The Long 20th Century

In his review of Fukuyama’s new book Paul Berman reflects about the power of “murderous ideologies” comparing Islamism with Fascism and Nazism:

A more grandiose rhetoric draws our attention, at least, to the danger of gigantic massacres. And a more grandiose rhetoric might lead us to think about ideological questions. Why are so many people eager to join the jihadi elite? They are eager for ideological reasons, exactly as in the case of fascists and other totalitarians of the past. These people will be defeated only when their ideologies begin to seem exhausted, which means that any struggle against them has to be, above all, a battle of ideas — a campaign to persuade entire mass movements around the world to abandon their present doctrines in favor of more liberal ones. Or so it seems to me. Fukuyama acknowledges that the terrorist ideology of today, as he describes it, “owes a great deal to Western ideas in addition to Islam” and appeals to the same kind of people who, in earlier times, might have been drawn to Communism or fascism. Even so, for all the marvelous fecundity of his political imagination, he has very little to say about this ideology and the war of ideas. I wonder why …

And yet, what dominated the 20th century, what drowned the century in oceans of blood, was precisely the free play of ideas and ideologies, which could never be relegated entirely to the workings of sociology, economics, psychology or any of the other categories of social science. In my view, we are seeing the continuing strength of 20th-century-style ideologies right now — the ideologies that have motivated Baathists and the more radical Islamists to slaughter millions of their fellow Muslims in the last 25 years, together with a few thousand people who were not Muslims.

Fukuyama is always worth reading, and his new book contains ideas that I hope the non-neoconservatives of America will adopt. But neither his old arguments nor his new ones offer much insight into this, the most important problem of all — the problem of murderous ideologies and how to combat them.

One Response to The Long 20th Century

  1. RL says:

    They are all millennial ideologies. and right now, islamic jihad is in an apocalyptic curve upward. According to Henri Desroches, these things, once they catch — and this phase of the apocalyptic process “caught” in 2000, with the enthusiastic approval of many people who were its targeted victims — are like forest fires. at best you can manage them until they burn out.


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