The Intellectual Origins of Modernity explores the long and winding road of modernity from Rousseau to Foucault and its roots, which are not to be found in a desire for enlightenment or in the idea of progress but in the Promethean passion of Western humankind. Modernity is the Promethean passion, the passion of humans to be their own master, to use their insight to make a world different from the one that they found, and to liberate themselves from their immemorial chains. This passion created the political ideologies of the nineteenth century and made its imprint on the totalitarian regimes that arose in their wake in the twentieth. Underlying the Promethean passion there was modernity—humankind's project of self-creation—and enlightenment, the existence of a constant tension between the actual and the desirable, between reality and the ideal. Beneath the weariness, the exhaustion and the skepticism of post-modernist criticism is a refusal to take Promethean horizons into account. This book attests the importance of reason, which remains a powerful critical weapon of humankind against the idols that have come out of modernity: totalitarianism, fundamentalism, the golem of technology, genetic engineering and a boundless will to power. Without it, the new Prometheus is liable to return the fire to the gods.
Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, many Western observers of Iran have seen the country caught between Eastern history and 'Western' modernity, between religion and secularity. As a result, analysis of political philosophy preceding the Revolution has become subsumed by this narrative. Here, Afshin Matin-Asgari proposes a revisionist work of intellectual history, challenging many of the dominant paradigms in Iranian and Middle Eastern historiography and offering a new narration. In charting the intellectual construction of Iranian modernity during the twentieth century, Matin-Asgari focuses on broad patterns of influential ideas and their relation to each other. These intellectual trends are studied in a global historical context, leading to the assertion that Iranian modernity has been sustained by at least a century of intense intellectual interaction with global ideologies. Turning many prevailing narratives on their heads, the author concludes that modern Iran can be seen as, culturally and intellectually, both Eastern and Western.
In the early twentieth century, China was on the brink of change. Different ideologies - those of radicalism, conservatism, liberalism, and social democracy - were much debated in political and intellectual circles. Whereas previous works have analyzed these trends in isolation, Edmund S. K. Fung shows how they related to one another and how intellectuals in China engaged according to their cultural and political persuasions. The author argues that it is this interrelatedness and interplay between different schools of thought that are central to the understanding of Chinese modernity, for many of the debates that began in the Republican era still resonate in China today. The book charts the development of these ideologies and explores the work and influence of the intellectuals who were associated with them. In its challenge to previous scholarship and the breadth of its approach, the book makes a major contribution to the study of Chinese political philosophy and intellectual history.
The Genesis of Capitalism and the Origins of Modernity
As the events and aftermath of 9/11 have shown, the relationship between Islam and the West is deeply troubled. Here Mohammad Salama calls for a new understanding of Islam as a historical condition that has existed in relationship to the West since the seventh century. He compares the Arab-Islamic and European traditions of historical thought since the early modern period, focusing on the watershed moments that informed their ideas of intellectual history and perceptions of one another. Islam, he argues, has played a major role in enabling and positioning Western historiography at key points, leaving palpable imprints on Islamic historiography in the process. Focusing on Ibn Khaldun, the complexities of orientalism and modernity, and recent European as well as Arab writings on these themes, this book is essential for all those interested in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, Western and Islamic philosophies of history, and modernity.
The cannibal has played a surprisingly important role in the history of thought--perhaps the ultimate symbol of savagery and degradation-- haunting the Western imagination since before the Age of Discovery, when Europeans first encountered genuine cannibals and related horrible stories of shipwrecked travelers eating each other. An Intellectual History of Cannibalism is the first book to systematically examine the role of the cannibal in the arguments of philosophers, from the classical period to modern disputes about such wide-ranging issues as vegetarianism and the right to private property. Catalin Avramescu shows how the cannibal is, before anything else, a theoretical creature, one whose fate sheds light on the decline of theories of natural law, the emergence of modernity, and contemporary notions about good and evil. This provocative history of ideas traces the cannibal's appearance throughout Western thought, first as a creature springing from the menagerie of natural law, later as a diabolical retort to theological dogmas about the resurrection of the body, and finally to present-day social, ethical, and political debates in which the cannibal is viewed through the lens of anthropology or invoked in the service of moral relativism. Ultimately, An Intellectual History of Cannibalism is the story of the birth of modernity and of the philosophies of culture that arose in the wake of the Enlightenment. It is a book that lays bare the darker fears and impulses that course through the Western intellectual tradition.
This volume addresses the power of ideas in the making of Indian political modernity. As an intermediate history of connections between South Asia and the global arena the volume raises new issues in intellectual history. It reviews the period from the emergence of constitutional liberalism in the1830s, through the swadeshi era to the writings of Tilak, Azad and Gandhi in the twentieth century. While several contributions reflect on the ideologies of nationalism, the volume seeks to rescue intellectual history from being simply a narration of the nation-state. It does not seek to create a 'canon' of political thought so much as to show how Indian concepts of state and society were redrawn in the context of emergent globalized debates about freedom, the constitution of the self and the good society in the late colonial era. In so doing the contributions here resituate an Indian intellectual history that has long been eclipsed by social and political history. These essays were originally published in a Special issue of the journal Modern Intellectual History (CUP, April 2007).