Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism
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In this collection of essays, Gilbert Achcar examines the controversial relationship of Marxism to religion, to Orientalism and its critique by Edward Said, and to the concept of cosmopolitanism.
A compelling range of issues is discussed within these pages, including a comparative assessment of Christian liberation theology and Islamic fundamentalism; “Orientalism in reverse”, which can take the form of an apology for Islamic fundamentalism; the evolution of Marx’s appraisal of non-Western societies; and the vagaries of “cosmopolitanism” up to our present era of globalisation.
Erudite and incisive, these essays provide a major contribution to the critical discussion of Marxism, Orientalism and cosmopolitanism, and illuminate the relationships between all three.
From Michael Löwy's review in Radical Philosophy:
This remarkable little book is a collection of four essays, most of which deal with issues raised by Edward Said’s Orientalism...
Achcar’s own powerful conclusion [in the last section of the book devoted to ‘Marxism and Cosmopolitanism’] brings together the two concepts of the Marxist tradition: insurgent and internationalist cosmopolitanism. It is this combination, rather than postcolonial nationalism, that is the true antithesis of neoliberal cosmopolitanism.
They fall basically under four headings: the defeat of middle-class nationalism and the shortcomings of the radical left; the fact that Islamic fundamentalism had been promoted for years as an alternative to the left by the Saudi kingdom and its US sponsor; the ever-increasing exacerbation of the economic, social and political crisis in the “broader Middle East”; the worldwide anomie resulting from both the neoliberal offensive and the collapse of Soviet “communism”. To that should be added more
perspective. Yet, they did so without full awareness of their own evolution, and hence without radically completing their “epistemological break” with Hegel’s influence. This is why traces of their initial inverted Hegelianism lingered in their writings until the end of their lives. The error common to many critiques of Marx, Said’s among them, as well as to many of Marx’s self-proclaimed followers, is that they overlook the fact that his and Engels’ thought was a body of work in the making
reviewing an article that he found “mediocre”, written by a pro-British Afghan diplomat on new evolutions within Islam, Gramsci makes an interesting point – albeit very questionable when turned into a general rule – about the contrast between “theocratic cosmopolitanism” and the “national sentiment” of religious heresies: “Christianity has taken nine centuries to evolve and to adapt, and it has done so in small steps, etc.: Islam is forced into a headlong rush. But, in fact, it reacts just like
“European social state” – that Pierre Bourdieu advocated for Europe as an instance of the “new internationalism”, in “For a New Internationalism” in idem, Acts of Resistance: Against the New Myths of Our Time, Cambridge, UK: Polity, 1998, pp. 60-69. 140 Boaventura de Sousa Santos, “Globalizations”, Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 23, no. 2–3, 2006, p. 397. 141 Ibid., p. 398. 142 This is why many of the organisers of the World Social Forum insisted on replacing the label “anti-globalist” that
centuries, historical “actually existing” Christianity was less progressive in many regards than historical “actually existing” Islam. And it is in the realm of the same Christian religion, within the same Catholic Church, that nowadays an ongoing bitter fight is taking place between, on the one hand, a dominant and utterly reactionary version represented by the likes of Joseph Ratzinger (the former Pope Benedict XVI) and, on the other hand, the upholders of liberation theology, who were given