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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 223

Why has the West assumed such a dominant role in the world today? Is the West a force for good? If it is, why do many other countries, particularly in Asia and the Arab world, resent Western influence in their affairs?

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Are Western democracy and capitalism always the best ways to organize human society, or might other ways be equally valid? If so, what might those ways be, and in what situations might they work? (You might want to consider tribalism, socialism, communism, monarchy, and/or dictatorship.)

Is Toynbee’s law of challenge-and-response an adequate explanation of the genesis of civilizations? According to Toynbee’s law, a difficult environment is more conducive to growth than an easy one. Might such a law apply in the lives of individuals, too? Can you list any examples from your own life when hardship produced more success than ease might have done?

Explore Toynbee’s law of withdrawal and return in the lives of creative people. He gives examples from the lives of seven great men: St. Paul, St. Benedict, St. Gregory the Great, the Buddha, Muhammad, Machiavelli, and Dante. Research two more historical figures and show how the same law operated to produce some of their significant achievements. Also, think of achievements in your own life. Was a rhythm of withdrawal and return operating there, too?

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