counter create hit Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern

Availability: Ready to download

While many Americans view the September 11th terrorist attack as the act of an anachronistic and dangerous sect, one that champions medieval and outmoded ideals, John Gray here argues that in fact the ideology of Al Qaeda is both Western and modern, a by-product of globalization’s transnational capital flows and open borders. Indeed, according to Gray, Al Qaeda’s utopian z While many Americans view the September 11th terrorist attack as the act of an anachronistic and dangerous sect, one that champions medieval and outmoded ideals, John Gray here argues that in fact the ideology of Al Qaeda is both Western and modern, a by-product of globalization’s transnational capital flows and open borders. Indeed, according to Gray, Al Qaeda’s utopian zeal to remake the world in its own image descends from the same Enlightenment creed that informed both the disastrous Soviet experiment and the new neoliberal dream of a global free market. In this “excellent short introduction to modern thought” (The Guardian), first published in 2003, Gray warns that the United States, once a champion of revolutionary economic and social change, must now understand its new foes. He also confronts some of the faults he perceives in Western ideology: the faith that global development will eradicate war and hunger, trust in technology to address the coming catastrophe of population explosion, and the belief that democracy is an infallible institution that can serve as political panacea for all.


Compare

While many Americans view the September 11th terrorist attack as the act of an anachronistic and dangerous sect, one that champions medieval and outmoded ideals, John Gray here argues that in fact the ideology of Al Qaeda is both Western and modern, a by-product of globalization’s transnational capital flows and open borders. Indeed, according to Gray, Al Qaeda’s utopian z While many Americans view the September 11th terrorist attack as the act of an anachronistic and dangerous sect, one that champions medieval and outmoded ideals, John Gray here argues that in fact the ideology of Al Qaeda is both Western and modern, a by-product of globalization’s transnational capital flows and open borders. Indeed, according to Gray, Al Qaeda’s utopian zeal to remake the world in its own image descends from the same Enlightenment creed that informed both the disastrous Soviet experiment and the new neoliberal dream of a global free market. In this “excellent short introduction to modern thought” (The Guardian), first published in 2003, Gray warns that the United States, once a champion of revolutionary economic and social change, must now understand its new foes. He also confronts some of the faults he perceives in Western ideology: the faith that global development will eradicate war and hunger, trust in technology to address the coming catastrophe of population explosion, and the belief that democracy is an infallible institution that can serve as political panacea for all.

30 review for Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern

  1. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

    Although I like John Gray I wasn't a fan of this book. The thesis has less to do with what the title may suggest and for the most part it is a huge exercise in dreary pessimism about the trajectory of modern societies. Straw Dogs contained elements of this too but it was mixed with enough insights into the really interesting issue - the continuities and mutations of "pre-modern" thought in our modern ideologies, as well as the incoherence of many of the latter - to make it a great book. This on Although I like John Gray I wasn't a fan of this book. The thesis has less to do with what the title may suggest and for the most part it is a huge exercise in dreary pessimism about the trajectory of modern societies. Straw Dogs contained elements of this too but it was mixed with enough insights into the really interesting issue - the continuities and mutations of "pre-modern" thought in our modern ideologies, as well as the incoherence of many of the latter - to make it a great book. This on the other hand makes a few passing points but focuses otherwise on the collapse Gray sees around the corner, which he might be right about but that isn't a particularly novel or interesting observation. Had this book focused more on what the title suggested, the huge influence of modern European revolutionary ideologies on Muslim terrorist organizations, it would've been interesting. It is a thesis Gray endorses, and there are a few passing points on this, but for the most part the topic is not focused upon, to the detriment of the work writ large.

  2. 4 out of 5

    ⚫Immortal Persian⚫

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Informative

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sean Blevins

    Science makes progress; humanity does not. The fallacy that the advance of science inevitably leads to the advance of ethics and politics is a defining trait of modernity, argues Gray. The belief, beginning in the seventeenth and reaching full flower in the 19th, that science will usher in a new age of peace and prosperity and universal (i.e., uniform) culture and rationality is the faith of modernity. What does this have to do with al Qaeda? Just as it was - nay, is - believed that science can r Science makes progress; humanity does not. The fallacy that the advance of science inevitably leads to the advance of ethics and politics is a defining trait of modernity, argues Gray. The belief, beginning in the seventeenth and reaching full flower in the 19th, that science will usher in a new age of peace and prosperity and universal (i.e., uniform) culture and rationality is the faith of modernity. What does this have to do with al Qaeda? Just as it was - nay, is - believed that science can remake the world - ostensibly by changing human nature - al Qaeda and several other 19th and 20th century terrorist groups believe that the world and human nature along with it, can be remade through terror. Gray argues that al Qaeda has more in common with nineteenth century European revolutionary movements, particularly the anarchists, than any medieval movement. "If Osama bin Laden has a precursor, it is the nineteenth century Russian terrorist Sergei Nechaev," writes Gray. The fixation on the creation of a single uniform culture and the transformation of human nature are modern fixations. They are held equally by neo-liberal utopians whose faith is in the free market and by al Qaeda. The universalist message of both Christianity and Islam are precursors to their modern children, but, at least in the case of Islam, the pre-modern faith found ways to accommodate diversity without insisting on hegemony (see Muslim Spain, the Mughals, and the Ottoman Empire.) For this reason, the answer to the problems of diversity and conflict are not hegemony, but discovering, or rediscovering, or inventing, or reinventing, ways to live together separately.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aditya

    Readers familiar with Gray's work will find a lot of similarities with his previous books (Straw Dogs, Gray's Anatomy): the idea that improvements in science and technology do not necessarily result in improvements in ethics; that modernity does not bring about universalization of liberal, secular ideals; that Enlightenment thought imitates the millenarian and eschatological characteristics of Christianity. I have disagreements with a lot of what Gray has written, particularly the spurious conne Readers familiar with Gray's work will find a lot of similarities with his previous books (Straw Dogs, Gray's Anatomy): the idea that improvements in science and technology do not necessarily result in improvements in ethics; that modernity does not bring about universalization of liberal, secular ideals; that Enlightenment thought imitates the millenarian and eschatological characteristics of Christianity. I have disagreements with a lot of what Gray has written, particularly the spurious connections he tends to make between Positivism, Christianity and Marxism, but never have I been disappointed with anything he has written. I went into this book expecting an analysis of how revolutionary terrorists of the 19th and 20th centuries have influenced radical Islamists, but there is little of that to be found here. Gray provides a short history of Positivism, Counter-Enlightenment, and the free market, but little about the links between modernity, Al Qaeda and Radical Islam. Those looking for a detailed analysis of what this book's purported subject is, would prefer reading Tariq Ali's Clash of the Fundamentalists.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alanis Boubou

    ¿Ya dije que odio la universidad?

  6. 4 out of 5

    J. Dunn

    A very important book. The first thing I’ve read that systematically gets Al Qaeda right, as far as I can tell. That is, that Al Qaeda is essentially Western; another breakdown in Western society in response to Modernity, in the same way anarchism or nihilism or militias or other extreme movements were. It has the same vision of a revolutionary vanguard that will remake the world that Marxism, Fascism, and other radical modern political movements have had. It’s like a fusion of Fundamentalist Is A very important book. The first thing I’ve read that systematically gets Al Qaeda right, as far as I can tell. That is, that Al Qaeda is essentially Western; another breakdown in Western society in response to Modernity, in the same way anarchism or nihilism or militias or other extreme movements were. It has the same vision of a revolutionary vanguard that will remake the world that Marxism, Fascism, and other radical modern political movements have had. It’s like a fusion of Fundamentalist Islam and Bakunin. Grey correctly locates the fundamental danger of the modern world in the urge on the part of any group to use technology to radically remake society. Also, he emphasizes Al Qaeda is another consequence of post-nation-state globalization(and probably the first of many similar movements), and must be addressed as such. It is an ideology and a movement, not a discrete group of people and not ultimately defeatable by attacking states or killing individuals. He paints a bleak picture of the coming decades, but I’m afraid a largely correct one.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Patrick McCoy

    Al Quaeda and What It Means to Be Modern by John Gray is quite short, but very provocative. He packs a lot of ideas into a 119-page book. He manages to include several different threads: *The idea that modern doesn’t necessarily mean liberal and secular. *The global aspects of the marketplace and its effects, as well as the existence of different types of successful markets. *The issue of resources and the social and political impact as the source of the issue. *The rise of unconventional warfare on Al Quaeda and What It Means to Be Modern by John Gray is quite short, but very provocative. He packs a lot of ideas into a 119-page book. He manages to include several different threads: *The idea that modern doesn’t necessarily mean liberal and secular. *The global aspects of the marketplace and its effects, as well as the existence of different types of successful markets. *The issue of resources and the social and political impact as the source of the issue. *The rise of unconventional warfare on the global level. *Dollar diplomacy and American hegemony and the rise of American imperialism. *He stresses the accidents of history that have brought us to where we are. He is particularly good on “the original modernizers” and as he should be, since he is a professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics. It is basically a criticism of American "one size fits all" approach to foreign policy, but very it is stimulating and fascinating. It stays with you long after reading it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Liam89

    A brilliant scholarly and intellectual analysis of the roots of Al-Qaeda that challenges the common claim that it is a medieval organisation. Instead, Professor John Gray argues that, like Soviet Communism and Nazism, Al-Qaeda is a very modern outfit, whose origins can be traced back to the Enlightenment, the progress of science, and the Positivist movement, and the idea that society cannot just be altered, but totally reimagined through a combination of religious fundamentalism and propaganda b A brilliant scholarly and intellectual analysis of the roots of Al-Qaeda that challenges the common claim that it is a medieval organisation. Instead, Professor John Gray argues that, like Soviet Communism and Nazism, Al-Qaeda is a very modern outfit, whose origins can be traced back to the Enlightenment, the progress of science, and the Positivist movement, and the idea that society cannot just be altered, but totally reimagined through a combination of religious fundamentalism and propaganda by deed. Moreover, he argues that jihadism in its modern form would not be possible without the effects of globalisation; the free flow of capital, open borders, and technological progress in weaponry. Essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand our current crisis.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Muhammad Ahmad

    Provocative and brilliant, like all of Gray's work. The philosophical argumentation is solid, but his geoplitical analysis is marred by reliance on the alarmist works of Michael Klare and James Lovelock which lend the same kind of determinism to his argument which he is criticizing in others. Provocative and brilliant, like all of Gray's work. The philosophical argumentation is solid, but his geoplitical analysis is marred by reliance on the alarmist works of Michael Klare and James Lovelock which lend the same kind of determinism to his argument which he is criticizing in others.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dan Riaz

    In one word, provocative. In two words, incredibly provocative... John challenges all the premises of the liberal left and modern Western thought - that history is linear, progress builds on itself, and neoliberal free market economics is the great salvation of mankind. The title is a misnomer, while the author ties Al Qaeda's notion of salvation to Western theology, the book is not really focused around the origins or the development of the Islamist network. The author's core thesis is darker in In one word, provocative. In two words, incredibly provocative... John challenges all the premises of the liberal left and modern Western thought - that history is linear, progress builds on itself, and neoliberal free market economics is the great salvation of mankind. The title is a misnomer, while the author ties Al Qaeda's notion of salvation to Western theology, the book is not really focused around the origins or the development of the Islamist network. The author's core thesis is darker in nature, but perhaps more accurate. Simply, that there is no universal ideology - whether it's marxism, progressivism, or neoliberalism - that is broad enough to engender a universal set of values or philosophy for all of humanity. Rather, he argues that the world's multitude of cultures are each rooted in their own unique history, and as such, it is natural for societies to diverge from uniformity as they evolve. Published in 2003, John's message feels prophetic in nature given the current state of affairs in the world. Worthwhile read for those interested in history, political-economy, or philosophy.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hamza A

    John N. Gray shakes your preconceived Ideas of what a modern society and the positivist illusion that as science progresses humanity does as well. The book gives an interesting history of Ideas and shows how Al-qaeda is a modern phenomenon. However I think his analysis of how Sayid Qutb caused extremism in Islam could have gone deeper since that is the title of this book. Nevertheless still a very interesting book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    José MeLo

    «El mensaje de anarquismo revolucionario implícito en la afirmación de que “todo sistema que permita que unas personas gobiernen a otras ha de ser abolido” debe más a las ideas radicales europeas que se remontan a los jacobinos que a las ideas clásicas o tradicionales sobre la gobenanza islámica.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Saunaguy

    https://digitalsauna.wordpress.com/20... https://digitalsauna.wordpress.com/20...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jake S

    So much better than I expects, much less about Al Qaeda than I expected.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joaquina Pereira

    fiquei fã de John N. Gray, alargou o meu conhecimento e visão acerca do mundo politico e economico

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    very interesting

  17. 4 out of 5

    Vivian Sophia

    Terrorism for the purpose of changing the world order is a modern idea.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alex Zakharov

    Short, and as thought-provoking as "straw dogs" and "black mass", but in the end not as convincing. There are few related themes in the book, but perhaps the central theme is that the world becoming more modern does not imply the world becoming more similar. The core characteristics of modernity express themselves differently in different states and are very much shaped by local culture, traditions, and philosophy. And the same logic applies to values as well – despite the spread of technology an Short, and as thought-provoking as "straw dogs" and "black mass", but in the end not as convincing. There are few related themes in the book, but perhaps the central theme is that the world becoming more modern does not imply the world becoming more similar. The core characteristics of modernity express themselves differently in different states and are very much shaped by local culture, traditions, and philosophy. And the same logic applies to values as well – despite the spread of technology and modernity we should not expect various cultural values to converge. Al Qaeda is one of the few movements he looks at and shows how it supports his thesis. He does a quick analysis of Al Qaeda's history and operations, and shows that ironically, despite espousing the return to traditional values, Al Qaeda in its essence is modern. As such, and as John gray puts it, radical Islam is a symptom of a disease that it itself claims to be the cure. Inversely, Gray also makes an argument that the West has fundamentalist tendencies, despite claiming modernity. The fact that the two are involved in a conflict makes irony particularly twisted, and even if the reader disagrees with line of reasoning one must admit it is quite clever. Read it and decide for yourself. And of course both radical Islam and in the West try to transform the world in their own image and as such are utopian. Which brings us right back to the main thesis of the book. There are a few other interesting tidbits thrown all around the book: role of positivists, the original modernizes; short history of free-market; reversion of 20th century ideological conflicts back to the Malthusian confrontations – Rwanda, Middle East; metamorphosis of Clausewitz style wars among the states into less circumscribed conflicts of “all against all”. Yes some arguments don't quite drive the point home and some ideas are a little specious, but overall it is an intellectually stimulating read and in the end that is what matters.

  19. 4 out of 5

    James

    This book is everything that is wrong with contemporary, leftist political argumentation. I picked it up from the library assuming it would be about the ways in which Western policies, etc., are implicated in the formation of contemporary terrorist movements. People say this is true, but I wondered if the argument went further than, "We support Israel" or "We funded the mujahideen in Afghanistan." Instead, what it does is portray Islamism as the third form of totalitarianism against which noble This book is everything that is wrong with contemporary, leftist political argumentation. I picked it up from the library assuming it would be about the ways in which Western policies, etc., are implicated in the formation of contemporary terrorist movements. People say this is true, but I wondered if the argument went further than, "We support Israel" or "We funded the mujahideen in Afghanistan." Instead, what it does is portray Islamism as the third form of totalitarianism against which noble liberals have to struggle (the other two being Nazism and Bolshevism). So they're modern in the sense that they are genealogically rooted in those two, and liberals have to keep up the good fight. It's fine if you want to think that, even though it seems patently absurd, but at least don't pretend that this stuff comes from the left! It's the "liberalism of terror" (cf. the Corey Robin review I wrote like ten minutes ago): by creating a generic concept of "fanatical evil", from Robespierre to bin Laden, Gray et al allow liberalism (a) to exist only as the flipside of an omnipresent evil; (b) to disavow any positive claims to political rationality, equality, or the good society, as all of those forms of "rationalism in politics" are proto-totalitarian.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    I cannot think of a more important book to read concerning current events. This book will demonstrate to you that the idea that any terrorist network is an ancient relic jostling to bring things back to the way they used to be is simply false. Al-Qaeda, or any group associated, are more comparable in ways to Nazis, in that their goals and methods are thoroughly modern. The idea of a global jihad has more to do with radical elements of Islam superimposing Western ideals of enlightenment on their I cannot think of a more important book to read concerning current events. This book will demonstrate to you that the idea that any terrorist network is an ancient relic jostling to bring things back to the way they used to be is simply false. Al-Qaeda, or any group associated, are more comparable in ways to Nazis, in that their goals and methods are thoroughly modern. The idea of a global jihad has more to do with radical elements of Islam superimposing Western ideals of enlightenment on their theology than it does to do with a group of medieval throw-backs screaming for a return. This book is also refreshing because the writer does not take sides in either direction, not being a conspiracy theorist or politically correct in his examination. The book is a very easy read and will give you a lot to reflect upon. Unfortunately I lost this book a while back and should probably re-read it before properly reviewing it. However, this is one of the few books I would recommend to anyone, regardless of background or interests.

  21. 4 out of 5

    abclaret

    Taking his cue from the Bush administration Gray argues the problem is not that Al Qaeda is struggling against modernity, but rather a lot of westerners falsely believe in the worse kind of universalism; a political hang-over from the enlightenment. In the course of making a rather easy target of Fukuyama and his fellow-travellers, he makes a straw-man out of Marxism and anarchism and equates radical Islam to be its most modern adherent of their praxis, which for me was one of the most bizarre p Taking his cue from the Bush administration Gray argues the problem is not that Al Qaeda is struggling against modernity, but rather a lot of westerners falsely believe in the worse kind of universalism; a political hang-over from the enlightenment. In the course of making a rather easy target of Fukuyama and his fellow-travellers, he makes a straw-man out of Marxism and anarchism and equates radical Islam to be its most modern adherent of their praxis, which for me was one of the most bizarre parts of the book. Some of the over long depictions of positivist thinking aside, he makes a sound argument for the rather insensitive and culturally imperialist attitude which has gripped the American empire for sometime. Unfortunately the books argument seems to travel the line of least resistance.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    An interesting attack on what Gray sees as the modernist insistence on not just universal values but the insistence that those values - defined by each new extremist group - will lead to heaven on earth. Includes a thought provoking exploration of how Muslim extremism is very much a modern project. Gray sees both Al Qaeda and Neo-liberal Global Capitalists as heavily influenced by positivism and unwilling to see the world in all its diversity and uniqueness. As a result they attempt to impose a o An interesting attack on what Gray sees as the modernist insistence on not just universal values but the insistence that those values - defined by each new extremist group - will lead to heaven on earth. Includes a thought provoking exploration of how Muslim extremism is very much a modern project. Gray sees both Al Qaeda and Neo-liberal Global Capitalists as heavily influenced by positivism and unwilling to see the world in all its diversity and uniqueness. As a result they attempt to impose a one size fits all solution to every problem. In a short book, and with Gray's emotional style, there is a lot of oversimplification and some terms are used rather loosely but there is also a number of point worth thinking about.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Craig Smillie

    Written in 2003, the book predicts much of what has happened in the preceding decade - including the financial crash - so that's a good recommendation of Gray's skill as a thinker. The main thrust appears to be that we need to get beyond this teleological view that there is an "end" in history that we as a species should be progressing towards. We need to accept the fact that power struggles will always be with us - more so, probably in future for reasons he gives - and try to deal with them in Written in 2003, the book predicts much of what has happened in the preceding decade - including the financial crash - so that's a good recommendation of Gray's skill as a thinker. The main thrust appears to be that we need to get beyond this teleological view that there is an "end" in history that we as a species should be progressing towards. We need to accept the fact that power struggles will always be with us - more so, probably in future for reasons he gives - and try to deal with them in the least damaging way possible. I need to chew that one over! It reminded me of the book John Mac is reading just now: "Hope:- A Tragedy"!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    I've seen the pace of this book described as "giddy," which doesn't quite capture its breakneck speed and disjointed hopping from one subject to another. The style isn't my favorite, less because of pacing issues and more because Gray tends towards sweep and generality that starts to seem less like his style and more like poor thinking. The book makes quick, almost bulleted assertions without the proof and substance to back them up - which is a shame, because I get the sense that had Gray been c I've seen the pace of this book described as "giddy," which doesn't quite capture its breakneck speed and disjointed hopping from one subject to another. The style isn't my favorite, less because of pacing issues and more because Gray tends towards sweep and generality that starts to seem less like his style and more like poor thinking. The book makes quick, almost bulleted assertions without the proof and substance to back them up - which is a shame, because I get the sense that had Gray been clearer I'd agree with much of what he says. High points for boldness, low marks for persuasiveness and readability.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Didn't care for this because i think I disagree with his premise, which is that people have misunderstood the nature of the Islamist/jihadist movement and think it's been formed to drag us back to the 13th century. A lot of this seemed like dancing on the head of a pin or even a whole box of pins. What was it Lenin said? "Philosophers have sought to understand the world. The point, however, is to change it." Something like that. Didn't care for this because i think I disagree with his premise, which is that people have misunderstood the nature of the Islamist/jihadist movement and think it's been formed to drag us back to the 13th century. A lot of this seemed like dancing on the head of a pin or even a whole box of pins. What was it Lenin said? "Philosophers have sought to understand the world. The point, however, is to change it." Something like that.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Found this fascinating - an interesting argument about modernity and the myths of modern thoughts/projects. It is helping me rethink my history curriculum, thanks to my colleague/friend Lev's recommendation! I am curious to know what others think if they've read it. Found this fascinating - an interesting argument about modernity and the myths of modern thoughts/projects. It is helping me rethink my history curriculum, thanks to my colleague/friend Lev's recommendation! I am curious to know what others think if they've read it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kate O'Hanlon

    Clear but dense. Certainly deserves more time and attention than I have available to give to it. It's a credit to Gray's prescience that over 10 years since his publication his analysis seems like it could have been written only yesterday. Clear but dense. Certainly deserves more time and attention than I have available to give to it. It's a credit to Gray's prescience that over 10 years since his publication his analysis seems like it could have been written only yesterday.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bobbychupete

    Thought-provoking, I guess, but the argument is pretty scattered and limp-wristed

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jon Beech

    Just great. A sort of companion piece to Adam Curtis's the Power of Nightmares. Or should that be the other way round Just great. A sort of companion piece to Adam Curtis's the Power of Nightmares. Or should that be the other way round

  30. 4 out of 5

    John

    John Gray delivers another well thought out message. Certainly worth reading

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.