Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History

Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History

by Lee Harris

Civilization and Its Enemies Next Stage of History. Free Press, 2004.

  • Language: English
  • Category: History
  • Rating: 3.90
  • Pages: 256
  • Publish Date: February 3rd 2004 by Free Press
  • Isbn10: 0743257499
  • Isbn13: 9780743257497

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The enemy hates us for reasons that are not based on reality, but on fantasy. Not the reason of the Enlightenment, but courage, loyalty and a code of honor are what is needed to defeat the ruthlessness of the enemy. Hitler had the fantasy of reviving German paganism.

Elaborating on three controversial articles originally appearing in Policy Review, Harris argues that terrorists struck against the U.S. not so much to wage war as to act out the histrionic script of a fantasy ideology in which religious zealotry enforces the kind of cruel tribal conformity that daring Greek and Roman thinkers long ago challenged.

He makes the point that ideals such as freedom, democracy, tolerance, etc., do not originate as someone's good idea, rather something is changing in society, is noticed, and a label is attached to it. One final quote: The logic behind this fanaticism (ie Nazism, Communism, Al Qaeda, etc) is childishly transparent: The world does not live up to my ideals of it.

While Americans may feel that our government makes decisions on a moral basis, the truth is that we have just as much desire to see our economic interests scattered throughout the world as any profit minded corporation. In short, I do not agree with the author's thesis that America is the world savior. It is only by dealing on a rational basis with those nations that are capable of it that we can we truly create a better world.

There's a great quote about the forgetfulness of societies, and an incredibly interesting thesis about "fantasy ideologies": Marxism, Nazism, Fascism, and Islam. She speaks with incredible clarity about identity, tribal loyalties, and defense of society from enemies. The enemy hates us for reasons that are not based on reality, but on fantasy. Not the reason of the Enlightenment, but courage, loyalty and a code of honor are what is needed to defeat the ruthlessness of the enemy. The enemy is motivated by fantasy.

According to my records/notes I own a copy of this one in hard copy, but wonder if that's really true.

One of the aspects that makes this book particularly worthwhile, even if what the author says are matters many readers will not want to accept, is that the book is simultaneously a defense of Hagel's critique of abstract reason and the tendency among many intellectuals to pit the real against the ideal and to be continually dissatisfied by the real and simultaneously a Hegelian dialectic examining the two sides of enemies of civilization, both among ivory tower intellectuals without a streak of ruthlessness in self-preservation and among the ruthless terrorists who can destroy in order to enact their dark political fantasies but who have not really created anything except for misery and destruction. The chapters of the book begin by looking at the riddle of the enemy and the nature of the gamble that Western civilization made in seeking liberal democracy, before giving a firm definition of enemy and the grand illusion of political fantasy that unites terrorists and many intellectuals. After this, Harris speaks of ruthlessness at the origin of civilizations, the birth of patriotism and the historic role of the United States, before a thoughtful contrast between liberal and team cosmopolitanism, the way that reason goes wrong, a case study of tolerance, the origin of the enemy, the rare virtues of the West in the course of global history, and a conclusion on the next stage of history. Given the author's relentless push in terms of practically directed reason, it is of little surprise that this book should be so widely practical for those readers who are willing to read a passionate Hegelian dialectic that aims at equipping its readers with the ruthlessness to help aid the survival of the West against its enemies, and to have the sort of respect and regard for institutions that allows for the preservation and improvement of society.

The book begins with a chapter on the 9/11 attacks, and how they represented an attack on civilization itself. I thought Harris' discussion of the origins and development of civilization was very good.

The book also runs the parallel risk of not being attended with the seriousness it deserves because many of its components, whether contained in whole chapters or in extended digressions within chapters, lend themselves to a kind of intellectual surgery: the superficial reader will face the almost irresistible temptation to simply wrench from the larger whole those components which appeal to him.