A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around the World

A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around the World

by Youssef Courbage, Emmanuel Todd
     
 

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We are told that Western/Christian and Muslim/Arab civilizations are on the verge of destroying each other. The demographics of one group remain sluggish, while the population of the other has exploded, widening the cultural gap and all but guaranteeing the outbreak of war. Leaving aside the media's sound and fury on this subject, measured analysis shows another

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Overview

We are told that Western/Christian and Muslim/Arab civilizations are on the verge of destroying each other. The demographics of one group remain sluggish, while the population of the other has exploded, widening the cultural gap and all but guaranteeing the outbreak of war. Leaving aside the media's sound and fury on this subject, measured analysis shows another reality taking shape: rapprochement between these two civilizations, benefitting from a universal movement guiding humanity since the Enlightenment.

This book's historical and geographical sweep discredits the notion of a specific Islamic demography. The range of fertility among Muslim women, for example, is as varied as the religious behavior among Muslims in general. Whether agnostics, fundamentalist Salafis, or al-Qaeda activists, Muslims are a diverse group that proves the immutability and individuality of Islam. Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd consider different degrees of literacy, patriarchy, and defensive reactions among minority Muslim groups across the world, underscoring the massive secularization movement spreading throughout Arab and Muslim populations. In this regard, they argue, there is very little to distinguish the evolution of Islam from the history of Christianity, with the Muslim world now entering into a global modernity. Sensitive to demographic variables and their reflection of personal and social truths, Courbage and Todd effectively upend a dangerous meme, in which a fractured world is believed to be close to crisis because of an epidemic of closed cultures and men made different by religion.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It's an old trope that Muslim and Western societies are undergoing a "clash of civilizations"—one that this slim study neatly and persuasively rebuts. Courbage and Todd (After the Empire), director and researcher respectively at the French National Institute for Demographic Studies, posit that globally, rising literacy rates and dropping birth rates are followed by societal upheaval presaging modernization. The authors present copious data to argue that Muslim societies are on this track that the West has already completed (though "Westerners would like to forget that their demographic transitions were also strewn with many disturbances"). In this time of upheavals across the Muslim world, the authors' predictions appear nearly prophetic—save for their contention that Arab regimes are "likely to be stable for a relatively long time." This is the academic work that remains accessible even to the nonprofessional reader, the book's length allowing brisk reading, but the authors occasionally provide conclusions without quite enough underpinning. At certain points, deeper analysis would have strengthened their case. (June)
Leon-Francois Hoffmann
This articulate and elegant demographic study convincingly documents a general trend toward modernity in the Muslim world, from Morocco to Indonesia. It successfully refutes many Western prejudices towards Islam, especially those based on misconceptions about its religion. It should be required reading for Western policy makers as well as for the general public.
Commonweal
I found this succinct book fascinating and recommend it.

— Patrick J. Ryan

Choice

engaging for a general reader and rewarding for a specialist.Choice

Law Society Journal
Scholarly and engaging, this is an important work and one which deserves to be widely read.

— Sandra Berns

From the Publisher

ahdjkhueh

Columbia University Press

Kirkus Reviews

An insightful academic study of how the unrest and turbulence that characterizes large areas of the Muslim world are the results of demographic—rather than ideological—trends.

Researchers Courbage and Todd argue that media-driven doomsday scenarios that pit the Christian West against the Islamic East are as false as they are harmful and misleading. Through careful analysis of demographic data from the Middle East, Central Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia, the authors show how such factors as the overall decline in the birth rate and an increase in female literacy are symptoms of "a major anthropological transformation" that points to universal patterns of historical development. Regional differences—caused by dissimilarities in family structures as well as economic, political and theological variables—do not subvert the current demographic transitions the authors believe will lead to the Muslim world's movement into the hyper-plural space of modernity now inhabited by the Christian West.Indeed, the dichotomy between "us" and "them" is false and created largely to hide other, more disturbing realities, such as disparities in income and standards of living. By breaking down the monolith of "Islamic civilization" into individual national units and studying the specific demographics of each, Courbage and Todd give readers a way to think about Muslim society that is both hopeful and enlightened.They offer a vision of a global future in which cultural diversity will no longer be viewed as "a source of conflict" but rather "evidence of the richness of human history."

Challenging and important reading.

Commonweal - Patrick J. Ryan
I found this succinct book fascinating and recommend it.

The Midwest Book Review
A positive, enlightening survey.

Nicolas Guilhot
Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd totally recast the current debate about Islam and the West by focusing attention on some societal fundamentals and by debunking-once and for all-a number of myths.

Law Society Journal - Sandra Berns
Scholarly and engaging, this is an important work and one which deserves to be widely read.

Léon-François Hoffmann
This articulate and elegant demographic study convincingly documents a general trend toward modernity in the Muslim world, from Morocco to Indonesia. It successfully refutes many Western prejudices towards Islam, especially those based on misconceptions about its religion. It should be required reading for Western policy makers as well as for the general public.

Population and Development Review - John Casterline
A primer in the demography of Muslim societies, a treatise on the causes and consequences of fertility decline, and a rejoinder to the 'clash of civilizations' argument.

Review of Middle East Studies
Written with clarity and élan.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231150026
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
06/07/2011
Pages:
152
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Youssef Courbage is research director at the French National Institute for Demographic Studies. His research concerns Arab and Muslim countries, Asia and Eastern Europe, and interactions among demography and politics. He has studied economics, sociology, demography, and urban planning at Lebanese and French universities.

Emmanuel Todd is a researcher at the French National Institute for Demographic Studies and the author of numerous books, including After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order, The Final Fall: An Essay on the Decomposition of the Soviet Sphere, The Making of Modern France: Ideology, Politics, and Culture.

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