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West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat Paperback – 1 Jun 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Continnuum-3PL; Reprint edition (1 Jun. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826470300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826470300
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 114,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"If books, like whiskey, were rated according to strength, The West and the Rest would weigh in above 100 proof. It is a brief book, but concentrated. I do not mean that it is abstruse or hard to understand: on the contrary, Scruton writes with seductive clarity." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Professor Roger Scruton is Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Washington and Senior Research Fellow at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford. His other books include Sexual Desire, The West and the Rest, England: An Elegy, News from Somewhere and Gentle Regrets (all published by Continuum).

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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Simon on 17 Mar. 2005
Format: Paperback
Roger Scruton is known for his position somewhere on the traditional right of the political spectrum. Indeed he has written a defence of conservatism. Those on the left may therefore be wary of this book. But as someone who has not in the past sympathised with Scruton's politics I can strongly recommend this book. The book's strength is its intellectual seriousness combined with its clarity of expression. Anyone who is interested in the history of ideas will find this book of interest, since it goes much deeper than the aftermath of 9/11 and addresses the enlightenment and the modern nation-state by contrast with developments in the Islamic world. It also deals with the puzzling, not to say wrongheaded, disposition of some western intellectuals to belittle the cultural heritage of the west and ignore the many benefits this has brought ordinary people the world over. For such intellectuals the west can never redeem itself for the "guilt" associated with its historical dominance over other cultural traditions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 28 Aug. 2005
Format: Hardcover
In this short but illuminating book, Scruton examines the political institutions of the West as regards the relation between religion and politics, and the threat of radical Islam. Briefly but with great clarity he explores the political history of West that gave us individual freedom, prosperity and the pursuit of knowledge. These pillars rest upon Greek thought, Roman Law and Judeo-Christianity. He points out that freedom needs to be defined and that it also needs restraints in order to continue to function. The success of the West is based on the practice of separating church and state, of recognizing the two different realms. This is the fundamental difference with Islam.
Islamism is a totalitarian ideology precisely because the totality of society must submit to religion. The author argues that the political process in Western societies is what has made it so successful - western democracies are governed by politics while the Rest are ruled by force. In the West, the political process functions through negotiation and compromise. Religion and culture are binding principles but they do prescribe. But with the collapse of these roots in much of the West, a vital defence of our culture is being lost. According to Scruton, the love of freedom alone is not enough for our civilization to survive. He considers the nation state as a precondition for democracy and the rule of law. Under Islam, the Sharia is the only source of law and there is no room for dissent.
The UN is a club of gangsters. Most UN representatives do not represent the people of their countries but only the thuggish regimes that lord it over the people. In addition, Western elites and radical Islamists both despise Western civilization. This is particularly pronounced in academia, the media and the entertainment community.
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Nov. 2003
Format: Paperback
This slim little volume packs more facts and well-reasoned arguments than all the Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky tomes put together. This remarkable intellect knows more about the Islamic world than all the George Galloways and Charles Kennedys in Britain. For one thing, he actually knows Arabic, and has closely studied many Islamic texts, something none of these other blowhards can claim. Brits may assume this book provides nothing but a pro-Western slant to recent events, but that's far from the case. In fact, Scruton sympathizes a great deal with militant Islamic critiques of Western-style consumerism. But he explains how their "solution" to the problem, the fundamentalist Islamification of the world, would destroy more than our right to buy what we want, but all the freedoms we hold dear. There is a wistful current throughout, as he demonstrates how the self-loathing and self-flagellation of so many Westerners are symptoms of our culture's almost-inevitable decline. Whether it can revive its past vigor, or what might take its place, is difficult to fathom at this stage. But one thing is for sure: if you believe that Islamism would be an improvement, you're deluding yourself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By T.J.Gorringe on 3 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback
excellent
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Amazon.com: 18 reviews
44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Understanding 9/11 Philosophically 25 Sept. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Roger Scruton is one of the most extraordinary figures of our time. He is an English political philosopher who frequently appears in the British press and who has written a monumental history of modern philosophy, as well as the Oxford Past Master volumes on Kant and Spinoza, as well as seminal works on the moral philosophy of the erotic and the philosophy of music, as well as superb works of architectural and art criticism. He has even written two operas, both words and music, and two volumes of satirical pseudo-Platonic dialogues.
Perhaps the most notable characteristic of his writing is its originality or freshness. In almost all his works, you get the sense that an incredibly powerful mind is confronting a question or a topic for the first time. That quality is on display here, as Scruton thinks through with his reader the questions which arise in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He argues for the uniqueness (and, perhaps, the unrepeatability) of the Western political achievement of "territorial sovereignty." He takes us through the theological, philosophical, and cultural impediments to modernization in the Muslim world. He discusses the effects of globalization on both the West and "the Rest" (of the world).
Like many Americans, I read vociferously all the journalistic and many of the academic debates which followed after 9/11. Amazingly, there are more new insights and arguments in this single short book--it can be read in one or two sittings--than in dozens of other long articles and books. This is a marvelous work of synethesis, and it deserves to be the starting point for all future discussions of American policy in an age of terrorism.
45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Thoughtful and provocative 9 Oct. 2002
By K. Kehler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
British philosopher, aesthetician and cultural critic Roger Scruton's new book -- unfortunately published by a press that is a bit obscure, which means that not all bookstores will carry it -- is a stunning account of the history of the similarities and differences between the West and other social and political dispensations, in an age that will (probably) be known for globalization and terrorism. Anyone looking for a spirited defence of the notion of the West, with its special (but hopefully 'exportable') emphasis on the consent of the governed, will want to have this book.
Scruton's argument is that there is something vital and special about the nexus of factors -- economic free market, extensive but not uncurbed private ownership, elected state representatives, civil society, open rather than closed parliament or legislative assembly, and independent judiciary -- that combine to creat the distinctness of Western polities (The West). What is special is that these represent an outgrowth of a long historical movement animated by the need for polities to secure the confidence and faith of its citizens. But not all states were forged in this kind of process, or tradition, which combines loyalty to a greater good (healthy patriotism and/or nationalism) with a respect for plurality, and which allows a fruitful tension between secularity and faith, and between duties and rights. Rather, some states don't have these advantages. A number of these (The Rest) are 'legitimate' states in name only (or because the UN has seen fit to include them on its roster). Here Scruton of course discusses non-Western states. But he saves his most insightful discussion for a learned inquiry into Islamic states, or more to the point, religion, focusing on Islam as a faith which has never experienced the kind of Reformation-like upheaval that could result in a State-Church separation. But these are just some of his concerns, and there are too many to discuss in a brief review. (I've said nothing about his interesting, Tory-Hegelian attitude towards globalization, which should infuriate -- though also hopefully convert -- some libertarians. Suffice it to say that Scruton refuses to fetishize the market, treating it with a healthy suspicion borne of an Burkean understanding of just how destructive of tradition, faith and established values an utterly unregulated market can be.)
All in all, as always, Scruton brings his keen analytical mind, as well as his surprisingly moderate tone (for a man as reviled as he is, or was), and his gift for lucid and fascinating explanation and exploration, to bear on a number of important topics. I recommend this book without any hesitation whatsoever, and hope that it finds a vast readership (AND that a number of people go on to read his many other fascinating and well-written books, many of which are pitched at the general, educated reader).
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Clear thinking on difficult issues 21 Sept. 2005
By Bill Muehlenberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Although relatively brief (161 pages) this volume is densely packed with careful analysis and incisive observation. Subtitled "Globalization and the Terrorist Threat," this book explores a number of related themes. A major thesis is how modern Western democracies differ from other types of societies in general, and the Islamic world in particular. His historical and philosophical investigations provide a framework in which to judge both the September 11 attacks, and the ongoing threat of Islamic terrorism.

He begins by noting that social bonding can take place by means of either religion or politics. In the pluralistic West, social cohesion is mainly found in the form of the social contract, whereas in the Islamic world, religion alone provides that basis. Roman law and the Christian religion helped provide the basis for the social contract, as well as bring about the Western conception of the demarcation of the religious and political spheres.

Islamic societies on the other hand know of no separation of religious and secular authorities, with religion the sole basis of the state. Just as the Communist party was a law onto itself, so "Islam aims to control the state without being a subject of the state". As a result, there are no political or social mediating structures between Allah and His will (Islam) and the submissive Muslim (Islamic citizen).

The freedoms of a democracy, including the freedom to oppose the state, to vote for alternative parties, and to freely express dissenting opinions are thus not to be found in Islamic states. In theocracies, such dissent is just not possible. And given that Islam means submission, the good Muslim is an obedient Muslim.

Both secular Western societies and Muslim societies have notions of membership. Membership in the West is made up of the voluntary, the tribal, the linguistic and the political. Muslim membership is credal, based only on the religious. The political process of the West allows for the separation of society from the state, while there is no such distinction in Islamic jurisdictions. Thus the political is the religious, whereas the genius of Western democracies is to separate the political from the rest of social and personal life.

Democratic citizenship helps to limit state power and deter totalitarian temptations. However as the onslaught of radical individualism and secularism sweep the West, former loyalties and the sense of social membership are quickly giving way. As the concept of citizenship disappears, social membership is strained and the basis of democracies is undermined. In the light of such social and political fragmentation, the religious membership of Islamic societies stands in sharp contrast.

However Islamic unity is based on force and power, not consent. Religious toleration, taken for granted in the West, is a foreign concept in Islamic societies. Islamic law applies to every aspect of life, and leads to the denial of the political. All is religious, and mediating structures are unheard of.

While Christianity teaches us to give to Caesar what is his, in Islamic thinking nothing is Caesar's, everything is Allah's. All is religious because all is Allah's. Thus Islamic membership is all-embracing and all-demanding.

But Western membership, or citizenship is unraveling, making Western democracies vulnerable and lacking in direction. Thus the inability of Western nations to unite against the real dangers of terrorism. Thus the mistaken notions of moral equivalence, where ruthless Muslim dictatorships are seen as no better or no worse than Western leadership. Thus the real possibility of the continued demise of the West coupled with a resurgent rise of Islam.

Yes there are exceptions, such as authoritarian democracies (e.g Singapore) and democratic Muslim states (Turkey being the only real example). But Islamic nations are inherently undemocratic. The political freedoms we enjoy in the West are largely unheard of in Islamic societies. And while the majority of Muslims do not support terrorism and murder, enough do to make for a lengthy battle between the West and Islam.

In the past Christians may have wrongly used the edge of the sword to command loyalty to the faith, but that has always been a perversion of Christ's gospel, not a fulfillment of it. But for a Muslim to take up the sword for Islam against the unbeliever is both sensible for a member of a theocracy and endorsed (at least in some interpretations) in the Koran.

Indeed, terrorism and conquest have a long history in Islam. And modern Western-trained Muslims, backed with Western technology and the revenue of Arabian oil wells, have made for the kind of terrorism witnessed in New York and Bali. Many explanations and justifications for such terrorism have been put forward, but the truth is, as Scruton documents, "Islamism is not a cry of distress from the `wretched of the earth.' It is an implacable summon to war, issued by globetrotting middle-class Muslims".

Since opposition cannot be found in Islamic countries, only a re-invigorated West can adequately deal with the terrorist threat (and Muslim terrorism against other Muslims is not uncommon). But this requires a renewal of the idea of citizenship and community, and a renunciation of radical versions of individualism and secularism. The religious (mainly Judeo-Christian) basis of Western democracies needs to be revived and encouraged not just in the private sphere but in the public as well.

Thus Scruton's book is not only a warning about the anti-democratic makeup of Islamic societies, but a wake-up call to the West to re-explore its roots and re-establish its moral and cultural foundations. Without a revived West the prospects for the war against Islamic terrorism look bleak. But this volume helps to remind us that the stakes are high and some things are worth fighting for. Hopefully this book will serve as a much-needed call to action by the West. If not, we have much to fear from the future.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
a defense of the old nation-state 31 Oct. 2004
By maximusone - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I consider myself a European integrationist, because I believe there is more that binds Europeans than that divides them (certainly when faced with an islamist threat). However Roger Scruton makes a compelling case for the old-fashioned nation-state, something I have not seen in a long time.

The first half of the book - the best half - is a philosophical text about what defines the Western world. Central to Scruton's thesis is the Social Contract, an abstract description for what is basically acceptance by the people of the legitimacy of authority and the laws of a country. Thanks to this legitimacy, we have politics in the West, because thanks to politics, we can forget about politics between elections and politics allows the state to be separated from society. Scruton argues this acceptance of laws and authority can only exist when people feel they are members, i.e. there is a commonality of values. These existed in Western nation-states which have centuries of shared history, languages, customs and laws. One of the beauties of political communities is that laws can evolve and authorities replaced. Scruton contrasts this with other forms of community, such as the tribe and the creed. Because the creed derives its cement not from the free acceptance of members of the laws, but from a sacred, given text, this text (read the Koran or the Bible in medieval Europe) is cast in stone (and because Islam does not have an institution like the Church, nobody has the authority to re-interpret the Koran and adapt it to the modern world). The difference between medieval Europe and Islam is (a) that Europe also inherited Roman law as a system of resolution of conflicts, which existed independently of religion, and (b) that Christianity started off as a religion which did not attempt to compete with the worldly powers (although, there have been a few popes who very actively tried to get the upper hand over wordly powers, it just happens they lost), allowing secularism to arise in time. (This section in many ways is the flip side of the book "What went wrong ?" by Bernard Lewis)

Scruton goes on to argue that by the 19th century, people in Europe began to identify themselves less and less on the basis of their religious affiliation, but on the basis of language, custom and nationality. A modern democratic nation-state is a large group of strangers but towards each of whom members feel certain obligations embodied in the law (this has parallels in Francis Fukuyama's theory of Trust). It is this feeling of communality with unknown compatriots that gives birth to the public spirit ("trust" in Fukuyama's terminology) of citizens. In contrast, muslim societies have very specific rules of how members are to relate to family members and clan or tribe members, and on how to relate to God (see the 5 key duties of a good muslim, of which 4 relate with religious rituals), but not to strangers, even with the same passport (insofar this has any meaning).

At this point it is clear to, according to Scruton, without a nation-state of which one feels a member, there cannot be politics, law, public spirit or sacrifice.
However, Western democracies, in an effort to be tolerant and secular, have become so morally relativist that there are few strong shared values left, because any reference to dominant values is considered at odds with the multicultural dogma. Hence, what started off as the strength of the West, its tolerance and secularism, is becoming its weakness in the face of secondary threats. From here on Scruton starts to analyse the threats to the West.

The first threat is Islamism because of the different value system. A modern nation-state offers membership, not truth, but the moral relativism of Western societies is shocking for muslims, for whom a nation doesn't offer membership and who seek truth. Scruton in some ways admires the traditional values of muslims, such as respect for parents, rites of passage and authority, none of which unfortunately exist anymore in modern western culture, and he certainly has some understanding for the disorientation of muslims living in the West.

But Scruton also takes aim at globalisation and international organisations like the UN or even the EU too, because they undermine the identity of the nation-state and hence lead to weaker institutions, less support for the law, in short the culture of repudiation.

Scruton concludes with a number of recommendations (which is courageous : plenty of books are written to complain about things in life without doing the difficult bit : recommending a remedy), which are to re-examine and adjust our immigration policies (more integration), our acceptance of the multicultural dogma, our commitment to free trade (which destroys the sense of identity in poorer countries), our acceptance of the multinational corporation (because it is claimed by him to be a law onto its own), the litigious nature of our societies (presumably he has the US in mind) and our addiction to consumption and comfort.

To a large extent I can see how these can cause moral relativism in the West, but how he will get westerners to heed his advice - and change their ways of life - is unclear to me; in fact I'm certain this will not happen.

The book is short, which is some excuse for its black and white nature (as the title suggests) : at times - in particular discussing the merits of Common Law - it sounds as if the only two real democracies are the UK and the US and the rest is barbaric. But this is also a thought-provoking book - with a much wider subject than the subtitle suggests - , primarily in its argument for the nation-state. This is refreshing : for 50 years we have been told in Europe that nationalism is bad : it caused world wars and it was incompatible with globalisation, multiculturalism etc... Maybe there is something to be said for the nation state after all
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
An accessible critique on extreme cultural relativism 15 Dec. 2004
By M. R. Bas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As an Englishman, Roger Scruton understands as no other cultural philosopher what it is like to be a member of an increasingly dominant civilisation. Freedom, individualism and hedonism seem very normal to us, Westerners, but they are can only truly arise in a civilisation where religion and reason have been and are being kept apart. The West seems to want to export these Western values (one value being more desirable than the other) to countries where other civilisations have completely different values. Western imperialism is a counter-productive idea because and muslim terrorists are the embodiment of an anti-modernist resistance towards Western expansion cultural world power. Armed by Occidentalist fruits of igenuity (such as airplanes, cell-phones, notebooks and Internet) the exreme Orientalists attempt to hit the West straight in the heart. By combining an abstract version of the ancient ideas of islam with modern, hedonistic tools, Scruton says, muslim terrorists may seem anti-globalistic, but in fact they USE the structures of globalism in order to spread the word of Mohammed's call for world power. This, in itself, is globalism too. In the book, Scruton displays islamist terrorism as the core around which his ideas revolve.

And he shows us yet more mind-boggling contradictions which need to be unveiled. Although Scruton, like other Europeans, is a member of the globalising Western culture, he wants to make clear that Europeans DO have something to fight for; that they do have a culture of their own and that being Western means that you are part of an intrinsic, complex civilisation with a rich history, with all its vulnerabilities. Our separation of state & church, our Enlightenment ideals such as rationalism, the idea of progress and the notion of being the member of a society (Le Contrat Social), have lead to our present culture of happiness, stability and inner consience. In islamic countries you are a member of a community under God. This has serious consequences for the way Westerners deal with freedom and matters such as efficiency, which may seem utilitarian in the eyes of the muslim world. For example, buildings cannot be higher than the minarets of the mosque, and laws can only be made by God or his special clerics, etc. Muslim immigrants are prone to a great revaluation of the cosy laws of islam, which offers them clear-cut rules for living and a dichotomous world of good and evil. They are receptible to radicalisation if the Western world they live in seems bleak and calculating.

The West has lost such unambiguous rules; people rarely are members of a community. Western people are members of a nation, a society. However, even this Western feeling of being a member of a coherent society, this `contract with people that you do not know', is rapidly disappearing because of the same Western values of individualism and hedonism. Cultural relativism has frustrated a sense of membership for several decades now. In the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties it was not OK to be proud of your culture. Non-Western tribes were allowed to be proud, but not we. Scruton correctly blames the leftist intellectuals for this, who, in universities, called these evil proud Westerners `racists'. People in areas with high percentages of non-Western immigrants feel surrounded by newcomers who do not feel members of this `contract with people you don't know'. Moreover, there are millions of newcomers who despise our culture. Scruton says in the book that leftist intellectuals have relentlessly torn down the sense of cultural unity or of national identity and of authority, without offering a realistic alternative. People who opposed this were not racists, Scruton says in the book, they were merely defending their contract, their heritage. All this weakness, these loose ties, this extreme cultural relativism that muslims see in the West (which was partly created in order to give new cultures some space), arouse great contempt in many muslims. They see a godless, decadent culture. Their alternative: the laws of islam. Scruton calls for a renewal of our cultural self-esteem: we do have a culture to keep strong, as globalised as it may seem!

It is truly a GOOD BOOK!
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