Failure Of Political Islam

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Overview

For many Westerners, ours seems to be the era of the "Islamic threat," with radical Muslims everywhere on the rise and on the march, remaking societies and altering the landscape of contemporary politics. In a powerful corrective to this view, the French political philosopher Olivier Roy presents an entirely different verdict: political Islam is a failure. Even if Islamic fundamentalists take power in countries like Algeria, they will be unable to reshape economics and politics and, in the name of "Islamic universalism," will express no more than nationalism or an even narrower agenda. Despite all the rhetoric about an "Islamic way," an "Islamic economy," and an "Islamic state," the realities of the Muslim world remain essentially unchanged. Roy demonstrates that the Islamism 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. Roy has much to say about the sociology of radical Islam, about the set of ideas and assumptions at its core. He explains lucidly why Iran, for all the sound and fury of its revolution, has been unable to launch "sister republics" beyond its borders, and why the dream of establishing Islam as a "third force" in international relations remains a futile one. Richly informed, powerfully argued, and clearly written, this is a book that no one trying to understand Islamic fundamentalism can afford to overlook.
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Editorial Reviews

American Political Science Review - Leonardo A. Villalón
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.
Boston Book Review - Peter Theroux
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.
Middle East Journal - John O. Voll
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.
Foreign Affairs - William B. Quandt
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.
Times [UK] - Princeton Borough
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.
Foreign Affairs

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.
— William B. Quandt

Middle East Journal

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.
— John O. Voll

Boston Book Review

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.
— Peter Theroux

American Political Science Review

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.
— Leonardo A. Villalón

Times [UK]

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.
— Princeton Borough

American Political Science Review
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.
— Leonardo A. Villalón
Boston Book Review
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.
— Peter Theroux
Middle East Journal
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.
— John O. Voll
Foreign Affairs
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.
— William B. Quandt
Times [UK]
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.
— Princeton Borough
Library Journal
In this work, Roy Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan, Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1986 analyzes the types of people who are attracted to Islamist the author's word movements and the ideologies and goals of these groups. The Islamist cadres are young intellectuals from an urban background who have Western-style educations. The Islamist masses are the new urban arrivals, the peasants who have tripled the population of Muslim cities over the last 20 years. Because the Islamists, on the whole, have not studied the traditional Islamic curriculum, they have only a superficial understanding of Islamic institutions and idealize an Islamic past. Roy perceptively argues that the attempt to create one 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 for academic and larger public libraries.-Robert Andrews, Duluth P.L., Minn.
Booknews
French political philosopher Roy demonstrates that the Islamism of today is a mix of populist politics and mixed economies of laissez- faire for the rich and subsidies for the poor, and argues that Islamic fundamentalists will never be able to reshape economics and politics in the name of Islamic universalism. He discusses the sociology of Islam, and the situation in countries such as Algeria and Iran. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674291416
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1996
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Olivier Roy is Researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris and the author of Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan.
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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction 1
1 Islam and Politics: From Tradition to Reformism 28
2 The Concepts of Islamism 35
3 The Sociology of Islamism 48
4 The Impasses of Islamist Ideology 60
5 Neofundamentalism: From the Muslim Brotherhood to the Algerian FIS 75
6 The Islamist New Intellectuals 89
7 The Geostrategy of Islamism: States and Networks 107
8 The Islamic Economy: Between Illusions and Rhetoric 132
9 Afghanistan: Jihad and Traditional Society 147
10 Iran: Shiism and Revolution 168
11 The Shiite Factor in Iran's Foreign Policy 183
Conclusion: Tomorrow's Gray Areas 194
Notes 205
Bibliography 225
Index 231
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