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The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization Paperback – February 1, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Richard Bulliet's The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization re-examines most of the pieties of the West about the Muslim world and Islamic politics (and about the West itself) and finds them not only wrong but wrongly conceived.... He argues that modern European and Muslim history are deeply intertwined and that one cannot be understood in isolation from the other, thereby launching a profound challenge to teachers, historians and policy-makers.(Juan Cole, University of Michigan The International Journal of Middle East Studies)
[An] insightful book about Islam and Muslims that actually provides hope for the future.... this book is a quick, informative, and encouraging read.(Publishers Weekly)
A clearly written book, aimed at the general reader...requires a place on the library shelf(Steve Young Library Journal)
Presents a persuasive case for viewing Islam and the West... [a]brilliant new book(Emran Qureshi Toronto Globe and Mail)
Seeks to bridge a gap between Islam and the West... His solution is to try to patch things up by emphasizing all that Islam and Christianity have in common.(Daniel Lazare The Nation)
As Bulliet writes... there is a far better case for 'Islamo-Christian civilization' than there is for a clash of civilizations.(Washington Monthly)
Offers a rich lode of penetrating insights.(L. Carl Brown Foreign Affairs)
A positive and challenging proposal, underscoring the importance of the phases we use in defining our world.(Future Survey)
Obviously, this is an important book with the important proposal to familiarize everyone with the term "Islam-Christian civilization". Let us take heed.(Murad Wilfried Hofmann The Muslim World Book Review)
It deserves the widest possible readership, addressing as it does with wit and insight one of the most freighted issues of our times.(Malise Ruthven Times Literary Supplement)
Bulliet's ideas are collectively imaginative and a major contribution... No reader will see the history either of Christendom or Islam in quite the same way.(Ronald Davis Domes)
Great scholarship and vision... Bulliet offers rare insights in the Islamic and the (post)-Christian worlds.(Johannes J. G. Jansen International History Review)
An excellent touchstone... this is not a volume that should be ignored.(John J. Curry, Ph.D. Digest of Middle East Studies)
[A] wise and wonderful book.(Howard J. Dooley Journal of World History)
[These essays] emanate from a fair-minded approach to strident debates - written, if you will, from the center.(International Journal of Middle East Studies)
More About the Author
My academic writings deal either with Islam, human-animal relations, or the history of technology. In all three cases, my greatest satisfaction comes from asking unusual or previously unasked questions and exploring innovative methods in trying to answer them. When I came to Columbia, a colleague who was opposed to my appointment predicted that I would never write "real" history. Maybe I haven't. That's for others to judge. All I can say is that I don't think I have written any history that could have been written by someone else.
Personally, I come from Rockford, Illinois and consider myself a lapsed Methodist. That is to say, I recognize that the conduct of my life has been strongly influenced by the social expectations of Methodism, but I have long departed from the theology and rituals of any church. I have no personal or family roots in the Middle East or in Islam--or on a farm, for that matter. Though my early research and writing concentrated on the social and economic aspects of medieval Islam, and of Iran in particular, after the Iranian Revolution I became more actively involved in contemporary affairs. In particular, I pay close attention to religious political currents in the Muslim world and to the ups and downs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which I feel constitutes one of the major political and social experiments of our time.
After 50 years as a Middle East/Islam specialist, I'm pretty tired of reading about that subject. Thus my most recent book, The Wheel: Inventions and Reinventions, was a joy to research and write since it dealt with the entire world from 4000 BCE onward.
My non-academic reading preferences lean to speculative fiction, most recently Neal Stephenson, Steven Erikson, Ian Isslemont, and China Miéville Richard Morgan), along with graphic novels by the likes of Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, and older experimental writers like John Barth, Donald Barthelme, Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis.
I have made 40+ classroom lectures on World History available for free on YouTube and similar courses on Modern Middle East History and Iranian History Down to the Safavid Period on iTunes University/Columbia.
Top Customer Reviews
Partially in response to Lewis, fellow-historian Richard Bulliet of Columbia University dusted off some of the manuscripts in his archives and then elaborated further on these earlier musings. His The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization consists of four essays and, although the first one was drafted more than thirty years ago, they have been reworked into a remarkably consistent argument.
Refashioning that earliest essay, from which the book has taken its title, into a rebuttal of Huntington's Clash of Civilizations thesis, Bulliet explains that there are more similarities than differences between Christendom and the Muslim Middle East. The conversion processes during the earliest centuries shared many features; in particular the slow percolation of the new religions into the lower social strata. As contacts became more intensive during the middle periods, it is true that mutual hostility increased but even then peaceful exchange was more common than violent interaction.Read more ›
The strengths of Bulliet's book are, on one hand, in showing that Christianity and Islam, and Europe and the Middle East, have not merely been rivals, but have frequently had fruitful exchanges in the past; and, on the other hand, in critiquing Huntington's arguments and scholarship. These -- plus the slimmness of the volume and the fluidity of the writing -- make the book worth reading. (The biggest revelation to me was that when the Islamic Caliphate sprang up and began rapidly conquering territory, it almost immediately gained control of two of Christianity's five patriarchates and presumably a similar proportion of that day's Christians. This undoubtedly contributed to the Great Schism in Catholicism.)
The primary weakness of the book is apparent in its title. By making an argument about "civilization," Bulliet accepts Huntington's terms of argument. "Civilization" is a shorthand that both authors use for an amalgam of societies, religious institutions, empires, nation states, etc. To talk about Islamic and Christian "civilizations" as if these were clear and coherent entities persisting across time and space for centuries does too much violence to the historical record and weakens Bulliet's attempt to disarm manicheans like Huntington. What is "Christian civilization"?Read more ›
The whole book is a compelling alternative to common (and shallow, ideological, Islamphobe) views promoted by Neocons and others. Whatever your present perspective, understanding will be sharpened by careful reading of this excellent book.
The only thing I do not like is the title, which makes a point but has mislead some reviewers already so that they dismiss or misunderstand the sound arguments presented.
The first chapter condemns Huntington's thesis about the "Clash of Civilizations" indicating how it is both misleading and damaging. (Bulliet might have added it has been used for aggressive, hateful, and misguided policies that obscure economic, oil, and geostrategic motives). Christianity and Islam as social, political, and institutional matters are "siblings" not clashing civilizations and excellent comparative analysis about responses to often similar needs are enlightening.
The second chapter "What Went On" provides much insight and more than the entire book with a similar title that has been widely promoted for those who want to think that they have answers "What Went Wrong". It is insightful and fascinating on topics ranging from expansion and conversion to the social and institutional place of clerics, law, religious hierarchy.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This Middle East scholar has offered a different view of how we might perceive the dialogue/wrangle between Islamic countries and "Western" countries based in a religious... Read morePublished on September 30, 2013 by Anne Roth
This is a very nuanced approach at analyzing the evolution of these two religions. What makes the author's approach so interesting is that it looks at both religions together and... Read morePublished on February 20, 2011 by Matthew Smith
Makes a sustained argument for similarities over differences in the Abrahamic tradition between Christianity and Islam. Read morePublished on September 5, 2010 by Bartolomew Giamanco
What is the relationship between the Western world and the Islamic (and specifically the Middle Eastern) world? Read morePublished on February 19, 2009 by Omer Belsky
I must point out, I am only half-way through the book but still feel qualified to add a few words here, right of future edits witheld of course. Read morePublished on November 4, 2007 by Alaturka
While on one hand extremely sympathetic to the goals Richard Bulliet aspires to in The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization, I can nonetheless find a significant number of... Read morePublished on February 9, 2007 by Lee L.
Samuel Huntington coined the phrase "Clash of Civilizations" in the early 1990s after the fall of Communism, when the growing power of Islam as a civilization and geopolitical... Read morePublished on December 2, 2006 by Samana Siddiqui
tracing how we both believe in peace, justice, humility, cooperation, family, and in God. Or so our publicists claim. Read morePublished on October 10, 2006 by Love Thy.Enemy