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Do you think it will ever be figured out in the Islamic world?

It happened in the Christian world for two very big reasons. One, dissneters really didn't have any place to go in those days. Travel was limited and one country was pretty much like another with the King at the top and the nobles and clergy controlling mostly every thing else. So you couldn't really flee the system and any discontent basically seethed underneath.

Add to this the rise of the bourgeoisie. Here you had a group of men, the merchants, manufacturers and traders, who were basically in the forefront of most new developments, making the money and yet really had no official status or power. That was still wrapped up in the hands of the nobles and clergy. They had the unofficial power that money always brings but officially were still nothing. They started to agitate for change and given the support of most of the populace, who figured they couldn't be any worse of than they were, ushered in many of the changes that advanced the Western system on the path it went. They were basically the tinder between the spark of the thinkers and their new ideas of Enlightenment and the fire made up of the general populace.

In the Islamic world today tho things are a bit different. Altho the general populace can be restive and secular ideas are already out there in the Western nations the tinder, the bourgeoisie if you will, is missing. Not to say they don't exist but for the most part, instead of fighting the restrictions of the Islamic world and carrying the populace along with them, they have fled to Western countries where they don't have to fight to gain privileges and secularism is already a way of life.

IMHO, ease of travel and a already diverse world will make an Islamic enlightenment a lot more difficult to come by.


A couple of things to your thoughtful rebuttal. First, the RestoftheWorld does not need to reinvent the Enlightment, since its philosophical basis has already been penned, and its subsequent institutions already given varied successful shape. Given your description of how total the monarchical system was, it is pretty remarkable that Europeans managed ever to exit from it! But they only managed to, in part IMO, because of the brutal experience of the Wars of Religion - I mean, seriously, that long bloody episode made political thinking out of the box seem pretty "resonable." Perhaps the Sunnis & the Shia need to have their own drawn out battle over primacy in Islam, in the way Protestants & Catholics bloodied one another, before they too subordinate religion to the political dustbin of individual spirituality? And, when I say it will take shorter, I'm not thinking in terms of years or decades, since Monarchy reined in Europe for many centuries; and parliamentary systems took decades to achieve and maintain their foothold. I am one of those who believes that representative democracy is about as good as it gets, represents progress, and is the path down which all of humanity eventually will travel - which is effectively what I understand Fukiyama meant when he talked about the "end of history."

With regard to your thoughts on the rise of the bourgeoisie, this too is very interesting to me, and I have two thoughts. First, oil has been the region's curse as much as its blessing. When you spend 7 decades or so pulling immense riches effortlessly from the ground, the need to engage other business efforts is limited. But to the extent those oil riches peak - and again, we're talking over a long period of time - I imagine that "merchants, manufacturers and traders" will reemerge, since the long view of Arab history provides plenty of evidence to suggest it possesses a highly capable business culture. In the same way Arab history has often made education its cornerstone. We mustn't assume that the noisy fanatics on whom Western media focus represent the center cultural current of Arabism or Islam. Both have remarkable historical currents, that I believe will eventually reassert....

Finally, I see the the ease of travel and exposure to diversity you reference as cutting both ways. I think of the experience of East & West Germany: there are many stories of East Germans picking up West German television broadcasts, which put on display the increasing disparity in prosperity that the competing systems provided the same "Volk." To the extent the dispossessed successfully make the argument that our prosperity is a function of the West's imperial tyranny of them, the apparent contrast will not serve any Enlightened purpose. But I can also imagine that thoughtful commentators from the region would increasingly dismiss the simple imperial argument in favor of the need for internal reform. You hear of these brave commentators from time to time, who reject the religious militants and find plenty of fault internally that could and should be addressed. Will the champions of reform ever obtain a critical mass? I'm an optimist, so I believe so, though not necessarily tomorrow, or this decade, or even this century. And perhaps only in response to prolonged bloody civil conflict.

But, eventually,

Jimi
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