The West and the Rest

Roger Scruton’s The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat was inspired by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. In this powerfully argued little book, Scruton explores the aspects of Western Civilization that distinguish it from the world of Islam. These Western ideas, institutions, and technologies have in this era of globalization intruded into parts of the world unready for them, helping to spark the murderous rage of Islamic terrorists.

Scruton stresses the uniqueness of the Western achievement. Thanks in part to a Christian heritage that emphasized the separation of church and state, as well as virtues such as forgiveness that promoted social reconciliation of differences, states arose in the west based on territory rather than creed. In these western states, citizenship and rights were based on a social contract rooted in the popular will. Such was not the case in Islam, where identity came from faith alone, and states had no legitimacy outside that faith. Thus the west went on to experience the scientific revolution and Enlightenment, and developed both a respect for the authority of secular law and a glittering material civilization. An ironic by-product of Western success has been a culture of repudiation in which many Westerners reject the very cultural values that made their civilization. Scruton believes that contemporary causes like multiculturalism leave the West vulnerable to outside attack. He urges Westerners to reexamine and cherish the roots of their civilization. He also urges them to foreswear a drive to globalization that forces contact between western mores and peoples culturally antagonistic to them. Scruton’s The West and the Rest is a timely and thought-provoking book.