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What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response [Hardcover]

By Bernard W. Lewis (Author)
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Item description for What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response by Bernard W. Lewis...

Hailed by "The New York Times Book Review" as "the doyen of Middle Eastern studies, " Bernard Lewis is one of the West's foremost authorities on Islamic history and culture. In this striking volume, he offers an incisive look at the relationship between the Middle East and Europe over the last three centuries.

Publishers Description
For many centuries, the world of Islam was in the forefront of human achievement--the foremost military and economic power in the world, the leader in the arts and sciences of civilization. Christian Europe, a remote land beyond its northwestern frontier, was seen as an outer darkness of barbarism and unbelief from which there was nothing to learn or to fear. And then everything changed, as the previously despised West won victory after victory, first in the battlefield and the marketplace, then in almost every aspect of public and even private life.
In this intriguing volume, Bernard Lewis examines the anguished reaction of the Islamic world as it tried to understand why things had changed--how they had been overtaken, overshadowed, and to an increasing extent dominated by the West. Lewis provides a fascinating portrait of a culture in turmoil. He shows how the Middle East turned its attention to understanding European weaponry and military tactics, commerce and industry, government and diplomacy, education and culture. Lewis highlights the striking differences between the Western and Middle Eastern cultures from the 18th to the 20th centuries through thought-provoking comparisons of such things as Christianity and Islam, music and the arts, the position of women, secularism and the civil society, the clock and the calendar.
Hailed in The New York Times Book Review as "the doyen of Middle Eastern studies," Bernard Lewis is one of the West's foremost authorities on Islamic history and culture. In this striking volume, he offers an incisive look at the historical relationship between the Middle East and Europe.

Citations And Professional Reviews
What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response by Bernard W. Lewis has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Wilson Senior High Core Col - 01/01/2011 page 805
  • Publishers Weekly - 01/07/2002 page 59
  • Business Week - 01/28/2002 page 20
  • New York Times - 01/27/2002 page 9
  • Time - 02/18/2002 page 73
  • Library Journal - 02/15/2002 page 160
  • New York Times - 06/02/2002 page 29
  • Christian Century - 09/11/2002 page 34
  • New York Times - 12/08/2002 page 72
  • Choice - 09/01/2002 page 166
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2002 page 124
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 933
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 1173

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Oxford University Press
Pages   180
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 6" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   0.85 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Jan 24, 2002
Publisher   Oxford University Press
Edition  New  
ISBN  0195144201  
ISBN13  9780195144208  

Availability  0 units.

More About Bernard W. Lewis

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Bernard Lewis is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies Emeritus at Princeton University. A highly eminent authority on Middle Eastern history, the author of over two dozen books, most notably The Arabs in History, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, The Political Language of Islam, The Muslim Discovery of Europe and The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2000 Years.

Bernard W. Lewis was born in 1916.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Asia > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Asia
3Books > Subjects > History > Middle East > General
4Books > Subjects > History > Middle East
5Books > Subjects > History > World > 20th Century
6Books > Subjects > History > World > General
7Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > International > Relations

Reviews - What do customers think about What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response?

everyone should get aquinted with this book.  May 8, 2008
this is well written and really is helpful in understanding the roots of the problem caused by 911. the author obiously knowws what he is talking about and has the credentials and credibility to go along with it. he is the most knowledgable in the subject in current times. it really is sad that most americans can tell you who won a reality show but they cantell you of the roots of a war that they are fighting and losing thier children to!
What Went Wrong? A Partial Answer, but a Good Start  Feb 11, 2008
There appear to be two schools of historical thought on the Middle East, and on Islam in a larger sense. The first is represented by Edward Said and is largely a post-modernist phenomenon. The second is best represented by Bernard Lewis and employs a more traditional, objectivist approach.

What Went Wrong? is a short but dense exploration of the wresting of civilizational dominance from Islam to Christendom that started around the 15th century and continues to this day. It is concerned with the Islamic perception and response to the events of this decline. The book however does not really answer its own question, and somewhat disappointingly it's a conglomeration of several different essays and lectures the author presented in Germany (before 9/11 coincidentally.) This does not mean it is value-less though.

The partial answer given is a fittingly polyglot one, covering most everything from military arms and organization to political structures to culture and the arts. The most major theme that I drew however is namely the Islamic superiority complex, rightly justified in the high Middle Ages, that led Islamic civilization to "rest on it's laurels" and stagnate -concerning itself with only itself- while the rest of the world simmered along a tortured but vibrant path towards progress. This superiority complex is still as strong today, fueling both biased and piecemeal attempts at modernization and the explosive frustration of being so clearly behind when those attempts inevitably fail.

This book is also one of those examples of when studying the "other" helps you perhaps learn more about yourself in the process. What is so amazing is that not only can no clear, striking answer be given to the question of what went wrong but the world very evidently can't answer the more important question of what went right with western ascendance. The west itself produces no concurring chorus to preach to the world the secrets of its success. Simply look at the diverging platforms of the different western political parties as prescriptions for future prosperity and the myriad authors giving all sorts of explanations for that prosperity, from Jared Diamond's Accident of Geography to Victor Davis Hanson's Culture is Fate. Although I certainly have my belief as to what the west does right (and may be doing wrong recently) so do others who have looked at the same data and convinced themselves just as strongly of opposite conclusions.

Mr. Lewis' most central argument as to both what went right and what went wrong seems to lay in the separation of church and state. But this is by no means his only answer and it would be a disservice not to recommend reading the book to gain not only a greater understanding of his partial answer but also to see into the spectrum of more important related questions and unknowns that unfolds in the intellectual pursuit started by the simple query of what went wrong. The most chilling possibility that glints dimly in the shadow of the author's answer is that Islam, as an all encompassing religion, culture and political system in one, may be unsuitable to ever reversing its relative slide with the rest of the world. The Christian Reformation was a hard fought, long, brutal and bloody affair. Can Islam restore itself to a fully functioning civilization in the world of peer civilizations (let alone really co-exist with them) and avoid the need for a reformation? And if not, just how bloody will Islam's reformation be? Current trends in the world leave the first question unanswered, but the second's answer decidely and darkly obvious.
Good, but does not directly answer the main question  Dec 13, 2007
Many other reviewers have pointed out both the high points and the shortcomings of this book. Overall, it's a worthwhile read, but its biggest drawback is that doesn't answer "what went wrong" directly. Now, if we were students in Dr. Lewis' class, where we could engage in Socratic dialecticism, that approach might be appropriate. But we're readers paying good dough for his book, and it's not too much to request that it address and answer its title issue.

My own conclusion bout the title issue, arrived at only after gleaning the information from the book, is that Mohammedism has fallen behind the rest of the civilized world because of (a) its combined religious-state-military nature, which allows it to be too self-contained to accept new, better ideas, (b) contempt for religions seen as corrupted, precursory or inferior, despite such religions being able to offer valuable insights into human betterment, (c) subjugation of one-half of its population by the other half, removing the energy and talents that first half could provide and (d) a generally Arabic worldview (which Mohammed in some cases blunted, but in others accentuated) on matters of right and wrong, gender roles, violence, wealth production, the importance of status and honor, and tribalism.
What Went Wrong? The Clash Betweem Oslam and Modernity in the Middle East  Dec 1, 2007
Lewis brings up some points that are debatable such as tolerance of religions during middle ages in Islamic areas. He would lead the reader to
believe that Christians and Jews lived therein without any religious difficulties.
This is a curiously kind review of Islam at its best, providing some polite insight into reasons that Western bilateralism is so very vulnerable to the unbending unilateralism known as Islam.

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