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The West and Islam: Religion and Political Thought in World History [Hardcover]

Antony Black
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: £59.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

17 Jan 2008
This comparative history of political thought examines what the Western and Islamic approaches to politics had in common and where they diverged. The book considers how various ancient and medieval thought-patterns did or did not lead to modern developments; and how sacred monarchy, the legitimacy of the state, and the role of the people were looked upon in each culture. The author focuses on the period from the rise of Islam to the European Reformation, but his analysis extends to the main genres of political thought up to the present. He argues that until the mid-eleventh century, Europe, Islam, and the Byzantine world had more in common than is commonly thought. What made the West different was the papal revolution of the late eleventh century, Europe's twelfth-century 'renaissance', and the gradual secularization of political thought which followed. At the same time, Islam, after an early blossoming, interpreted its own revelation more and more narrowly. This volume throws light on why the West and Islam each developed their own particular kind of approach to government, politics and the state, and on why these are so different.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 204 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (17 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199533202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199533206
  • Product Dimensions: 1.7 x 16.2 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,076,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Antony Black is Professor Emeritus in the History of Political Thought, School of Humanities, University of Dundee. He was Lecturer in Politics at University of Dundee from 1963 until retirement in 2000. 1975-76 Visiting Associate Professor, School of Government and Public Administration, The American University, Washington DC., USA. 1980-81 Senior Research Fellow, Nuffield Foundation. March-April 1993 Visiting Professor, Faculty of Jurisprudence, University of Trento, Italy. 1993-7. Head of Dept. of Politics 1995-9 Book Review Editor of Early Modern History: Contacts, Contrasts and Comparisons (Brill).

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This book is primarily about the West and Islam. Read the first page
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By docread
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
One of the greatest conundrums of World History is to explain how Islam and Western Christendom,two Civilizations that share the common roots of Abrahamic monotheism and Greek Philosophy have ended up with such radically different political legacies.This original scholarly essay of comparative political theory attempts to elucidate some of the reasons behind their divergent paths.But it also touches on the Byzantine orthodox tradition of Caesaropapism which has influenced the Russian state ideology to this day.
In early Christianity there was a distinct separation between the realms of the spiritual and the temporal,whereas at the outset Islam fused within a single political framework both religious and secular power that was buttressed by an immutable sacred law(Sharia).The study outlines an initial convergence between the political theories of Islam and the West(after the establishment of feudal monarchies and the consolidation of Church authority). There was a certain similarity between the concepts of "Caliphate" and "Sacred Kingship", both emanations of God sovereignty and both deriving their authority and legitimacy through the religious sanction of " The Sacred Text" or " The Church". However in addition to the idea of a divinely sanctioned Monarchical state, Western political thought contained the germs of a " Republican" classical model, inspired by the Roman Stoicism legacy articulated by Cicero and others ,who were widely read by the medieval clergy.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb comparative history of Western and Muslim political ideas 30 Jan 2009
By César González Rouco - Published on
The synopsis of the book provided by the "Product Description" is fairly accurate. Therefore, I will only point out that (a) books on comparative history of ideas seem to be rather scarce; (b) it is difficult nowadays to get an objective, nuanced opinion on Islam, neither flattering nor biased against it (if I were to recommend a way to try and achieve this, I would suggest reading several good books on the matter, including this one among them).

So when I found this book I decide it to give it a chance, in despite of not finding previous comments on it. I was surprised that no one else had made a comment before to this masterful work, which, in my opinion, is impartial and enlightening. Perhaps, because of the author's style, the book is no very engaging, but it is not dry either. In any event I think that the professional historian and the educated layperson alike can savour it. So I add my review, my rate being between 5 (content) and 3 (pleasure, sometimes falling to 2, sometimes raising to 4). I highly recommend it.

Other interesting books dealing with the history of ideas that I would recommend would be the following: 1) "America's Constitution: A Biography" by Akhil Reed Amar; 2) "Citizens to Lords: A Social History of Western Political Thought from Antiquity to the Middle Ages" by Ellen Meiksins Wood; 3) "God Owes Us Nothing: A Brief Remark on Pascal's Religion and on the Spirit of Jansenism" by Leszek Kolakowski; 4) "The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before its Triumph", by Albert O. Hirschman; and 5) "The Proper Study of Mankind: An Anthology of Essays" by Isaiah Berlin.

For a better understanding of Islam, I would suggest reading the following works, it is worth it:

A) ASSESSMENTS OF ISLAM: 1) The best, impartial, wise: "Islam. History, present, future" by Hans Küng. 2) The political point of view of 1.3 billion Muslim people today: "Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think" by John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed; and 3) Harsh but well argued: "Muslims in the West: Redefining the Separation of Church & State" by Sami Awad Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh;

B) WOMEN AND ISLAM. 4) A good reference book: "Women In Islam: An Anthology From The Qu'ran And Hadiths" by Nicholas Awde; and 5) Autobiography of a courageous woman: "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She is a controversial thinker with a very interesting life.

C) HISTORY: 6) General: "The Venture of Islam", by Marshall G. S. Hodgson (nowadays a classic included in any bibliography on Islam); 7) Turks: "The Turks in World History" by Carter Vaughn Findley; 8) Political theory: "God's Rule : Government and Islam" by Patricia Crone; and 9) Jihad: Understanding Jihad" by David Cook.
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