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The Universal Hunger for Liberty: Why the Clash of Civilizations Is Not Inevitable Paperback – January 3, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
The desire for and pursuit of liberty is a key thread in both human and intellectual history, argues Novak (Business as a Calling), who goes on to say that despite the relative lack of liberty in the Muslim world, the concept of liberty has deep roots in Islam. This familiar topic is worthy of development, but unfortunately Novak shies away from addressing it in full until toward the book's end. The intellectual bulk of the book lies in his assessment of the philosophical, theological and economic values that drive liberal democratic capitalism. Novak, also the author of The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, shines when fleshing out these concepts, including "moral ecology" (the way in which our surroundings influence and inform our sense of moral vision), using it as a way to engage the much-debated "clash of civilizations." Novak is particularly keen in his discussions of theology and gauging the extent to which religion will play an increasingly large role in world affairs during the 21st century. He cogently compares Catholicism's relative incorporation of democracy to the differing applications of Islamic law today. Ranging widely, Novak has a tough time developing some of his most relevant and provocative concepts, but offers a nicely contoured overview.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"In this vital book the author tells how peacemakers can capitalize on man's universal inner longings for liberty and mutual respect, and so restore calm to a stressed-out world." Washington Times "It is Novak's nuanced explication of his own religion's relationship with the contemporary that is the most useful part of The Universal Hunger for Liberty." Los Angeles Times "Novak is particularly keen in his discussions of theology and gauging the extent to which religion will play an increasingly large role in world affairs during the 21st century." Publishers Weekly"
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Its main defect is that, in 230 pages, it attempts to sketch a picture of a possible world civilization, show how to best aid the world's poor and the environment, detail how Catholicism has dealt with the modern democratic movement, and show whether and how Islam can be reconciled with democracy. Because of this many things are asserted that need to be argued: for example, despite his frequent references to the Judeo-Christian inspiration of democracy and capitalism there is little attention paid to parts of the Bible that would seem to support an authoritarian society, divergences between Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic interpretations of concepts central to democracy and capitalism like free choice, or even the Catholic magisterium's explicit condemnation of many elements of democratic society in the 19th century. In fairness, a book that attempted to cover all the topics he treats thoroughly would probably span a 1000 pages or more and perhaps the book would lose some of its appeal if it was less broad in scope.
Nevertheless, despite its shortcomings, this is a book that deserves to be widely read and disseminated.
Due to the unfortunate stigma attached to "neoconservatives" in the wake of the U.S. war on Iraq, I'm not sure how many would be inclined to read this book -- but their ignorance would truly be their loss. As with all of Novak's books, I learned a great deal (not only about Islam, but about Catholic social doctrine and political philosophy). I would encourage those with truly open minds to consider Novak's proposals for themselves. It is a book that deserves an answer.