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Since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, a number of explanations have been advanced. But few, if any, have matched the analytical depth and originality displayed here by the noted English philosopher and cultural critic Roger Scruton.
In The West and the Rest, Scruton shows how the different religious and philosophical roots of Western and Islamic societies have resulted in those societies’ profoundly divergent beliefs about the nature of political order. The idea of the social contract, crucial to the self-conception of Western nations, is entirely absent in Islamic societies. Similarly, the notions of territorial jurisdiction, citizenship, and the independent legitimacy of secular authority and law are both specifically Western and fundamentally antipathetic to Islamic thought.
Globalization has created an explosive mixture by bringing the formerly remote inhabitants of Islamic nations into constant contact with the images, products, and peoples of secular, liberal democracies. Scruton warns that in light of this new reality, certain Western assumptions—about consumption and prosperity, about borders and travel, about free trade and multinational corporations, and about multiculturalism—need to be thoroughly re-evaluated. The West and the Rest is a major contribution to public discourse about terrorism, civil society, and liberal democracy.