This thoughtful exploration of identity, culture and fundamentalism focuses on a critically important question confronting so many countries in the post-Cold War epoch: are culturally determined political conflicts rooted in the cultures themselves, or spawned only by their political instrumentalization? Professor Meyer presents and critiques, at both the conceptual and empirical level, Samuel Huntington's celebrated argument about the inevitability of violent conflict between different civilizations. While acknowledging people's need to adopt identities, and that cultures necessarily imply differentiated identities, Professor Meyer argues that most religions share core values, and difference only leads to intolerance and violence when politically ambitious leaderships exploit it. This is what creates the essentially political phenomenon of fundamentalism, which occurs, as he shows, in all civilizations, with contemporary European and North American societies having proved themselves particularly prone. What provides the historical occasion is social crisis, of which he gives numerous examples from both industrialized and Third World countries.
In the present age of globalization, Meyer suggests that social crisis grows out of an exclusionary dynamic that marginalizes growing numbers of people. Little wonder that the deepening of inequality between North and South has undermined popular confidence in secular leaders' vision of development and triggered a divisive fundamentalism that declares war on modernism and, ironically, on traditionalism too. This argument, if valid, contains real grounds for optimism. In seeking political strategies to defeat fundamentalism and the identity mania that accompanies it, the focus must be on developing economic and social structures that do not exclude or make people insecure, but that give all citizens a common interest in the operations of a socially responsible market economy, which delivers to all.
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(216mm x 138mm x 9mm)
Zed Books Ltd
Publisher: Zed Books Ltd
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Author Biography - Thomas Meyer
Thomas Meyer is professor of political science at the University of Dortmund. He has taught and conducted research in several countries, including India, and is the author of numerous essays and books on culture and politics, political communication, and socialism.