Civilizations in Dispute: Historical Questions and by Johann P. Arnason

By Johann P. Arnason

The becoming curiosity in civilizations, either at the point of political controversy ("the conflict of civilizations") and within the context of scholarly debates, demands extra theoretical mirrored image at the difficulties and views principal to this box of social inquiry. This quantity features a systematic and demanding survey of classical and modern ways to comparative civilizational research. It is going directly to define a theoretical version that pulls at the paintings of old sociologists in addition to on comparative cultural and highbrow. Civilizations are analysed as multi-dimensional formations, with specific emphasis on cultural orientations, but in addition at the independent dynamics of political and financial associations. The final bankruptcy applies this line of argument to questions raised via critics of Eurocentrism and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of post-colonial concept.

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The overall upshot of such reconsiderations is—or could be—an approach which does more justice to history without discarding the civilizational perspective. The Indian way of articulating the differentiation and interdependence of sacred and secular authority can still be seen as a distinctive and durable pattern, but it is characterized by inbuilt ambiguity on both sides (the religious sphere combined a radically other-worldly vision of ultimate goals with a claim to centrality within the social order, whereas the political focus on kingship was counterbalanced by obstacles to the formation of a strong centre); this framework prefigured a range of possibilities, rather than a set of systemic principles, and the concrete results depended on historical forces.

Vandermeersch argues that an analysis in this vein could start with ritualism, always regarded as a defining characteristic of Confucian traditions and rightly seen by authoritative Confucian thinkers as the key element of an older legacy. Needless to say, the traditional system of ritual control and legitimation disintegrated together with the old order which it had helped to maintain; the question is, however, whether the logic behind it was of some importance to the new structures built in the course of the modernizing process.

Lapidus has convincingly shown that the historical transformations of Islamic societies involved ‘a notable differentiation of state and religious institutions’ (Lapidus, 1996: 4), and that the various patterns which emerged in the course of this process reflect the interaction with older traditions as well as changing geopolitical circumstances. The first wave of Islamic expansion led to the conquest of older civilizations which had developed different ways of regulating the coexistence of religious and political institutions; the unavoidable adaptation to their multiple legacies led to tensions and conflicts within the new Islamic elite, and thus to a new—albeit limited— polarization of the religious and the political.

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