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Jeffery Ewener, writing in the Toronto Star,   Actually we can all just get along says the world view view promoted by Samuel P. Huntington is history. Bad History.

Huntington is perhaps best known for his 1993 article  The Clash of Civilizations and the book that followed: The Clash of Civilizations and the Re-making of World Order

Ewener notes:

... the one thing that has gone largely unchallenged is the political world view that gave rise to the Iraq War in the first place, and which continues to push the United States and its Western allies into a confrontational posture against the Islamic world, against China, and potentially against every other major global player.

Crossposted at: The Next Agenda

... According to Huntington, the troops, naval exercises, space weapons and everything else are all vital to the defence of Western civilization (meaning the United States, Europe and the rest of us). We must stand on guard against a resurgence of our historic rivals — the civilizations of Islam and China and, down the road, maybe the Hindu and other worlds as well.
The late Edward Said put Huntington's thesis in a nutshell: the West versus the rest.

Ewener has interviewed the Singaporean author of  The Dialogue of Civilizations in the Birth of Modern Science ,  Arun Bala. From 1300 to 1500...

"Medieval Europe was sandwiched between the Islamic west and the Chinese east," he says. "It could hardly avoid having contact and mutual influences, exchanging ideas. And when you trace the leading-edge ideas of the day, you see they were moving around all the time, from person to person, place to place. That's a dialogue of civilizations. At the deepest level, they were not clashing, they were co-operating."

That dialogue of civilizations explains the end of the European Dark Ages, the beginning of the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution better than political history as it has been taught in the West.

In the mainstream history of science, the Scientific Revolution is as European as lederhosen and baguettes. After about 1,500 years of mysterious ignorance, the story goes, European thinkers suddenly snapped out of their stupor, picked up where the ancient Greeks had left off, and finished their work for them. Voilà — modern science, with a big "Made in Europe" stamped on it.

Bala, a physicist and philosopher, argues it couldn't have happened that way. Crucial theoretical and scientific discoveries had to be made, in order to build upon the work of the Greeks, before the ideas of the Scientific Revolution became possible.

Many of those scientific building blocks came from Islam, China and India.

The article notes that the modern western world as we know it, rational, scientific, individualistic, and one of legal rights is the result. It was a revolution that would not be possible without dialogue of civilizations.

Politicians have a natural tendency to look at political history and think that that's the way the world works. Yet politics is just the froth on the surface of our history and of our civilizations. At a deeper level, the currents of our cultures and values run more closely together.

"In a real sense," says Bala, "the modern world is the joint creation of many of the world's civilizations. We all had a hand in creating it, through mutual dialogue. And that same dialogue holds the hope of creating a better world, of solving the problems of today, together."

It seems the end of PNAC's New American century came after only six years. The End of Fukuyama came before the End of History and the Last Man

Time to move on.

Thoughts?

Originally posted to paul2port on Sun Dec 10, 2006 at 11:50 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Huntington is ridiculous (11+ / 0-)

    And a rather dangerous neo-con. When I teach 20th century US history I usually give my students a short selection from his 1975 work, "The Democratic Distemper," in which he says the problem the world faces at that time is "an excess of democracy" that makes governing difficult, and suggests that the solution is a demobilization of the public and more assertive, less accountable government.

    His "clash of civilizations" thesis is borderline racist, in my mind, because it assumes that people from different nations hold distinctly different values and worldviews. And that just isn't so. Not that everyone is the same, but one can make too much of the differences.

    Also there is the idea inherent in Huntington's argument that everyone living in these "civilizations" thinks the same way. And that is just flat-out wrong. Every "civilization" has a great deal of diversity of thought and a richly contested politics.

    I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day

    by eugene on Sun Dec 10, 2006 at 12:06:10 PM PST

  •  I see 2 civilizations clashing: (5+ / 0-)

    Traditional, like Aboriginals who survived for tens of thousands of years.............and the "modern"...........somehow the Crusades, the Industrial Revolution speeded things up something awful.

    That's the clash I see.

    Other than that, I see class warfare.

  •  Huntington was just a lousy researcher... (8+ / 0-)

    in his claim that Islamic nations were more prone to violent expansionism and radical proselytism. The period he took to illustrate as proof for his thesis was the early 90s after the breakup of the Soviet Union, which began a lot of strife within the southern belt of predominantly Muslim Soviet countries. Search through other periods of history, like the 19th century, by other historians, however, failed to show any similar propensity among predominantly Islamic countries compared to nonIslamic countries.

    The whole idea of a class of civilizations is therefore based on an artifact.

  •  Huntington sounds like an (6+ / 0-)

    apologist for empire.  

    "Space. It seems to go on and on forever. But then you get to the end and a gorilla starts throwing barrels at you." -- Fry, Futurama

    by LithiumCola on Sun Dec 10, 2006 at 12:56:11 PM PST

  •  A comment on the history of science (6+ / 0-)

    With regard to this:

    In the mainstream history of science, the Scientific Revolution is as European as lederhosen and baguettes. After about 1,500 years of mysterious ignorance, the story goes, European thinkers suddenly snapped out of their stupor, picked up where the ancient Greeks had left off, and finished their work for them. Voilà — modern science, with a big "Made in Europe" stamped on it.

    Bala, a physicist and philosopher, argues it couldn't have happened that way. Crucial theoretical and scientific discoveries had to be made, in order to build upon the work of the Greeks, before the ideas of the Scientific Revolution became possible.

    Many of those scientific building blocks came from Islam, China and India.

    I guess it depends on how one defines "mainstream" history of science.

    The view that Europeans just snapped out of the Dark Ages (a term that is itself problematic) and just carried on the work of the Greeks hasn't been the dominant view in the history of science community for years now.  There's still a lot of work to be done on non-Western natural philosophy, but the idea of an ignorant medieval Europe that suddenly had a stroke of genius has been discarded by historians of science.

    I've got the fever for the flavour, the payback will be later, still I need a fix - Bran Van 3000

    by Linnaeus on Sun Dec 10, 2006 at 01:16:50 PM PST

    •  The Renaissance occurred (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Duke1676, FrankFrink, paul2port, Allogenes

      when mercantilism created nation-states like Venice that were dominated by forces other than relgion.  When religion's grip is loosened, great things can happen.

      Same is true for other great civilizations, like medieval Spain up through the Taifa period; although an Islamic state, relgion was not the dominating influence it was elsewhere.  Jews and Christians shared in governance, were generals and viziers.  And the floruit of culture - science, philosophy, architecture and poetry - was world-class.

      High levels of civilization correlate to loosening of religious control and acceptance of diversity - especially gays.  Test that proposition against any great period of intellectual development; I believe it'll stand up.

      Much better, thanks. And you?

      by Bob Love on Sun Dec 10, 2006 at 02:02:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My point is this (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Duke1676, paul2port, Allogenes

        There was a pretty significant body of natural philosophy being produced in medieval Europe, much of it made possible by the translation of ancient texts, a large part of which came from the Islamic world.

        Indeed, most of the great natural philosophers of medieval Europe were themselves clerics.

        So, there's a lot of work left to be done on the content of the ideas trafficking back and forth between Europe and other civilizations.  But the fact that this exchange was happening has been part of the historiography of science for quite some time now, which I do think undermines the "clash of civilizations" idea and the idea of a monolithic "Dark Ages" Europe.

        I've got the fever for the flavour, the payback will be later, still I need a fix - Bran Van 3000

        by Linnaeus on Sun Dec 10, 2006 at 02:11:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'd be very interested (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FrankFrink, paul2port

          to learn specifics about this "pretty significant body of natural philosophy being produced in medieval Europe".  I'm unaware of anything like that going on in Christian Europe from the time of, say, Boethius to Marco Polo or Petrarch.  

          The trafficking that went on, to the extent it did, was all one-way, from the Islamic world to the Christian, mostly by way of Spain and Sicily.  Most of Aristotle, for instance, was unknown to the Christian world, and so you have the Islamic Aristotelian Averroes, later followed by the Iberian Jewish Aristotelian Maimonides and eventually, bringing up the rear, the Christian Aristotelian Thomas Aquinas.

          I'm unaware of anything the Islamic world brought in from Christian Europe during this period, when what we received from them was enormous: many "lost" classics, mathematics and Arabic numerals, steel, and even the novel (if you count the 1,000 and One Nights).

          Much better, thanks. And you?

          by Bob Love on Sun Dec 10, 2006 at 03:31:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Recommended reading and a comment (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            FrankFrink, paul2port

            First off, I don't disagree that the translation movement of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was an importing of knowledge and ideas into Europe.  So I might be overreaching a bit when I speak of intellectual exchanges.

            What I am saying, though, is that a "dark age" Europe is an oversimplification of what the intellectual climate actually was like.

            For an overview of medieval European natural philosophy, you may wish to read David Lindberg's The Beginnings of Western Science:  The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, 600 B.C. - A.D. 1450 (he actually has a new edition coming out, with expanded coverage of Islamic science) or Edward Grant's The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages:  Their Religious, Intellectual, and Institutional Contexts.

            I've got the fever for the flavour, the payback will be later, still I need a fix - Bran Van 3000

            by Linnaeus on Sun Dec 10, 2006 at 03:47:49 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Do these writers (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              paul2port

              (Lindberg and Grant) demonstrate that new, original work was done in medieval Europe in the fields of mathematics, medicine, astronomy, etc?  Their subtitles suggest they deal only with the context in which scientific knowledge revived in the west after the enormous lull of the Dark Ages.

              I know the Vikings developed the keel, but that's the only scientific (ok, engineering) advance I can think of that was made by the west, and it almost killed Christianity in the 9th century.

              Much better, thanks. And you?

              by Bob Love on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 10:24:52 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Let me try to summarize (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Bob Love, paul2port

                Here's Grant's argument, in his own words:

                Contrary to prevailing opinion, the roots of modern science were planted in the ancient and medieval worlds long before the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century.  Indeed, that revolution would have been inconceivable without the cumulative antecedent efforts of three great civilizations:  Greek, Islamic, and Latin.  With the scientific riches it derived by translation from Greco-Islamic sources in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Christian Latin of Western Europe began the last leg of the intellectual journey that culminated in a scientific revolution that transformed the world.

                Four essential factors enabled medieval Europe to prepare the way for the new science of the seventeenth century:  translations into Latin of Greek and Arabic scientific texts in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; the development of universities, which were uniquely Western and used the translations as the basis of a science curriculum; the adjustments of Christianity to secular learning; and the transformation of Aristotle's natural philosophy...

                I didn't make any claims to wholly original work in the medieval West; I'm not a specialist on the period (the closest thing I can think of is - maybe - the work on motion done by Jean Buridan in the 1300s) and it's quite true that Western science owes a significant debt to the work of Islamic scholars (something I mention above and which Grant and Lindberg discuss in some detail).  Even if Western philosophers were doing derivative work, my point is that natural philosophy was nonetheless still being done, and probably earlier than most people think.  If we want to talk about a Dark Age (keeping in mind that this concept was articulated by Renaissance thinkers self-consciously trying to differentiate themselves from the medieval period), then we need to be more specific about 1)  when it happened, and 2) what intellectual conditions characterized it.

                I won't dispute that there was a period in which learning in the West was in decline.  What I do think the current historiography demonstrates is that even in Dark-Age Europe (whenever that was) there were exceptions to this relative decline and that the "dark" period may not have lasted as long as is commonly understood.  References to the Dark Ages often overgeneralize about the condition of learning and intellectual culture in Europe and often cite the Church as wholly and implacably hostile to learning.    Most historians of the period reject the latter argument in particular.

                This is a great discussion, but I would like to get back to my original point, which is that I think the article the diarist cites misrepresents the state of scholarship on the history of science.  Historians have largely rejected the notion that 1) there was no significant learning and scholarship going on in medieval Europe and more importantly, 2) that the Scientific Revolution was a spontaneous stroke of genius on the part of Western scholars who had no help from other civilizations.

                I've got the fever for the flavour, the payback will be later, still I need a fix - Bran Van 3000

                by Linnaeus on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 11:22:46 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Okay, I think we're on the same page. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Linnaeus, paul2port

                  I'm not sure that "prevailing opinion" is that modern science started with Bacon (or Leonardo, or at any rate during the Renaissance.  I appreciate Grant's synopsis, though, and it sounds like he gives the material a thorough going-over (which I certainly have not).  

                  But I'm always a bit suspicious of historians who overstate the opposition's case in order to make way for their own.  It reminds me of Richard Rudgley, the pre-historian, who represents the common wisdom on the progressive development of civilization as "a long and interminable struggle against the powers of darkness and ignorance that are represented by the Stone Age"  He then goes on (in Lost Civilisations of the Stone Age) to demonstrate that the "sudden" appearances of agriculture, cities and writing were all founded on much early advances.  Great book, but he needn't assume everyone else is completely unaware of prehistory.

                  I dare say, however, that most of the best minds in Christian Europe prior to the Renaissance were taken up with mostly unprofitable theological disputation.  Case in point: Isidore of Seville.  Brilliant man, spent his whole life categorizing nonsense (both theological and Aristotelian).  Same for John Duns Scotus, Hugh of St. Victor, Thomas Aquinas.  

                  You write "References to the Dark Ages often overgeneralize about the condition of learning and intellectual culture in Europe and often cite the Church as wholly and implacably hostile to learning.  Most historians of the period reject the latter argument in particular."  

                  I would never say the Church was "wholly or implacably" anything, but I don't think enough people understand that 1) we have enormous gaps in our knowledge of classical Greeks, & 2) the primary reason for this is that many Christian "scholars" spent centuries destroying every trace of "paganism" they could find.  In fact, much of what we know about, say, Pre-Socratic philosophy is preserved only because Christian writers quoted them to debunk them at the same time they actively suppressed the rest of the material.  E.g., all that we have left of Thales of Miletus is his statement "All is water."

                  We've lost far more than we can even begin to appreciate.  Most of Sappho, much of Pindar, reams of drama.  It's as if the only Shakespeare we knew was a few sonnets.  

                  Some of it, like the whole corpus of the dramatist Agathon, was lost because scholars ran out of room and simply didn't have enough space left for a fifth great dramatist (and he was considered by the Greeks the equal of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aritophanes).  Some was no doubt lost due to various forms of entropy.  But I don't believe I've ever read anyone overestimate the damage caused by Christian book-burners.

                  Obviously there were many men (and a few women) of considerable learning in the Christian world.  But they could have and would have known a great deal more if the first several centuries of Christians hadn't been so efficient at destroying classical culture.  It was nothing short of an intellectual holocaust.

                  Thanks for the excellent discussion.  I'll go on to look into Grant and Lindberg.

                  Much better, thanks. And you?

                  by Bob Love on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 03:39:26 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Thanks, Bob (0+ / 0-)

                    After this discussion, I agree that we're on the same page.  You've definitely made some good points for me to think about.

                    I've got the fever for the flavour, the payback will be later, still I need a fix - Bran Van 3000

                    by Linnaeus on Tue Dec 12, 2006 at 09:48:14 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

          •  One way? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            paul2port

            The trafficking that went on, to the extent it did, was all one-way, from the Islamic world to the Christian

            So the Arabs were so ethnocentric that they gained nothing from their contact with Europe?  That attitude would explain the long ossification and decline of Islamic culture.  When the British went into India, by contrast, we in the English-speaking world were quickly treated to translations of the Bhagavad Gita and other Indian texts, and the study of Sanskrit by European scholars revolutionized Western understanding of language and gave rise to historical linguistics.  

            from Chien Lung's Letter to George III:
            http://web.jjay.cuny.edu/...
            Our Celestial Empire possesses all things in prolific abundance and lacks no product within its own borders. There was therefore no need to import the manufactures of outside barbarians in exchange for our own produce. But as the tea, silk, and porcelain which the Celestial Empire produces are absolute necessities to European nations and to yourselves, we have permitted, as a signal mark of favor, that foreign hongs (Chinese business associations) should be established at Canton, so that your wants might be supplied and your country thus participate in our beneficence.
            And we know what happened to them.  I have always believed that one of the greatest strengths of Western culture was its multi-lingual basis; considering Shakespeare, Moliere, the Old and New Testaments, and Cervantes all of our heritage tends to free us from the natural human inclination to believe that anyone who doesn't speak your language isn't making any sense.  For the Arabs, on the other hand, their laws, daily speech, sacred scriptures and everything else are all in the same language.

            Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils. ~Louis Hector Berlioz

            by Turquine on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 08:14:37 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Language may be the marker (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              FrankFrink

              but the superior self-satisfied inward attitude of belly-button gazing almost always leads to disaster.

            •  Christian Europe had nothing to offer. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              FrankFrink, paul2port

              "So the Arabs were so ethnocentric that they gained nothing from their contact with Europe?"

              When Islamic cultures in Persia and Spain were at their height, they were quite open to other cultures, including Jews and Christians.  However, for the most part, the Islamic world had nothing to learn from Christian Europe.  They already knew the Greek tradition better than Christians did - Christians spent centuries trying to (and largely succeeding in) destroying the pagan culture of classical Greece.  The more dynamic Islamic adopted the Greek tradition as the foundation of their own disciplines of medicine, mathematics, science, philosophy and education.

              There was very little if anything that the Islamic world could have learned from the Christian world.  For Christianity, the medieval period was one of concentrated religious power and subsequent stagnation in virtually all fields of knowledge.  That's why we call them the Dark Ages.  It wasn't a dark time for Islam, though.  For Islam, the medieval period was the height of civilization.  

              Much better, thanks. And you?

              by Bob Love on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 10:16:19 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Every civilization has something to offer (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                paul2port

                Perhaps you could tell us which cultures in the current world you feel have nothing to offer us.

                And I don't buy this idea that Europe prior to the Renaissance was some kind featureless void.  

                Compare the Gothic cathedrals, which are like no other buildings in the world, to the later neo-classical architure which is just repeating Roman ideas.  And medieval European music has a complexity and sheer bizarreness Western music didn't achieve again until the 20th century.  

                Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils. ~Louis Hector Berlioz

                by Turquine on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 10:57:55 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I'm talking about knowledge, not styles. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  paul2port

                  I can't think of anything Christian Europe knew that was not known in the Islamic world at the same time.  Islamic architecture was, frankly, somewhat better engineered.  European cathedrals had all those flying buttresses because without them the heavy walls would have fallen down; Islamic architecture tended to solve this engineering problem by using more columns inside, leaving the exterior free for decoration.

                  If you want to compare styles, do so.  But style isn't knowledge; it's just style.  Every culture has its own styles.

                  You may have a point about music, but my guess is that the Islamic world was much more familiar with the full panoply of Greek musical modes than the Christian world.  But sure, every culture makes different music.  I believe, though, we got the lute/guitar from Muslims via Spain, and I don't know of any particular western instrument that wouldn't have been available anywhere else.  

                  I'm not saying medieval Christians were ignorant or stupid; they were just stuck in a backward culture while other cultures were flourishing.  The situation is for the most part reversed today.  

                  From their own perspective, of course, they certainly felt that they were spiritually superior to all previous cultures, but since that spirituality doesn't translate into any form of what I would call useful knowledge, it doesn't enter into the argument.

                  What we did have in W Europe that were distinct were stories of our own: legends and tales and histories and eddas.  But again, every culture has its own stories, and in point of fact few of those stories are ever terribly original.  

                  Medieval Christian Europe is full of fascinating stuff, but produced little that was original or new.  I'd love to hear of stuff they introduced to the world, but I simply don't know of any.

                  Much better, thanks. And you?

                  by Bob Love on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 02:18:04 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  A good answer (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    paul2port

                    but I would also say knowledge is not only, or even primarily, the province of academics.  For example, the Puritan colonists of MA learned the agricultural skills of the Indians and the use of corn and turkeys and whatnot; they also learned of North American medicinal herbs from Indians.  But had they no interest in the Indian beliefs about dreams and the spirit world, although their own philosophy and psychology would thus have been vastly expanded--despite the fact that the Indians didn't write books on the subject.  Similarly, as interested as Arabs were in theology, it seems absurdly arrogant for them to have no interest in European thoughts on the subject, particularly as Jewish and Arab theologians seem to have been studied by Europeans whenever they could get hold of their works.

                    (And you might just as well say the flying buttresses replace columns inside the building, creating the huge, stained glass-lit vault that makes European cathedrals so breathtaking.  I'm not saying this should have replaced all Islamic architecture, just that there was something to learn there about which they showed apparently no curiousity.  Similarly the Ancient Greeks, past their prime, chose to clutter their temples with columns even after the Romans were building domes everywhere.)

                    Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils. ~Louis Hector Berlioz

                    by Turquine on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 03:52:56 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  European cusisine was spare (0+ / 0-)

                      compared to what was available in the markets of Muslim Spain.  In fact, Iberian Muslims invented flavored ices, from midsummer mountain ice.  They had a wide array of fruits and vegetables, many of which would have seemed bizarre to Christian Europeans.

                      "Similarly, as interested as Arabs were in theology, it seems absurdly arrogant for them to have no interest in European thoughts on the subject, particularly as Jewish and Arab theologians seem to have been studied by Europeans whenever they could get hold of their works."

                      For the most part, medieval Christians had no access to Islamic of Jewish texts; books in Latin were themselves exceedingly rare, and virtually no one could read texts in other languages.  Medieval Christians were for the most part convinced that pagan texts were dangerous, and possession of them was sometimes sufficient evidence to have the owner put to death.

                      Muslims were indeed from time to time interested in looking at Christian texts, but frankly there was little in the way of literature for Christians to offer other than the Bible (with which Muslims were already familiar, being sons of Abraham themselves) and, occasionally, rustic stories and poorly constructed "epics" on legendary subjects like the magical exploits of Alexander the Great (these "epics" were really bad.  

                      Muslims weren't indifferent to learning about Christianity.  They had considerably more curiosity about alien cultures than did Christians, as a rule.  But Christian "literature" simply wasn't up to their standard.  It would have seemed (and indeed was) childish, uninformed and simplistic.

                      It's unlikely, by the way, that members of either faith got to see each other's architecture prior to the Crusades.  There wasn't much commerce of any kind between them because Christianity just didn't have anything tradeable to offer in exchange for the cultural bounty that Mediterranean Islam had to offer.   Except slaves, that is.  Christians would sometimes barter barbarians or their own poor for finery from the Islamic world.

                      Much better, thanks. And you?

                      by Bob Love on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 06:54:44 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

      •  Floruit (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bob Love, paul2port, DBunn

        Comment recommended both for history and teaching me a really new word.

      •  The Renaissance Occured (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FrankFrink, paul2port

        After Europeans invaded the Middle East in the Crusades and brought back the fruits of close cultural contact with the peoples they fought.

        Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils. ~Louis Hector Berlioz

        by Turquine on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 08:17:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The Renaissance did not occur (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          paul2port

          in areas under religious control, only those (like Venice and Florence) where government was divided between royalty, clergy and wealthy merchants.  

          The "culture" picked up by westerners during the Crusades had mainly to do with military science - how to forge carbon steel swords, seige weaponry, etc.  Non-military knowledge - math, astronomy, etc. - passed into the west through Spain and Sicily, where there was ongoing non-adversarial contact between the two cultures.

          Much better, thanks. And you?

          by Bob Love on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 10:32:33 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  The Library of Cordoba (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Love, FrankFrink

      Historical Evidence regarding the Libraries of Muslim Spain gives a brief overview of how differently the Muslims and Christians regarded knowledge.

      Andalusia was, above all, famous as a land of scholars, libraries, books lovers and collectors...when Gerbert studied at Vich (ca. 995-999), the libraries of Moorish Spain contained close to a million manuscripts...in Cordoba books were more eagerly sought than beautiful concubines or jewels...the city's glory was the Great Library established by Al-Hakam II...ultimately it contained 400, 000 volumes...on the opening page of each book was written the name, date, place of birth and ancestry of the author, together with the titles of his other works. Forty-eight volumes of catalogues, incessantly amended, listed and described all titles and contained instructions on where a particular work could be found. 36

         The libraries, in turn affiliated with a sprawling network of copyists, booksellers, papermakers and colleges, churned out as many as 60, 000 treatises, poems, polemics and compilations a year. 37 The head librarian at Cordoba, Talid, personally appointed to the mosque collection by al-Hakam, employed a female Fatimad deputy named Labna, who acted as the Library's specialized acquisition expert in the bookstalls and merchants of Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad. 38 This level of industry was in sharp contrast to the knowledge production underway throughout much of Christendom, where during the same period the two largest libraries (Avignon and Sorbonne) contained at most 2,000 volumes as late as 1150. 39

  •  Huntington's thesis is profoundly racist (7+ / 0-)

    For the most part, he defines his "civilizations" in religous, linguistic, and cultural terms, but the fact that he considers Latin America to be a different "civilization" than Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand demonstrates his racism.  

    With some notable exceptions (such as the large indigenous population in parts of the Andean region), the vast majority of people in Latin America speak the same languages, follow the same religion, and are a part of the same culture as people in Spain and Portugal.  Yet he groups Spain and Portugal together with the predominantly Protestant and Anglophone countries as one "civilization," while placing Latin America as part of a different "civilization."  The only possible basis for this that I can see is that, in Huntington's view, only people with white (or at least VERY light brown) skin can be a part of Western civilization.

    "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither liberty nor security." -Ben Franklin

    by leevank on Sun Dec 10, 2006 at 01:29:12 PM PST

    •  Latin America (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FrankFrink, paul2port

      I haven't studied Huntington's work, but it would seem that in referring to Latin America we are talking about two very different civilizations, viz., the indigenous (non-white) ones (plural because they weren't uniform) and the grafted-on European civilization. Even the white civilization of Latin America has over the centuries departed somewhat from its European roots and discovered its own uniqueness. Maybe it's just a semantic distinction, because I think of "Western" as being synonymous with European or that which derives from it. The old Western/Eastern dichotomy, unfortunately, failed to take into account the indigenous American cultures. Not to mention the huge difference between Latin American countries such as, say, Argentina and Brazil -- not only in language but in the different degrees to which the European culture intermingled with the native non-white.

    •  The only possible basis for this that I can see (0+ / 0-)

      Then it must be the only one you want to see.  It's easy to accuse anybody you disagree with of racism but it's a nasty thing to do without some evidence.  Huntington clearly explains the differences in political history that lead him to classify South America as a separate civilization.  

      Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils. ~Louis Hector Berlioz

      by Turquine on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 08:24:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hold on Turquine (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bob Love, FrankFrink

        What do you see here?


        Emerging Alignments of Civilizations

        Is there only one possible interpretation?

        •  I see Latin America (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FrankFrink

          not having a lot of international ties off-continent.  It seems to me that the nations of Latin America have largely been preoccupied with internal conflicts--civil wars, coups, etc.--and have a relatively low level of involvement in international conflicts or alliances (although the US obviously has involved itself with them).  

          Compare the speed with which Australia committed troops to distant conflicts in both Vietnam and Iraq.  Would we expect Latin America to follow the US in the way the English-speaking countries, to one degree or another, do?  They also have not pursued a European Social Democratic model (as Spain and Portugal have), nor would I expect to see the Europeans fall behind an influential Latin American leader like Hugo Chavez.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe there is a significant Bolivarian movement in Continental Europe nor in the English speaking countries.  Do these observations make me racist?

          Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils. ~Louis Hector Berlioz

          by Turquine on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 10:34:14 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not the person who made the "racist" claim (0+ / 0-)

            Yikes!

            This isn't my area but...

            The USA has been keen to interfere in the affairs of Latin America for at least 100 years by overthrowing governments, supplying arms, supporting right-wing rebels against elected leftist governments etc. so when you mention internal conflicts I cringed a bit. Is this how one should attempt to make Latin America part of the Western world? Many of those conflicts were promoted if not created by the USA and at their base show American disrespect for Latin American national sovereignty. Like African nations Latin America is just now emerging from colonialism. The grinding poverty of this region would seem to preclude sending troops overseas. Why would anyone expect Latin America to act like Australia in supporting American foreign adventures anyway?

            Huntington is much beloved by the neo-cons for his prescient analysis of coming conflict with Islam. The article was written in 1993.

            More recently Hugo Chavez is making some waves internationally. Those waves are rippling out through OPEC to other parts of the world that may well align themselves more with him in the future. Who knows? China seems to be interested in a relationship. Venezuela and China sign oil deal

            Huntington says current conflicts should be seen in terms of larger, longer, conflicts of civilizations. Iraq should be seen, for example, as a conflict that is consistent with conflicts between the West and Islam that go back over 1,000 years. Those who would restore the Caliphate use a similar analysis. They see this as a zero sum game with only winners and losers.

            Let's get back to Arun Bala's point about the modern world. Mutual ..."dialogue holds the hope of creating a better world, of solving the problems of today, together."

            Huntington's  acceptance of endless war on a millenial scale seems, by comparison, a dead end.

            •  to clarify (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              paul2port

              My original point is that Huntington is right, or at least justified, in seeing Latin America as a distinct culture that is not part of the European bloc and has clearly been finding its own way. I make this point as an answer to the person above who claims Huntington is racist for not considering Latin America part of the Western bloc.  I don't see any evidence for that claim.

              All I know of Huntington I learned from reading The Clash of Civilizations, which I thought was excellent (although a bit too long; the last parts seemed written to fulfill an outline and I felt he was getting bored.  Maybe just I was.)  It seems to be a reply to Fukuyama's ideas about the End of History, and a good one.  I don't think the book particularly supports the neocon project in Iraq/Iran/etc. although it wouldn't surprise me to see the neocons mistakenly think it does; they seem like a group that gets together and talks each other into things.  Certainly the idea of planting a Western-style parliamentary government on the banks of the Tigris is not supported by Huntington's thesis at all, as far as I can see.

              There seems to be an ongoing debate between a faction that expects "endless war on a millenial scale" with a zero-sum result and those who are waiting for Canada to teach us all to hold hands and sing in perfect harmony.  I reject both these views.  I'm not saying there shouldn't be dialogue, in fact there must be, but we should recognize that conflicts between players on the world stage, like those between say, Christian fundamentalists and social liberals in the US, are deep-rooted, based on world views, and aren't simply misunderstandings.  

              Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils. ~Louis Hector Berlioz

              by Turquine on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 03:22:00 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  far too many unconscious followers (7+ / 0-)

    It's not just Huntington, it's everywhere, under the surface.

    Some of our enlistees even, I fear, are signing up for the armed services with the idea that they will be in the big fight for Western Civilization.  

    And yes, it's about Empire.

    I think the culture-clash idea is being vetted on all sides, especially hate-radio and TV.

    No, I am not implying a conspiracy - Kulturkampf is a kind of "natural" meme for hatred.

    And it's fueling a general acquiescence in the concept of a death-struggle a.k.a. permanent warfare.

    Be all that you can be: Work for peace - - Jesus (Mt.5:9)

    by Upstream Review on Sun Dec 10, 2006 at 01:30:15 PM PST

  •  Huntington: 2nd-rate sociologist, worse historian (7+ / 0-)

    Which is undoubtedly why he's had so much influence on the Op-Ed pages over the years.

    Americans are less interested and less educated in history than Europeans, and so it's going to get a great deal harder for them to relate constructively towards the outside world or preserve their own democracy.

  •  excellent diary (7+ / 0-)

    I think when future historians look back on the academics that influence our current failed foreign policies Huntington will be seen as one of the chief causes for you current situation. Also of note should be Bernard Lewis. Lewis's racist view of the inherent inferiority of Islamic culture coupled with Huntington's assertions of global struggle for dominance went hand in hand in allowing the neocons to intellectually justify the their ideas. Although "Clash of Civilizations" sat on Rumsfeld's desk in the Pentagon, it was Lewis who sat in on the war planning meetings to give his "unique perspective" on Islamic culture and the mindset of Islamic peoples.

  •  Religion (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FrankFrink, paul2port, Allogenes

    The old Dark Ages--were caused by the closed minded Catholic Church.  The new Dark Ages were caused by our idiot president's love affair with know nothing evangelicals.  Can Canada be our bridge to renaissance?  Internally, I'm not so confident there are enough dems up to the job. Lieberman has many cronies.

    •  We need to be careful here (5+ / 0-)

      In medieval Europe, institutions of learning were all to be found within the Church.  Our modern university is a direct descendant of medieval cathedral schools.

      I've got the fever for the flavour, the payback will be later, still I need a fix - Bran Van 3000

      by Linnaeus on Sun Dec 10, 2006 at 02:59:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  All I can offer are some words, interviews (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Canadian Reader, paul2port, Allogenes

      and thoughts on Canada from the Aga Khan, spiritual head of the Nizari Ismaili Shi'a sect.

      A long time friend of Canada (to the extent that he was one of the late Prime Minster Pierre Elliot Trudeau's honorary pallbearers), and supporter of Canada's (and Trudeau's) approach to pluralism.

      (As a side note - I can't think of any recent or current political head of state who could claim both personal friendships with, as well as bridge the ideological, religious and cultural gaps between past and present leaders of the United States, Cuba and the Muslim world. The Aga Khan, Jimmy Carter, Fidel Castro and Leonard Cohen were among Trudeau's honorary pallbearers.)

      One is a transcript of 2005 speech in Ottawa.

      Successful experience with democracy, civil society and pluralism are the national genius of Canada of which much of the developing world is in dire need. As an example – and there are many – of how these Canadian assets can help transform living conditions, I often cite our experience in Northern Pakistan, a case study situation of poor development prospects in a harsh, sparsely endowed physical environment, further beset by ethnic and religious hostilities. The AKDN has been present there for over twenty years, with CIDA as a lead partner. Our joint micro experiment with grassroots democracy, civil society and pluralism has been the spring board for a dramatic trebling of per capita incomes, with corresponding improvements in social services and cultural awareness in what was once one of the poorest areas on earth. Tensions occasionally resurface, incited by mischief; but by and large, where once there was conflict born of despair and past memories, there is now a spirit of consensus built around hope in the future.

      The other a 2002 interview with the Globe & Mail newspaper.

      "Canada is today the most successful pluralist society on the face of our globe, without any doubt in my mind. . . . That is something unique to Canada. It is an amazing global human asset," he said.

      "You have created a pluralist society where minorities, generally speaking, are welcome," he continued. "They feel comfortable. They assimilate the Canadian psyche. They are allowed to move forward within civil society in an equitable manner. Their children are educated. And I'm not the one who is making the judgment. Look at the international evaluation of Canada as a country and the way it functions."

      But his most pressing concern was the need for pluralism -- globally as well as in most developing countries -- and what he called a Canadian model.

      "Canada has succeeded in an area where the developing world has one of its greatest needs: How do you build pluralist civil society in the developing world? Look at Africa. Look at Asia. What is one of the characteristics? The inability of different groups of people to live together in peace in a constructive environment to build civil society."

      Part of the Aga Khan's mission in Ottawa was to ask Canadian leaders about the reasons for the country's peaceful development, and how that could be translated to poorer, more divided countries.

      While in Washington, he said, the new Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, told him in a private meeting that Canada is the one country where the pluralism of society and the successful management of that pluralism is something he and others in Afghanistan want to look at.

      I have a lot of respect and admiration for the Aga Khan as well as the very strong and socially active Ismaili community in home town.

      I can't say what our (i.e. Canada) continuing or future role will be in realtion to your musing. It certainly won't be much of a role in that respect with a Prime Minister such as Stephen Harper.

      The Grasshopper Lies Heavy

      by FrankFrink on Sun Dec 10, 2006 at 03:32:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think Bob Love touches on the truth here: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mattes, FrankFrink, paul2port, Allogenes

    The Renaissance occurred when mercantilism created nation-states like Venice that were dominated by forces other than relgion.  When religion's grip is loosened, great things can happen.

    I touched on this issue over here:

    A Middle class is a rare thing, occurring only 3 times thru-out history. The first rising of a middle class occurred as a result of the Black Plague. The Black Plague killed about 30% of the worlds population, creating a labor shortage. This allowed that Trades & Craftsman to command a higher wage, which trickled down to the common yeoman, much as the unionization of US labor in the middle 1900's allowed non union labor to command wages akin to union labor. Some have written that the renaissance, without a middle class that had the liesure time to even consider art & music, let alone the time to paint, sculpt, write & perform music, would have never occurred.

    From wiki Black plague 1347–1350 & Renaissance.

    The plague may have been the great equalizer, it touched all. No Cardinal was safe

    FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Sun Dec 10, 2006 at 03:31:31 PM PST

  •  When civilizations clash, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FrankFrink, paul2port

    barbarism wins.

    "I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat." -- Will Rogers

    by Allogenes on Sun Dec 10, 2006 at 03:36:18 PM PST

  •  As the proprietor (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Love, FrankFrink, paul2port

    of ProgressiveHistorians, a community site dedicated to the intersection of history and politics, I would be honored if you would cross-post this excellent diary there.

  •  What I see here is a whole lot of willful (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Turquine

    self-deceit in service of political correctness, ranging from Lewis and Huntington bashing to a willingness to ignore the qualititatively different nature of a world with the Internet, nuclear weapons, and an Islam so wonderful that Salman Rushdie had to hide for years.

    Tell me all about the old ways, but don't tell me they are the same as the new ones.

    Things emerge, and they are not necessarily connected by more than a thread to the past.

    Santayana may be right, but he's not the last word on this subject. You can fail by refusing to acknowledge the new.

    Civilizations can clash.

    I hear no proof here that they can't, just character assassination.

    INVESTIGATE! SPINE UP!

    by ormondotvos on Sun Dec 10, 2006 at 11:02:36 PM PST

    •  Let's try again ormondotvos (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ormondotvos
      1. Yes Civilizations can clash.
      1. There is no character assassination on my part, the part of the TO Star author Jeffery Ewener, or Arun Bala. Bala's book is a response to Huntington's thesis and if you read some of the comments here you will see an argument that the history of science disproves the Huntington's thesis.
      1. It is Huntington who attempts to use political history to justify the American hegemony, empire, and he provides ground for GWB's later invasion of Iraq.
  •  What's going on? (0+ / 0-)

    All the comments are important to understand the way of thinking such people and situation.
    But since there's no reference about the facts taking place in Lebanon nowdays (demonstrations ect) that proves we're (or better you're) far away from reality!!!

  •  Simply excellent. Refreshing, lucid (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FrankFrink, paul2port

    and accessible.

    I'd much rather diaries like this than "meta" how to be a better Kossack.

    Save the sermon's: get to work.

    Great job, paul2port!

    Thanks, too, to diary rescue!

  •  I disagree (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Turquine

    I am disappointed with this diary and, more importantly, the comments on it. Many of the comments dismiss Huntington's thesis as racist and/or dismiss Huntington himself as a neo-con. Yet such commentators do not offer anything contradictory to the thesis. They simply indulge in name-calling. I hunger for more meat in such discussions.

    This may surprise you, but when I read his book I brought no political agenda; I simply read it as one application of history to modern geopolitics. I found some merit to it. I am not so simple-minded as to treat every historical hypothesis as either proven beyond a doubt or utterly demolished. I found some flaws in the reasoning, some weaknesses in the hypothesis, but overall I judged it a useful concept. There is certainly a strong conflict developing between Islam and the West (although much of it, I fear, is fomented by the West).

    The commentary on the history of science, on the other hand, is solid and enlightening. I take the view that Western civilization did have an intrinsic advantage over Islamic and Sinic civilization in the development of science, but this does nothing to detract from the advances made by these civilizations. I was amused by the comment that Islamic civilization learned nothing from the West (to suggest that the West had nothing to offer). Islamic civilization was so self-assured that, right up to Napoleon's invasion of Egypt, they flatly rejected anything from the West. I recall an astonishing factoid that, right up into the 19th century, there were only a handful of printing presses in the Ottoman Empire. And even after that disaster of Egypt and the utter destruction of their fleet in 1828(date?), they still couldn't rise to the challenge -- and still haven't.

    In any case, I reject the following intimations made here:

    1. All civilizations have similar perspectives and approaches to reality.
    1. Asserting that there are differences in perspective between civilizations is racist.
    1. Western science couldn't have happened without Islamic science.
    •  On The Next Agenda oxon commented: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Turquine, FrankFrink

      I like the larger point, here, that (4.60 / 5)
      the underpinning attitudes have gone unscathed in the rejection of PNAC projects like Iraq.  Iraq may be lost, but not the idea that the world is America's to run.  The United States, one must remember, was born with a siege mentality already in place, and if Vietnam could not divest it thoroughly of its sense of its own manifest destiny, neither will Iraq.  
      Progressives must work to strip away these ideas, and those that follow from them -- American Exceptionalism, and what I call the American Dichotomy wherein everything done to the US, from Pearl Harbour to 9/11, is described in moral terms while things that the US does to other peoples are viewed in policy terms.  

      This war of ideas will never end as long as American corporate interests have or wish to have unfettered access to the markets, talents, capital and resources of the entire globe.

      As to Bala's history, though, I'd take exception on many fronts.  The idea that Ewener sets up as a straw man, that Europe suddenly comes to life in 1500 after 11 hundred years of Post-Roman 'darkness,' stems from an ignorance of the intellectual, cultural and political flouresence that was medieval Europe. This culture had emerged from the Dark Ages some seven hundred years before Columbus found a source of cheap silver and gold and transformed Europe into a major player.

      In the 11th c. (not 1300 or 1500) Europeans 'came into contact with' three bodies of ideas at the library at Cordoba -- Indian ideas moving through the Islamic world (hindu-arabic numerals & arithmetic), ideas of the classical world preserved by Islamic states (Ptolomaic astronomy; roman law & engineering; Greek philosphy & geometry), and ideas stemming directly from the caliphates themselves (the astrolabe, al-gebra and al-chemie).

      Paradoxically, that contact came as a direct result of the clash between European and Islamic civilisations -- the reconquista -- that continued through the Crusades.  Europeans conquered Cordoba, they didn't walk in with a library card.

      To the extent that Europe was even in contact with China prior to the return of Marco Polo in the 14th c., it was indirectly through armed confrontation with Mongols and later Turks.

      While openly admitting the productive effects of interaction between peoples, one ought not fall into the opposite trap.  Europe, 'being sandwiched between Islam and China,' was not an empty vessel filled by other civilisations.

      Democracy (going back to the Norse and other germanic direct councils, Things and Hundreds, and on through medieval parliaments, free-cities and guild councils), the scientific method (Roger Bacon), and the large-scale economic utilisation of technological innovation (through guilds and monastic orders such as the Cistercians), were all things that Europe brought to the world table.  

      There are many traditions of thought and rational inquiry, artistic and social expression, and of political and economic organisation in the world from which we can learn.  Let's hope that the human future has far more civilisation in store for us and far less clashing.

      Is the victim moral? -- Nietzsche

      by oxon on 12/10/2006 05:28:29 PM EST

    •  Misreading: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      paul2port

      "I was amused by the comment that Islamic civilization learned nothing from the West (to suggest that the West had nothing to offer)."

      My comment was clearly addressed to medieval times, not  the Renaissance or modern times, when Islamic cultures for the most part did become as moribund and insular as medieval Christianity had been.

      The discussion about what Christian Europe might have offered the Islamic world has gone on here for a while now, well beyond the life of this diary, and no one has yet been able to think of a single idea, invention, work, or product that medieval Christian Europe could have offered to the much more advanced civilizations of Islamic Spain or Persia at any time during the medieval period.

      Much better, thanks. And you?

      by Bob Love on Mon Dec 11, 2006 at 07:07:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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