Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Islamic State and Modernity

In preparation for considering the problem of secularization, I am reading a set of essays edited by Friedrich Wilhelm Graf and Heinrich Meier, Politik und Religion: Zur Diagnose der Gegenwart, published in 2013 by C.H.Beck.

The essay by Hillel Fradkin, Die lange Suche nach dem islamischen Staat,  (the long search for the Islamic state), and argues that the Islamic world, after the conquering successes of Mohammed, reigned such a large stretch of land for such a long time (1400 years from Hegira to the Fall of the Ottoman Empire) that Modernity for them is like a nightmare, nibbling away their success first in colonialism and then in modern republican nationalism (pp.136-139). That the infidels should rule the faithful appears like a devilish perversion, because it negates the trope of the superior political organization.

After discussing the Brotherhood in Egypt and the Iranian Revolution, Fradkin turns to the problem of what modernity means as a configuration for Islam.
Denn objektiv gesehen, und nach Erfahrung der westlichen Politik zu urteilen, welche die muslimische Macht zurückdrängte, ist die Macht, deren es heute bedarf, um die Weltpolitik zu dominieren, eine Funktion der Aneignung der Moderne. Damit ist nicht nur die moderne Technologie, sondern zuallererst der moderne Republikanismus und das moderne Denken gemeint, das beides hervorbrachte. Nicht zufällig war dieses Denken von Anfang an in hohem Maße von der Frage der Macht präokkupiert. Zumindest was die Macht betrifft, hat das moderne Denken sein Versprechen gehalten, insbesondere gilt dies für die ökonomische Macht, auf der andere Formen der Macht beruhen. (p.159)
[Viewed objectively, and judged by the experiences of western politics, which have pushed back Muslim power,  is the power that is necessary these days, to dominate world politics, a function of the acquisition of modernity. This does not mean just modern technology, but before all else, modern republicanism and the modern thinking that brought these two about. It is no accident that this thinking was preoccupied from the get-go to a high degree by the question of power. At least as far as power is concerned, the modern thinking kept its promise, and this is especially true for economic power, on which the other forms of power are founded. (p.159)]
But that seems to invert several things, in my mind. While economic power is clearly not independent of resources and raw materials, is it not most heavily tied to technological advances and a workforce that can participate in their use and construction?  Now, one can argue that modern republicanism is a prerequisite for that, but the Chinese system suggests that this is not necessarily so.

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