32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on 17 March 2005
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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. This alienation manifests also in the Muslim immigrant communities in Europe that do not want to assimilate, enjoying all the benefits of their new society whilst at the same time despising it. There is a sick energy between the immigrants and the elites that despise their own heritage.
Scruton explains the modern roots of Islamic militancy by discussing Wahhabism, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Khomeini revolution in Iran. He rightly criticises the West's dangerous commitment to multiculturalism but I do not agree with his conclusions that globalisation fosters terrorism and that democracy is not suitable for "the rest." One need only look at successful democracies like Japan to see the fallacy here. Even Turkey has a somewhat flawed but functioning democracy.
But overall, and for its multiple insights, this is a most valuable and enlightening work that provides much food for thought. Scruton is an original thinker and a gifted writer. I highly recommend The West And The Rest for those who are interested in history, culture and politics.
Other recommended books that cover similar terrain include Unholy Alliance by David Horowitz, The Force Of Reason by Oriana Fallaci, Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild by Michelle Malkin, Hoodwinked: How Intellectual Hucksters Have Hijacked American Culture by Jack Cashill, Intellectual Impostures by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, Anti-Americanism by Jean-Francois Revel, The Death Of Right And Wrong by Tammy Bruce, and The Anti-Chomsky Reader by Horowitz and Collier.
32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 19 November 2003
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.