Occidentalism: A Short History of Anti-Westernism Hardcover – 12 Aug 2004
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"'An Important book... brilliantly done.' George Walden, Daily Mail Critics' Cholce; 'Ambitious and impressive... A fine book.' Philip Bobbitt, New York Times; 'Illuminating... Succinct, elegant and challenging.' Economist; 'Groundbreaking... It is hard to imagine the reader who will not learn something from this book.' Robert Irwin, Independent" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Ian Buruma is currently Luce Professor at Bard College, New York. His previous books include God's Dust, Behind the Mask, The Missionary and the Libertine, Playing the Game, The Wages of Guilt, Anglomania and Bad Elements. Avishal Margalit is Schulman Professor of Philosophy at the Centre for Rationality at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His previous books include Idolatry, The Decent Society, Views and Reviews, and The Ethics of Memory.
Top customer reviews
The authors also look at how poeple in the non-Western world are often divided into two camps: reformers, who advocate the whole scale adoption of Western values and and practices even if this means abandoning certain traditional values in the process. On the other hand are nativists, who utterly reject the notion that Western values should be emulated in any way, and instead believe that a puritanical "return to the past" is needed to immunise the people from being seduced by the West. The Shah of Iran is given as an example of the former, whilst Islamic revolutionaries are given as an example of the latter.
The authors also note that some cultures can do both relatively well. The Japanese for example successfully built Western industry and military hardware, whilst simultaneously retaining the Samurai Bushido code that drove the Kamikazes. In other words "West for technology and military, our own culture for spiritual and moral guidance". A similar attitude is felt in the Muslim world today.
The book does not have any major weaknesses, but is rather brief, and I felt there was a lot more they could have said. It may also require a slightly more than casual knowledge of C20th history, as there are some concepts and developments that are written of in such a way a knowledge of them is needed to fully appreciate the points the authors are making.
All in all a good effort, which will be enjoyed by most.
They start with a meeting of Japanese scholars in 1942 asking how to overcome the modern. The modern is typified by the city, materialism, individualism and immorality. The history of the city as whore is discussed. Individualism is blamed on the West's reformation heritage. From Romanticism's rejection of Enlightenment rationalism we are shown how other cultures have emphasised the reason of heart not head and the importance of community. We are given a link from Romanticism to Islamism, even via Russian Orthodoxy and Marxism. It is a fascinating journey. the West is hated out of envy but more than envy too.
The authors are understanding of Islam showing suicide bombing as a recent innovation condemned by main stream Islam. Islam must deal with Islamists, but one wonders if this is any more than a hope. I wonder if they do give enough weight to the mainstream theology that says Islam must rule and all the world submit. The unique thing about the Islamists seems to me to be their methods of achieving this alone.
I recommend this book as helping us to see ourselves as others see us. Zealous Christians will be just as critical of the West's rationalism, materialism, individualism, exploitation and sexual immorality just like any Occidentalist.
[p 75] the germ of this distinction goes back a long way. plotinus, the revered [revered by whom?] founder of neoplatonism, made a distinction between discursive and non discursive thought.
so what? so did thousands of other philosophers both before and after him. why single him out so arbitrarily? i dont blame the authors for not being classical scholars, but i do blame them for straying outside their subject areas, without even bothering to do the proper research.
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