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The Empire of Civilization: The Evolution of an Imperial Idea

April 1, 2009 No Comment

By Dr. Brett Bowden, 1 April 2009

The term civilization comes with considerable baggage, dichotomizing people, cultures, and histories as civilized – or not. While the idea of civilization has been deployed throughout history to justify all manner of interventions and sociopolitical engineering, few scholars have stopped to consider what the concept actually means. Here, Brett Bowden examines how the idea of civilization has informed our thinking about international relations over the course of ten centuries. From the Crusades to the colonial era to the global war on terror, this sweeping volume exposes civilization as a stage-managed account of history that legitimizes imperialism, uniformity, and conformity to Western standards, culminating in a liberal-democratic global order. Along the way, Bowden explores the variety of confrontations and conquests – as well as those peoples and places excluded or swept aside – undertaken in the name of civilization. Concluding that the ‘West and the rest’ have more commonalities than differences, this provocative and engaging book ultimately points the way toward an authentic intercivilizational dialogue that emphasizes cooperation over clashes.

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