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How did the rest respond to the West?,
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This review is from: From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia (Hardcover)
The debate about the impact of European Imperialism of the last two centuries continues to exercise great fascination at a time of changing perceptions as the East edges towards economic, political even sporting parity with the West.Endeavours to survey the legacy of Imperialism are bound to rouse great passions as the protagonists on both sides of the divide, whether ardent apologists or despondent detractors, succumb alternatively to self righteous triumphalism or moral indignation.New vistas need to be opened by scholars to explore the complexities of this phenomenon, crucially important because of its historic global repercussions in the same way as the birth of Capitalism or the spread of Industrialisation.It is refreshing therefore to have an account which attempts to break down the partitions between the separate mental universes we inhabit, as defined by our cultural allegiances, and introduce different vantage points to help us examine the present in the light of the recent past
The originality of the scholarship lies in bringing together a number of remarkable Asian thinkers from far and disparate cultural traditions namely Islamic,Sinic/Confucian and Hindu and to chart their separate intellectual odyssey as they grappled with the challenges posed by Modernisation and the encroachments of Western hegemony on their societies.The three major peripatetic figures of Afghani, Liang Qichao and Tagore dominate the chronicle because of their pioneering political activism,their extensive influence on future thinkers as well as their fame in the West.However the author casts his net wide by introducing many other intellectual figures, not necessarily minor or peripheral, to broaden the scope of his investigation into the enormous intellectual ferment bubbling throughout Asia and the Middle East during the best part the 20th Century.These thinkers toyed with considerable variety of ideas ranging from Social Darwinism to revolutionary Marxism, from Pan Asianism to Pan Islamism,from rural primitivism to forced Industrialisation.
The text demonstrates the importance of some key historical events,mostly remote from European concerns, on the formation of these intellectual responses.From the Napoleonic expedition to Egypt and the capitulations imposed on Egypt and Turkey,to the Indian mutiny and the Opium wars. From the Russo-Japanese war to the Boxer rebellion, from the Paris Peace conference to Japanese militarism and Decolonisation.The author sketches the three main responses to Western power articulated by some of these thinkers; the conservative conviction of finding appropriate solutions by retreating into an idyllic rural past and being faithful to the religious traditions,views surprisingly shared by the Islamic Salafists and Gandhi;the compromise notion of borrowing a few Western techniques but keeping the indigenous core unchanged in a Nationalist framework and finally the radical secularist solution of imposing a cultural revolution from above and breaking free from the past,a philosophy adopted by the likes of Ataturk and Mao despite their ideological differences.The scheme may be a bit simplified but remains an interesting model.
Despite its generic approach,the occasional uncritical bias and the odd debatable commentary about contemporary events still unfolding,this is an original and relevant work of synthesis in part historical essay and in part intellectual biography which brings considerable insight into the modern origins of the non Western world of Asia and the Middle East.Because of the wealth and range of information it provides,that one would need to glean from a large library of specialist subjects ( see the bibliography),this book should potentially appeal to a wide readership in the West as well as the Asian countries concerned, as long as it is realised that it is mostly a historical survey rather than a work of penetrating intellectual analysis.