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EDUindex News

The limitations of Horowitz’ book.


There are several shortcoming with Horowitz’ analysis. Horowitz fails to come to grips with the underlying problem of Islam. While the influence of 20th century totalitarianism is an important influence on the Islamic Revival, there is little discussion of Islam proper. Is Islam itself a problem? Is Islam susceptible to the influence of secular totalitarianism and a ready receptacle of the worst collectivist ideas and practices? Or has Islam gone astray in a failed attempt a modernization during the heyday of fascism and communism? I suspect Horowitz isn’t sure given the debate on his website, frontpagemag.com, between critics of Islam and defenders of reform. His book leaves the impression that Islam was harmed by the absorption of foreign totalitarian ideas in an otherwise blameless culture. Interestingly, he retains a failing of the left; he fails to come to grips with the indigenous backwardness of Islamic cultures and has implicitly found the fault external to Arab culture and the Islamic religion.
Moving from the political to the epistemological, there is a deeper connection to be made. The nihilistic post-modern academia shares something with the pre-modern Islamists: skepticism of reason. The post-modern attack on reason is a culmination of centuries of critiques that undermined reason’s authority, reduced reason’s domain, and opposed reason’s centrality in human affairs. Reason is no longer seen as a substantial and robust power to grasp and master reality; and guide man’s actions. The only power of reason, for the post-modernist, is to destroy itself. There are epistemological nihilists attacking our culture at its root: the human mind.
The Islamic hostility to reason is centuries older. It is rooted in the mysticism and dogmatism of an unreformed religion. One thousand years ago, the remnants of Hellenic philosophy were tolerated in Arab society in one locale or another. However, Islam ultimately rejected the best of Hellenic thought allowing that advantage to pass to Christian Europe. Horowitz doesn’t tread on this philosophical turf. He hardly explores the post-Kantian philosophical disintegration that gives rise to the multi-cultural constructivist group-oriented subjectivism. He does, however, briefly deal with the left’s transformation from class analysis to race/gender/queer analysis.
Horowitz could dig deeper and explicitly discuss the hostility both have towards the importance of the individual. Neither the left nor the Islamists see the individual as an end in himself. However, Horowitz approaches this issue in another way. He describes their common utopian desire for purification and perfection of society. It’s an important point to which he allocates a chapter. It is not clear that his criticism is reserved for irrational standards of human perfection, but may include human excellence itself. Is his view is more Augustinian – finding an essential baseness of human nature? He is, after all, a conservative. It’s often hard to tell his view. This is part of a general failure; he rarely gives alternatives. Even though this is a book about the American left, its narratives, and its failures; the reader is left without a potent contrast.
Horowitz does what Horowitz does best: expose contemporary trends in a common sense manner accessible to the average person with an open mind. He is virtually a one man expose of the left’s sad history in contemporary post-war America – including much they wished would disappear in the revisionist’s trash bin. Mr. Horowitz has prevented that from happening. Despite the near complete takeover of academia, a few men and women, speaking the truth is enough to hold the line against the enemy within. Horowitz is leading that contingent. This book is a major contribution in the battle for civilization.