Olivier Roy demonstrates that the Islamic Fundamentalism of today is still the Third Worldism of the 1960s: populist politics and mixed economies of laissez-faire for the rich and subsidies for the poor. In Roy’s striking formulation, those marching today beneath Islam’s green banners are the same as the “reds” of yesterday, with similarly dim prospects of success. Richly informed, powerfully argued, and clearly written, this is a book that no one trying to understand Islam can afford to overlook.
Is theocracy really the future of the world’s one billion Muslims? Or should it be? …Never has the question been as brilliantly argued as in Olivier Roy’s L’echec de l’Islam politique, now available in a superb English translation as The Failure of Political Islam. His closely reasoned, original and unsentimental conclusion is that political Islam has already failed—that ‘Islamism’ has already atrophied into a sterile, hypocritical—and very Western—neofundamentalism… The Failure of Political Islam addresses the history, sociology, economy and ‘geostrategy’ of political Islam, with excellent case studies of Iran and Afghanistan… [A] daring exploration… This book is a corrective of stunning power.
If you read only one book on political Islam, this should be it. Olivier Roy…has turned his attention to the phenomenon of Islamic radicalism with remarkable results. On practically every page one finds an interpretation or observation that is provocative and insightful.
The Failure of Political Islam acts as both a keystone and a launchpad to understanding the political ferment in the Arab world today. In the same way we learned that our perception of Communism as a monolithic force was in error, Olivier Roy exposes the political implications of diversity and weakness within Islam.
A view of Islam as a religion of political extremism, containing the seeds of its own politicization in a manner inherently incompatible with much of the Western world, has gradually become well entrenched in Western policy circles… In this erudite and powerful book, Olivier Roy persuasively challenges such ahistoricism. Roy…uses his wide-ranging and detailed knowledge of the Muslim world to present a reading of contemporary Islamic movements that provides an important corrective to such gross simplifications. The argument is all the more pertinent at a time when well-known American political scientists see global politics reduced to a ‘clash of civilizations.’ …[This] is a forceful work—an eloquent contribution to an important current debate by a scholar with long experience in the world of political Islam.
Olivier Roy’s examination of ‘political Islam’ has already had an important impact on the study of Islamism. His analysis is carefully defined and clearly presented… Roy’s conclusions are…sophisticated and nuanced. He argues that a particular type of Islamist program has failed and been replaced, not by a non-Islamic mode of thought, but by a different Islamic approach… This book is essential reading for all interested in the late 20th century evolution of movements of religious activism and revival… The issues that [Roy] raises—regarding the nature of Islamist movements and their relationships with modern institutions and concepts—must be dealt with.
Roy perceptively argues that the attempt to create a universal Islamist state is doomed to failure because of the conflicts between Sunni and Shia forms and other ethnic differences in the Islamic world. His is a keen, timely study; highly recommended.
- 256 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Press
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