Saturday, August 12, 2006

What the Islamofacists were doing while we indulged the end of history ...

(From my draft review essay, Goodbye to All That? A Requiem for Neoconservatism, reviewing Francis Fukuyama's After the Neocons and Peter Beinart's The Good Fight. The complete draft is available as a pdf download at SSRN, here.)

Alas, as we now know, other intellectuals were also at work in those same years. They too were dreaming their dreams of a politics and history. Theirs, however, were dreams not of the end of history, but instead its re-birth, the re-birth of politics and history on the march, a march long stalled by centuries of Western expansion but reinvigorated by contemporary global demography. A history simultaneously older than old and newer than new, pre-modern in its deployment of ancient Islamic doctrines but post-modern in its highly selective use of them and in its deployment of the cutting edge of the West’s very own anti-Western ideologies of multiculturalism, anti-colonialism, and ressentiment, all at the same time – a distinctly pre-modern, post-modern alternative to modernity and particularly its secular liberal capitalist form. It too conceived of an end-time of ideology – not our polished, commercial, secular, capitalist, democratic civil society writ global, but instead the worldwide umma. Pre-modern and post-modern, yes – but never modern in that term’s formal sense, the way in which we are modern. But they wrote down their visions and grand strategies in languages few of us understood, even as they took full advantage of modernity’s technologies to post their manifestos on the Internet. They lived in grimy, slummy, unglamorous places in the second and third worlds few of us visited as we went about with our Lonely Planet guides, admiring reformed South Africa, its game parks and lovely Cape Town, so full of multicultural promise, went to the beach in Thailand, climbed Kilimanjaro and lamented the loss of primate habitat to war and poaching, hiked from Cuzco to Machu Piccu where we heard stories of the ancient Incas and not-so-ancient Sendero Luminoso, and worried about the decline of the Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. They, meanwhile, organized among modernity’s resentful left-overs in the great cities of Europe where, it is true, many of us also lived, only they lived in neighborhoods few of us ever visited, the banlieues of Paris and the storefront mosques of Bradford and Hamburg, and they, those same intellects, vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. Great believers in praxis as well as Allah, patiently connecting theory to action, umma to jihad, preacher to terrorist, liberation to the burqa, what had they to do with the end of history conceived as the triumph of the complacent bourgeoisie?

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