Roger Scruton is a writer and philosopher. His many books include The Soul of the World and The Aesthetics of Architecture (both Princeton), as well as A Short History of Modern Philosophy; Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left; and The Ring of Truth: The Wisdom of Wagner's -Ring of the Nibelung.- He lives in Wiltshire, England.
Roger Scruton currently resides in Wiltshire. Roger Scruton has an academic affiliation as follows - Birkbeck College, University of London (Emeritus) American Enterprise.
Roger Scruton has published or released items in the following series...
In keeping with his philosophical approach to 'political correctness' and censorship I am sure Scruton would be the first to welcome debate on this potentially seminal text. I can't help thinking, however that a man of Scruton's intellectual faculty doesn't take all that well to being criticised. (Wo)men of vision are often quite precious about their opinions and words, though they offer them to an arena of intellectualism, where debate and discourse is a foundation, if we don't 'get' them, then we are at fault and not they, I disagree.
Though these ideas are not new, and now a shade dated, this is essentially a potentially brilliant text that sadly suffers on three (3) accounts, 1) It is far too short and thus inconclusive. 2) It is poorly edited, it rambles in parts, has insufficient chapters. 3) It is very subjective in parts, but paraded as not being so; fiction dressed as fact. [It's important to understand Scruton is an intellectual, a thinker and not a journalist as could appear the case]
Had Scruton gone with a major press, then surely he would have received better editorial guidance and the above mentioned points would have been corrected. However he didn't, and we have what we have; a work of great promise that never reached a conclusion. One also can't help but feel that Scruton is a prolific thinker/writer and is abound with ideas, ideas which he never quite takes to a satisfactory conclusion - as clearly demonstrated here.
I think it would also be fair to say that as a man of genuine vision, Scruton's vision is somewhat narrower than the average person, and so he has a tendency to dismiss alternative ideas as non-sense. I'm thinking here of his scoffing resentment of the French public for purchasing a book on the alternative 9/11 theories. I think any intellectual would be wise to consider that what information is presented through any news media or government agency needs taking with a pinch of salt. And that a wider discourse of the facts should be welcomed. I think too that Scruton's founding argument, the 'gem' that probably lead him to conceive of this text, i.e. the 'Architectural argument' is vastly overplayed and drawn from the Tower of Babel myth, convenient 'facts' linked together to form a half-hypothesis.
To Scruton's credit, however he does present the reader with more than enough ideas to send them away pondering the society and world which we have created. Most notably of interest is his thesis on the 'Social Contract', which is an idea worthy of its own publication. It's curious though, to note how he praises the United States as a model of this social contract, yet the reality is that America is essentially a vast expanse of land partially inhabited and by numerous different groups and sub-groups, all with their own agenda (and language) - the myth of America is just that, a myth. The 'United States' being a much better and more accurate label. The idea that The U.S. was founded on a common social goal and encompasses one and all in a nation where all is possible is quite literally an American 'Dream'. The reality is that The U.S. is a very fragmented society - almost as fragmented as the terrorists that threaten its idea of 'security' where there is no real 'yard stick' no official language and very little common ground. Scruton totally fails to pick up on this and instead regurgitates the myth that 'America' is a working model, when it clearly is not. In this case Great Britain would have been a far better example to use, but that's quite literally another story.
A Strong Conceptual Analysis of the West and Islam Nov 17, 2005
Scruton gives us a piercing concpetual analysis and deconstruction of the major qualities of Western and Islamic mindsets, motivations and goals, from political "liberal New York" to creed based Tehran. Of particular interest is his conclusion, based fully on what he considers the central tenets of the West. A must read and consideration for any citizen concerned about the state of the globe.
Clear thinking on difficult issues Sep 21, 2005
Although relatively brief (161 pages) this volume is densely packed with careful analysis and incisive observation. Subtitled "Globalization and the Terrorist Threat," this book explores a number of related themes. A major thesis is how modern Western democracies differ from other types of societies in general, and the Islamic world in particular. His historical and philosophical investigations provide a framework in which to judge both the September 11 attacks, and the ongoing threat of Islamic terrorism.
He begins by noting that social bonding can take place by means of either religion or politics. In the pluralistic West, social cohesion is mainly found in the form of the social contract, whereas in the Islamic world, religion alone provides that basis. Roman law and the Christian religion helped provide the basis for the social contract, as well as bring about the Western conception of the demarcation of the religious and political spheres.
Islamic societies on the other hand know of no separation of religious and secular authorities, with religion the sole basis of the state. Just as the Communist party was a law onto itself, so "Islam aims to control the state without being a subject of the state". As a result, there are no political or social mediating structures between Allah and His will (Islam) and the submissive Muslim (Islamic citizen).
The freedoms of a democracy, including the freedom to oppose the state, to vote for alternative parties, and to freely express dissenting opinions are thus not to be found in Islamic states. In theocracies, such dissent is just not possible. And given that Islam means submission, the good Muslim is an obedient Muslim.
Both secular Western societies and Muslim societies have notions of membership. Membership in the West is made up of the voluntary, the tribal, the linguistic and the political. Muslim membership is credal, based only on the religious. The political process of the West allows for the separation of society from the state, while there is no such distinction in Islamic jurisdictions. Thus the political is the religious, whereas the genius of Western democracies is to separate the political from the rest of social and personal life.
Democratic citizenship helps to limit state power and deter totalitarian temptations. However as the onslaught of radical individualism and secularism sweep the West, former loyalties and the sense of social membership are quickly giving way. As the concept of citizenship disappears, social membership is strained and the basis of democracies is undermined. In the light of such social and political fragmentation, the religious membership of Islamic societies stands in sharp contrast.
However Islamic unity is based on force and power, not consent. Religious toleration, taken for granted in the West, is a foreign concept in Islamic societies. Islamic law applies to every aspect of life, and leads to the denial of the political. All is religious, and mediating structures are unheard of.
While Christianity teaches us to give to Caesar what is his, in Islamic thinking nothing is Caesar's, everything is Allah's. All is religious because all is Allah's. Thus Islamic membership is all-embracing and all-demanding.
But Western membership, or citizenship is unraveling, making Western democracies vulnerable and lacking in direction. Thus the inability of Western nations to unite against the real dangers of terrorism. Thus the mistaken notions of moral equivalence, where ruthless Muslim dictatorships are seen as no better or no worse than Western leadership. Thus the real possibility of the continued demise of the West coupled with a resurgent rise of Islam.
Yes there are exceptions, such as authoritarian democracies (e.g Singapore) and democratic Muslim states (Turkey being the only real example). But Islamic nations are inherently undemocratic. The political freedoms we enjoy in the West are largely unheard of in Islamic societies. And while the majority of Muslims do not support terrorism and murder, enough do to make for a lengthy battle between the West and Islam.
In the past Christians may have wrongly used the edge of the sword to command loyalty to the faith, but that has always been a perversion of Christ's gospel, not a fulfillment of it. But for a Muslim to take up the sword for Islam against the unbeliever is both sensible for a member of a theocracy and endorsed (at least in some interpretations) in the Koran.
Indeed, terrorism and conquest have a long history in Islam. And modern Western-trained Muslims, backed with Western technology and the revenue of Arabian oil wells, have made for the kind of terrorism witnessed in New York and Bali. Many explanations and justifications for such terrorism have been put forward, but the truth is, as Scruton documents, "Islamism is not a cry of distress from the `wretched of the earth.' It is an implacable summon to war, issued by globetrotting middle-class Muslims".
Since opposition cannot be found in Islamic countries, only a re-invigorated West can adequately deal with the terrorist threat (and Muslim terrorism against other Muslims is not uncommon). But this requires a renewal of the idea of citizenship and community, and a renunciation of radical versions of individualism and secularism. The religious (mainly Judeo-Christian) basis of Western democracies needs to be revived and encouraged not just in the private sphere but in the public as well.
Thus Scruton's book is not only a warning about the anti-democratic makeup of Islamic societies, but a wake-up call to the West to re-explore its roots and re-establish its moral and cultural foundations. Without a revived West the prospects for the war against Islamic terrorism look bleak. But this volume helps to remind us that the stakes are high and some things are worth fighting for. Hopefully this book will serve as a much-needed call to action by the West. If not, we have much to fear from the future.
Offers some real insights Sep 3, 2005
We're all asking what alienated the London suicide bombers to do what they did. This book offers some real insights into the Islamist state of mind.
There are no easy solutions : the West now offers the Muslim immigrant welfare benefits, free education, free medical services and plenty of work on the illegal market (the European Union having priced work out of the official economy). What the immigrant won't find is any process of nation building so he lives in strict isolation; being a member of only his family and his immigrant community.
The chapters on how the West built nations through shared language,shared religion, shared customs and a shared legal system (all absent from the European Union) are extremely thought provoking.
Please read this book. I came to the conclusion some time ago that the nations of the West are giving up their countries. A price it seems we pay for freedom (freedom gone too far?).
I am a fully integrated immigrant. I came to the UK at the age of six some 42 years ago and firmly believed that all immigrants would seek to become integrated. I failed to understand why this has not happened but this book along with some others I have read recently (eg Bernard Lewis: Islam in Crisis) have helped me to make some sense of the current situation.
The enemy within and without Aug 28, 2005
In this short but illuminating book, Scruton examines the political institutions of the West as regards the relation between religion and politics, and the threat of radical Islam. Briefly but with great clarity he explores the political history of West that gave us individual freedom, prosperity and the pursuit of knowledge. These pillars rest upon Greek thought, Roman Law and Judeo-Christianity. He points out that freedom needs to be defined and that it also needs restraints in order to continue to function. The success of the West is based on the practice of separating church and state, of recognizing the two different realms. This is the fundamental difference with Islam.
Islamism is a totalitarian ideology precisely because the totality of society must submit to religion. The author argues that the political process in Western societies is what has made it so successful - western democracies are governed by politics while the Rest is ruled by force. In the West, the political process functions through negotiation and compromise. Religion and culture are binding principles but they do not prescribe. But with the collapse of these roots in much of the West, a vital defence of our culture is being lost. According to Scruton, the love of freedom alone is not enough for our civilization to survive. He considers the nation state as a precondition for democracy and the rule of law. Under Islam, the Sharia is the only source of law and there is no room for dissent.
The UN is a club of gangsters. Most UN representatives do not represent the people of their countries but only the thuggish regimes that lord it over them. In addition, Western elites and radical Islamists both despise Western civilization. This is particularly pronounced in academia, the media and the entertainment community. This alienation manifests also in the Muslim immigrant communities in Europe that do not want to assimilate, enjoying all the benefits of their new society whilst at the same time hating it. There is a sick synergy between the immigrants and the elites that despise their own heritage.
Scruton explains the modern roots of Islamic militancy by discussing Wahhabism, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Khomeini revolution in Iran. He rightly criticises the West's dangerous commitment to multiculturalism but I do not agree with his conclusions that globalisation fosters terrorism and that democracy is not suitable for "the rest." One need only look at successful democracies like Japan and India to see the fallacy here. Even Turkey, a predominantly Moslem country, has a somewhat flawed but functioning democracy.
But overall, and for its multiple insights, this is a most valuable and enlightening work that provides much food for thought. Scruton is an original thinker and a gifted writer. I highly recommend The West And The Rest for those who are interested in history, culture and politics.
Other recommended books that cover similar terrain include Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left by David Horowitz, The Force of Reason by Oriana Fallaci, Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild by Michelle Malkin, Hoodwinked: How Intellectual Hucksters Have Hijacked American Culture by Jack Cashill, Intellectual Impostures: Postmodern Philosophers' Abuse of Science by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, Anti-Americanism by Jean-Francois Revel, The Death of Right and Wrong: Exposing the Left's Assault on Our Culture and Values by Tammy Bruce, and The Anti-Chomsky Reader by Horowitz and Collier.