre discourse uncritically reproduces central pillars of white supremacist ideology through its cultural essentialism and veneration of western civilization. Following Rogers Brubaker’s work on western civilizationism, they find evidence in the Centre and supporters’ output of the three themes Brubaker claims make up western civilizationism, namely, Christian identitarianism, secularism and liberalism. They also offer three additional themes—decline and renewal, academic capture and teleology—that they contend are central to the Centre’s western civilizationist discourse. In addition to the notion of civilizational clash inherent to civilizationism, the Ramsay discourse evidences an inwards turn that emphasizes the threat of cultural degeneration caused by an allegedly ‘anti-western’ internal Other. They argue that this inward turn is driven by concerns of academic capture by these anti-western elements, narratives of civilizational decline and renewal, and a teleological reading of history that situates the West as the pinnacle of civilizational development. Examining constructions of western civilization in the context of an Australian case therefore improves the representativity of the literature on civilizationism, demonstrating that it is not limited to the northern and western European far right, but can also be identified in the mainstream political discourse of settler-colonial societies such as Australia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-330
Number of pages22
JournalPatterns of Prejudice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


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