The word Anglosphere describes a concept of a group of anglophone (English-speaking) nations which share historical, political, and cultural characteristics rooted in or attributed to the historical experience of the United Kingdom. Its definition varies with the different authors who have put it forward.
The term is usually attributed to science fiction writer Neal Stephenson, used in his 1995 novel The Diamond Age. Its first published use after this was in an article by James C. Bennett entitled "Canada's World Advantage. The term "Anglophonie" is used rarely, usually in contradistinction to Francophonie, but is more common in other languages.
The term incorporates ideas about history
, legal systems
, and economics
, and has no clear definition.
According to Bennett, "the Anglosphere is not a club that a person or nation can join or be excluded from, but a condition or status on a network", and
... as a network civilization... without a corresponding political form, has necessarily imprecise boundaries. Geographically, the densest nodes of the Anglosphere are found in the United States and the United Kingdom, while Anglophone regions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and South Africa are powerful and populous outliers. The educated English-speaking populations of the Caribbean, Oceania, Africa and India pertain to the Anglosphere to various degrees.
Bennett also writes:
''Anglospherism is assuredly not the racialist Anglo-Saxonism dating from the era around 1900, nor the sentimental attachment of the Anglo-American Special Relationship of the decades before and after World War II.... Anglo-Saxonism relied on underlying assumptions of an Anglo-Saxon race, and sought to unite racial "cousins".... Anglospherism is based on the intellectual understanding of the roots of both successful market economies and constitutional democracies in strong civil society.
Historian Robert Conquest has also promoted the concept. John Ibbitson of the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail identified five core English-speaking countries with common sociopolitical heritage and goals: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
A leading advocate of the importance for contemporary international relations of a concept of Anglosphere is James C. Bennett
, founder of The Anglosphere Institute
. His book The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century
(ISBN 0-7425-3332-8), published in 2004, is an extended exposition of his version of the concept.
The Andrew Roberts book A History of the English Speaking Peoples since 1900 specifically references Bennett's book and the Anglosphere, and promotes a "united we stand, divided we fall" ethos for the English-speaking world.
The Anglosphere as a concept has attracted some debate. Critical views overlap, and also extend over a number of schools of thought.
Due to the global spread of nations considered to be part of the Anglosphere, regionalists
have an incompatible view of how countries should form relationships, which is based on geographical locality
rather than shared culture or history. They believe that regionalist organisations such as the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement
, the European Union
for the United Kingdom and Ireland or Oceania
and the Asia-Pacific
for Australia and New Zealand are preferable to an Anglosphere.
Regionalists tend to be on the left wing. In the United States they tend to favour immigration from South and Central America. Left-wing critics often view the Anglospheric countries as representing a type of cultural conservatism and economic liberalism, which they believe should be avoided. Some also believe that focusing on cultural similarities rather than geographical proximity is a type of indirect racism, as culturally similar people tend to have common ancestry and, therefore, ethnicity. This criticism has also been levelled at regionalism as nearby countries also tend to be racially similar.
Michael Ignatieff has written that the term overstates the similarities of the United States and the UK, and understates the similarities of, and the connections between, the UK and continental Europe.
The Anglosphere challenge
The Anglosphere challenge is a term developed in the book The Anglosphere Challenge written by James C. Bennett. It actually refers to two separate challenges:
- The social challenge facing the Anglosphere as it deals with rapid technological change -- a technological singularity.
- The geopolitical challenge faced by the rest of the world in keeping up economically and socially with an Anglosphere culture uniquely adapted to rapid change and decentralized decision-making.
The historical facts which substantiate the existence of these two challenges are presented in a number of documents including the Anglosphere Primer, the Anglosphere Challenge book, and a refinement of the argument in a pamphlet on the The Third Anglosphere Century on the subject from the Heritage Foundation.
The argument for the Anglosphere challenge
- Exceptionalism -- the English-speaking, common law countries have a culture which draws on very old Anglo-Saxon traditions of individualism. Records of such individualism, both in law and society, go back as far as written records exist, certainly before the Norman invasion of England in 1066. It is that ancient habit of co-operative behaviour and decentralization of English (then British, then Anglospheric) society that has given the Anglosphere a military, economic, scientific, and social advantage over the last two centuries, when compared with other cultural and national traditions. Those habits are supported by the modern common law legal systems and by centuries of traditional separation of powers.
- Technological Singularity -- the pace of technological change, supported by scientific discovery, now relentlessly challenges established systems of political control and decision-making. At some point, the pace will outrun our capacity to anticipate the medium- or long-term future.
- Network Commonwealth -- In Anglosphere cultures, individuals and political entities have a long tradition of spontaneously forming networks of common interest and high trust with strangers. Under conditions of stress triggered by rapid technological and social change, these "network commonwealths" will offer powerful and effective alternatives to established systems of information collection and decision-making. Anglosphere innovation in the movement of ideas, technology and capital exist at the individual, local and governmental levels.
Bennett believes that the spontaneous deployment of network commonwealths in the Anglosphere will alleviate the disruption of any Technological Singularity. Similarly, the "wisdom of crowds" benefits provided by network commonwealths will ensure that the Anglosphere will, as the subtitle of his book proclaims, "lead the way in the twenty-first century."
Response to the Anglosphere challenge
Commentators on the rise of China (the Sinosphere) have referenced China's goal of surpassing the Anglosphere and the concern that the Anglosphere will take steps to halt that effort.
- Ankerl, Guy Global communication without universal civilization. Geneva: INU Press.
- Bennett, James C., The emerging Anglosphere in 'Orbis', Volume 46, Issue 1, Winter 2002, Pages 111-126
- Bennett, James C., The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century, Rowman & Littlefield, New York, 2004.
- Bennett, James C., The Third Anglosphere Century: The English-Speaking World in an Era of Transition Heritage Foundation, 2007. 119 pp.
- Burk, Kathleen, Old World, New World: Great Britain and America from the Beginning, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 2004.
- Conquest, Robert, Reflections on a Ravaged Century, Norton, New York, 1999.
- Conquest, Robert, The Anglosphere, New York Review of Books, Volume 47, Number 8 · May 11, 2000.
- Hitchens, Christopher, An Anglosphere Future, City Journal, Autumn 2007.
- Mead, Walter Russell, God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World, Knopf New York 2007