Scruton shows how the different religious and philosophical roots of Western and Islamic societies have resulted in those societies' profoundly divergent beliefs about the nature of political order. For one thing, the idea of the social contract, crucial to the self-conception of Western nations, is entirely absent in Islamic societies. Similarly, Scruton explains why the notions of territorial jurisdiction, citizenship, and the independent legitimacy of secular authority and law are both specifically Western and fundamentally antipathetic to Islamic thought.
And yet, says Scruton, for its adherents Islam provides amply for one of the most fundamental of human needs: the need for membership. In contrast, the decay of the West's own political vision, and its concomitant preoccupation with individual choice, has finally led to a "culture of repudiation" in which that need goes increasingly unfulfilled, principally because the sources of its fulfillment -- patriotism, religious belief, traditional ways of life -- are routinely mocked.
Globalization has made these facts an explosive mixture. Migration, modern communications, and the media have inexorably brought the formerly remote inhabitants of Islamic nations into constant contact with the images, products, and peoples of secular, liberal democracies. Scruton warns that in light of this new reality, certain Western assumptions -- about consumption and prosperity, about borders and travel, about free trade and multinational corporations, and about multiculturalism -- need to be thoroughly re-evaluated.
The West and the Rest is a major contribution to the West's public discourse about terrorism, civil society, and liberal democracy.
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