Against community

I just finished another book that’s an example of postmodern Muslim blather, Anouar Majid’s Unveiling Traditions. Typical of the genre, it’s full of moral posturing against colonialism, capitalism, Orientalism, secularism, and the modern world in general. It presents itself as politically leftist, but it’s the sort of anti-Enlightenment left that traffics in romantic nostalgia about peasant societies rather than any substantial politics.

After that, I feel like I should say something good about capitalism for a change. Sure, our present version of capitalism is insanely rapacious. It may well be the death of us all through the environmental consequences of the plunder it organizes so efficiently, though my guess is that we’ll get away with just a mass extinction and the collapse of civilization. But let’s give credit where it’s due: capitalism has also been very destructive of traditional communities. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing on balance. I think that traditional communities, with their all-pervading religiosity, are stifling to a degree that gives me horrors to merely contemplate.

Not that modern capitalism undermines religion per se, mind you. Majid-style postmodernists overlook it by constantly wringing their hands about authenticity, but it’s pretty clear that fundamentalist and charismatic religions do very well in the present environment. And I do prefer that sort of madness to premodern religion—it may be politically obnoxious, but modern religiosity is more likely to leave some breathing space for secular ways of life. Yes, even the fundamentalists.

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About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University