Somebody Else's Century

East and West in a Post-Western World

by Patrick Smith

From one of our foremost experts on Asia and its history comes this brilliant dissection of the relationship between East and West.
In three succinct essays, Patrick Smith investigates the East’s endeavor to adopt Western technology and all that we consider modern. He underscores a crucial distinction between modernization (the simple emulation of the West) and the true task of “becoming modern.” He examines the strategies that three prominent cultures—those of Japan, China, and India—evolved as they encountered materialistic foreign cultures and imported ideas while defending their own traditions. The result, Smith explains, has often been called “doubling”—a division of the self wherein Asians are receptive to Western products and ideas but simultaneously reject these same imports to emphasize the validity of the “unmodern.”
Employing an exceptional combination of reflection and reportage, Smith also examines the often troubled relationship Asians have with history as a result of their encounters with the West. Finally, he considers Asia’s twenty-first-century attempt to define itself without reference to the West for the first time in modern history. The author foresees a new balance in the East-West dialogue—one in which the East transcends old ideals of nationhood (another Western import). Smith asserts that there are fundamental lessons in Asia’s long struggle with the modern: In the twenty-first century, the East will challenge the West just as the West once challenged the East.
This is a book of exceptional significance and extraordinary depth.

  • Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group; August 2010
  • ISBN: 9780307379320
  • Read online, or download in secure ePub format
  • Title: Somebody Else's Century
  • Author: Patrick Smith
  • Imprint: Pantheon

In The Press

“This thoughtful and highly original meditation on the future of Asian societies should be required reading for anyone interested in where our planet is heading.”
—Chalmers Johnson, author of Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire
“[There are] paradoxes aplenty within this serene, astute book, which will invite much discussion.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Ruminative and high-toned…A gift-box of suggestions, it could push thinking about Asia into a deeper dimension.” –Time Magazine

“The great human and strategic subject of the next generation will be the interaction between Asian societies increasingly confident of their achievements, prerogatives, and power, and Westerners increasingly nervous on the same score. Patrick Smith’s decades of immersion in the variety of Asian life give him an original, elegantly wrought, and important perspective on this change. Even when I disagreed with his conclusions I found myself thinking about the rich and careful way he makes his case. I am very glad to have read this book.”
—James Fallows, author of Postcards from Tomorrow Square: Reports from China

“Searching and philosophical…offers a valuable intellectual frame for approaching the evolving relationship between the East and the West.”
—Publishers Weekly

"Thoroughly absorbing…The writing is more poetic in tone than political, a gentle hand-holding, guiding readers from past to present." –Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Written from the perspective of an author that travels the world in search of something and comes back with just as many questions as he might have found answers…Kudos to Patrick for this. It's definitely a book for the history books.” –Cyrus Webb, host of Conversations LIVE! Radio

An extraordinary work whose thesis is grounded in the realities of day-to-day Asian life…Somebody Else’s Century is worth reading, particularly for those interested in East Asian studies.” –Harvard Political Review

“Thoughtful…this volume is concise, lucid, erudite, lively and a delight to read.” –The Asian Review of Books
“Insightful.” –South China Morning Post

About The Author

Patrick Smith is the author of The Nippon Challenge and Japan: A Reinterpretation, which won the Overseas Press Club Award and the Kiriyama Prize. He has written for the International Herald Tribune, The New Yorker, The Nation, BusinessWeek, The Economist, The Far Eastern Economic Review, and The Washington Quarterly, among other publications. He lives in Hong Kong and New York.