2002 September 28 Saturday
Roger Scruton book The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat

Roger Scruton has just written a book entitled The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat. The National Review excerpted it in 4 articles and I've collected together the URLs for articles with short excerpts from each article. If you like the excerpts do go read the complete articles. It was very difficult to choose what to excerpt as he makes many excellent points.

Technological advances in transportation and communications are bringing incompatible cultures into direct contact with each other. Many fundamental beliefs that lie at the base of Western society are not shared in all parts of the world. Many institutions of Western society do not produce the same forms of government (eg democracy produces tyranny in some countries) that it produces in the West. Scruton examines the gap between Western and other beliefs and their ramifications in the first excerpt The West and the Rest:

It is thanks to Western prosperity, Western legal systems, Western forms of banking, and Western communications that human initiatives now reach so easily across frontiers to affect the lives and aspirations of people all over the globe. However, Western civilization depends on an idea of citizenship that is not global at all, but rooted in territorial jurisdiction and national loyalty. By contrast, Islam, which has been until recently remote from the Western world and without the ability to project its message, is founded on an ideal of godliness which is entirely global in its significance, and which regards territorial jurisdiction and national loyalty as compromises with no intrinsic legitimacy of their own. Although there have been attempts to manufacture nationalisms both appropriate to the Islamic temperament and conducive to a legitimate political order, they have fragmented under the impact of sectarian or tribal allegiances, usually giving way to military dictatorship or one-man, one-family, or one-party tyranny. Islam itself remains, in the hearts of those who live under these tyrannies, a permanent call to a higher life, and a reminder that power and corruption will rule in this world until the reign established by the Prophet is restored.

Scruton sees as essential for the development of the West the two millennia development of the concept of a corporate person. Make note that his references to a personal state are to a type of state that is a corporate person (no he does not mean a state that is ruled by a single human; yes this terminological choice is bound to cause misunderstandings). He sees this concept as essential in understanding why political entities of the West differ from the states that are not properly speaking Nation States in his second excerpt The Personal State:

The very same political process that turns subjects into citizens turns the state into a collective expression of its citizens' way of life. When we speak of the United States as negotiating a treaty, as building up its army, as declaring war on terrorism, we are not speaking metaphorically. These things are the genuine actions of a corporate person, in which all U.S. citizens are to some extent implicated, but which are the actions of no individual. When we speak in the same terms of Iraq or North Korea, however, we are speaking obliquely. There is no such entity as Iraq, only a legal fiction erected by the United Nations for the purpose of dealing with whichever individual, clique, or faction is for the moment holding the people of that country hostage. The form of corporate agency established by Western political systems has not been established elsewhere in the world. The states of the non-Western world are impersonal states, machines in their rulers' hands. They make no decisions, take no responsibility, and can be neither praised nor blamed, but exist merely as shields and weapons in the hands of those whose advantages they secure. This was made explicit under the Leninist system of communist government, which was founded on the theory of "parallel structures." Every office of the Soviet state was shadowed by an office of the "vanguard Party," which exercised all the power but was wholly unaccountable for doing so.

The third excerpt supports a view that I fully subscribe to: properly drawn and enforced borders allow people of similar culture to create political systems that serve their ideals and desires in governance. But the trend is toward greater movement and mixing of incompatible cultures and toward the title of this excerpt: Transnational Government

The political and economic advantages that lead people to seek asylum in the West are the result of territorial jurisdiction. Yet territorial jurisdictions can survive only if borders are controlled. Transnational legislation, acting together with the culture of repudiation, is therefore rapidly undermining the conditions that make Western freedoms durable. The effect of this on the politics of France and Holland is now evident to everyone. And when we find among the "asylum seekers" the vast majority of those Islamist cells that have grown up in London, Paris, and Hamburg, we begin to recognize just how much the political culture of the West is bent on a path of self-destruction.

He explores further in the fourth excerpt the rise of transnational institutions that lack the qualities that allow nation-states to have the legitimacy and efficacy that a corporate person possesses in the essay entitled The New Imperium

Nevertheless, despite the fact that virtually nobody explicitly wants it, a process is under way that will effectively extinguish the national democracies of Europe and erect in their place a European superstate, nominally a democracy but with largely unaccountable legislative powers, hidden in bureaucratic institutions with their own long-term agendas. Already most laws passed by the United Kingdom Parliament are imposed by diktaat from the Brussells bureaucracy, and the few areas of legislative competence that remain are being steadily eroded by revisions to the Treaty of Rome. Scotland and Wales are still present on the official maps of Europe. But the nation-state that did most to create the modern world — namely England — has already been replaced by "regions" that have no historical meaning and defy all the local loyalties to which English patriotism responds.

Update: Roger Kimball has written an excellent review in The New Criterion.

The contrast with Islam is striking. Following the atrocities of September 11, certain well-meaning persons attempted to console us with the assurance that “Islam” means “peace.” In fact, as Scruton reminds us, Islam means “submission,” specifically submission to the will of Allah. “The muslim,” consequently, “is the one who has surrendered, submitted, and so obtained security.” Of course, plenty of Muslims denounced the terrorist acts of al Qaeda. Still Scruton is right that “Islamism”—Islam embraced as an all-encompassing ideology—is “not an accidental product of the crisis that Islam is currently undergoing, and the fundamental tenets of the faith must be borne in mind by those who wish to understand the terrorist movements.” Wherever Islamists have gained power—Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan—the result is “not the reign of peace and prosperity promised by the Prophet, but murder and persecution on a scale matched in our time only by the Nazis and the Communists.” In the West, the church took its place as a secular institution, subordinated, in temporal matters, to temporal authorities. Islam lacks that institutional elasticity. The ulama (“those with knowledge”) have their authority directly from God: no church or holy orders, no official compact with the state mediate their supposed revelation. Islam is in this sense a totalitarian ideology: it seeks to embrace and subordinate to its dictates the totality of life. “Like the Communist Party in its Leninist construction,” Scruton writes, “Islam aims to control the state without being a subject of the state.”

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 September 28 12:01 AM  Civilizations Clash Of


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