Desktop version

Home arrow Political science

  • Increase font
  • Decrease font

<<   CONTENTS   >>
Table of Contents:


In any discussion of cultural commonalities and political convergence, it is easy to seem to overreach. The impression can readily be created that cultures are—or can be—like factory outputs in their uniformity. That is, of course, neither possible nor desirable. A people’s environment and history always shape the way they live and see the world. What this book and others like it say is simply that the rhetorics of exceptionalism are themselves an overreach, when not outright false.

The most powerful engine of convergence today is globalization. Some of its most comprehensive analyses are to be found in the book Identity, Culture and Globalization, a collection of essays by some of the world’s most authoritative scholars.10 The thrust of the analyses is that globalization has had the effect of eroding national identities, but it has not been an invincible force.

Craig Calhoun, then professor of sociology at New York University and one of the contributors to the volume, summed it up succinctly. “Modernity is an era shaped by contradictions,” Calhoun writes. “Pursuing uniformity and producing difference in unprecedented ways, defined equally by the slave trade and the post-Reformation ideal of tolerance, modernity has been an epoch of crossed purposes from its outset.”11

Over the years, the world has become “smaller” and more familiar as advancements in transportation and communication technologies have brought people closer together. In The Lies That Bind, Appiah writes that even the much-heralded “Western civilization” emerged from a “cultural goulash.”12 And globalization has ensured that the same is true of all cultures, excerpt if there are still any out there that have not interfaced with the rest of humanity. Moreover, “the tendency

Cultural humility 125 of modern literature and science has been to locate the savage within us [the colonial cultures], in our historical origins and in our psychic structure.”13

That cultural chauvinism has endured up to the 21st century is testimony to its resilience. That’s largely because “identities can be held together with narratives ... without essence.”14 As has been demonstrated in this book, those identities are not just held but flaunted as superior. It would seem then that there is something Nietzschean about cultural chauvinism. As interpreted by Fukuyama, Nietzsche’s ideal society is one in which people are driven by megalothymia, “that is, the desire to be recognized as better than others.”15

This inclination most likely explains the West’s exclusive—and reductive—claim to the ethos of the Enlightenment. It underlies Islamist radicalism and violence. And it is the engine behind most claims to distinction that get in the way of empathetic and reflexive thought. The point here is that world affairs would change for the better when these impulses begin to weaken.


  • 1 “Tiananmen Square Protest Death Toll ‘was 10,000,’” BBC, December 23, 2017.
  • 2 Rachel E. VanLandingham is a professor of law at Southwestern Law School and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel. Geoffrey S. Corn is the Vinson & Elkins Professor of Law at South Texas College of Law in Houston and a retired Army lieutenant colonel.
  • 3 Jaafar Sheikh Idris, “The Process of Islamization,”

idris,-Retrieved March 11, 2015.

  • 4 Saheeh International, Clear Your Doubts About Islam: 50 Answers to Common Questions (Jeddah: Dar Abul-Qasim, 2008), 79.
  • 5 Saheeh International, Clear Your Doubts About Islam, 54.
  • 6 Saheeh International, Clear Your Doubts About Islam, 54.
  • 7 One of such speeches was “Nigeria between the Past and the Future: Culture, Governance and Development,” Keynote Lecture of the SOAS Africa Conference, University of London on 20 July 2017. https://www.
  • 8 Saheeh International, Clear Your Doubts About Islam, 52
  • 9 Saheeh International, Clear Your Doubts About Islam, 53.
  • 10 Eliezer Ben-Rafael and Yitzhak Sternberg (eds.), Identity, Culture and Globalization (Leiden: Brill, 2001).
  • 11 Craig Calhoun, “Nationalism, Modernism, and Their Multiplicities,” in Eliezer Ben-Rafael and Yitzhak Sternberg (eds.), Identity, Culture and Globalization (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 445.
  • 12 Appiah. Lies That Bind, 197.
  • 13 David Spurr, The Rhetoric of Empire (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), 7.
  • 14 Appiah, Lies That Bind, 199.
  • 15 Fukuyama, End of History, 305.
<<   CONTENTS   >>

Related topics