A profound investigation of the history of anti-Westersn stereotypes that traces them back to the West itself.
Twenty -five years ago, Edward Said’s Orientalism described the denigrating mirage of ‘the East’ in the Western colonial mind. But as Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit show in this book, ‘the West’ is the more dangerous mirage of our time, and the idea of us in the minds of our self proclaimed enemies is still largely unexamined and misunderstood. Occidentalism is their groundbreaking investigation of the demonizing fantasies and stereotypes about the Western world that fuel such hatred in others.
‘Radical Islam’ is generally perceived as a purely Islamic phenomenon, but Buruma nad Argalit show that this radicalism owes primary debt to the West. Movement like al-Qaeda are stalked by the same Western bogeymen that have haunted the thoughts of revolutionary groups going back to the early nineteenth century. The same elements of the anti-Western worldview appear again and again: the rootless cosmopolitan living in the Western city; the sterile Western mind, all reason and no soul; the machine society, controlled from the centre by a cabal of insiders – often Jews – pulling the hidden levers of power. The anti-Western virus has found a ready host in the Islamic world for a number of legitimate reasons, but in no way is it exclusively Islamic matter.
A world of extraordinary range and erudition, Occidentalism will permanently enlarge our understanding of the world in which we live.