Thursday, March 30, 2006

Amartya Sen's critique of 'Clash of Civilizations'

The increasing tendency to overlook the many identities that any human being has and to try to classify individuals according to a single allegedly pre-eminent religious identity is an intellectual confusion that can animate dangerous divisiveness. An Islamist instigator of violence against infidels may want Muslims to forget that they have any identity other than being Islamic. What is surprising is that those who would like to quell that violence promote, in effect, the same intellectual disorientation by seeing Muslims primarily as members of an Islamic world. The world is made much more incendiary by the advocacy and popularity of single-dimensional categorization of human beings, which combines haziness of vision with increased scope for the exploitation of that haze by the champions of violence.

You can read more in this essay, adapted from Sen's new book Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Sen as usual going to great lengths to say very little. And once again holding forth with no expertise.

  2. Abi said...

    Hmmm, I am not so sure, Shiva. Perhaps you can enlighten the readers about what the 'experts' have to say about the idea of 'clash of civilizations'. Some links would help.

  3. Anonymous said...


    The point is not about "Clash of Civilisations". Sen has not produced anything of note for a very long time and has instead been writing weekend articles and publishing compilations based on them (like the shallow "Argumentative Indian..."). Sen hasn't debated the people he writes about and would rather play to a fawning gallery. To get a better idea of what Sen pretends to you could start with the works of Bernard Lewis.

    Sen calls himself a "Sanskritist". It is true he knows the language and has read quite a bit in the original but that doesn't make him one.

    Check out Ram Guha's review of his "Argumentative..." to get a better idea of how Sen is careless with his conclusions.

  4. Abi said...

    Shiva: It's interesting that you say the point is not about 'clash of civilizations', and add that I "could start with the works of Bernard Lewis".

    Ram Guha's critique of 'Argumentative Indian' was a great find. I did not know of it until you pointed out. Thanks!