Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Clash of Civilizations and Primacy of Ideology

As I continue working on my first chapter for IoM, I hit on something in passing in a paragraph that I'd love to have dealt with by another contributor. I will likely deal with it some myself in a later section I have planned, but this is worthy of serious consideration:

"...At the same time, in the case of those myths that do resonate with the multitude, the anxiety that underlies the wholesale exchange of the profane for the sacred produces a throwback to the "old time religion." The mythic aura of a yesterday that never existed drives such cultural movements as we see demonstrated in the movie Jesus Camp. This reaction cannot be restricted to one ideology. As Samuel P. Huntington explores in his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, the coming world conflicts will be driven along ideological and cultural fault lines. The extremists driving these conflicts are borrowing from mere echoes of myths from thousands of years ago, catalyzing existential fear, hate, or desire. This alchemy produces poisonous splinter factions, fundamentalist groups that produce many of the illnesses our cultures otherwise exhibit in concentrated form. Far from being in the minority, these “splinter groups” have been responsible for much of the history of the 19th and 20th century that has made its way into the books, whether we are speaking of rise and fall of communism, the second world war, or the ongoing strife in the Middle East. Though exploring this in depth would take us far afield, it is worth noting that the mythologies utilizes by these groups have all been repurposed myths, whether we speak of the selective use of scripture by Muslim or Christian fundamentalists, or the more bizarre relationship between National Socialism and occultism, which underlined the rise of the Third Reich. These are generally culturally inert, but have the potential to overcome the whole of a culture in crisis times, as the Nazis did after World War I. However, myth as a whole cannot be considered a result of such use. Nor can myth be "killed," in any event. It can be a healing as well as destructive force."


  1. Anonymous4:37 PM

    So ideology, not material culture is the driving force of history. And the current "war on terror" is about Islam vs. Christianity and not a scramble for resources.

    Um... what?

    As I get older and more serious about politics, the more I realize that ideology comes from the real world, not vice versa.

  2. I should clarify-

    The dividing lines are ideological.

    The motivating factors include resources- it may even in many cases be the primary factor. But it often has less to do with where those lines are drawn.

    Have you read the book I'm referencing?

  3. Toward the end of my senior year in English our teacher gave us a series of essays on the myth of the golden age. At the the time it didn't seem relevant to any of the literature we'd read and picked apart throughout the year.

    But the further out into the world I got the relevance of the material, and what he hoped to prepare us for became evident.

    As for the rest...the driving force in history nothing is gained by giving simple answers to complex questions.

    The struggle for resources has always been a driving force, long before capitalism rose to dominance..but likewise the belief in ideologies, most obviously religious ideologies, is a similar motivational force or at the least a piece of the puzzle that makes disputes far more complex than "no blood for oil!" will ever allow.

    Like the motivation to monopolize resources, the drive toward group identity, and most especially group identity based on ideology or faith is rooted in evolutionary cause.

    That doesn't mean the impulse can't be worked around, or that it's in some way justified at this stage of the game...but I would suggest that at the very least that it is foolish to discount ideology as simply a bi-product of material need.

  4. Anonymous12:10 AM

    I think if you read the amazing and freely available essay the "power of the powerless" by famous playwright, politcal prisoner, and popular Chech President Valclav Havel you would find a lot of support and inspiration regarding your ideas on ideology and also art; I know I have. Keep up the great work!

    I write at



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...