The Fear of Barbarians
The Fear of Barbarians
Contemporary forms of tension and conflict among nations cannot be described in terms familiar to twentieth century history, but neither can they be reduced to a ‘clash of civilizations'. The world today is not divided between an enlightened West and the dark forces of Islam. To avoid the negative impact of these Manichean images we need a much more nuanced view.

In this new book Tzvetan Todorov offers an original analysis of the new landscape of fear and resentment that characterizes our world today. He starts by redefining the notions of barbarism and civilization as universal moral categories and explains how they apply to the plurality of cultures; and he distinguishes carefully between various forms of collective identity - cultural, civic and ideological. These conceptual tools enable him to shed fresh light on the current struggle against terrorism and the tensions between communities within Western countries. He invites us to overcome our fears - for fear is a dangerous motive and risks producing an evil that is worse than the evil we initially feared. The fear of the barbarians can turn us into barbarians.

Richly illustrated with examples ranging from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib to the murder of Theo Van Gogh and the Danish cartoons, this powerful plea for civilized values will be essential reading for anyone concerned with the key challenges facing the world today.

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More Info
  • April 2011
  • 200 pages
  • 154 x 229 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Paperback $22.95
  • 9780745647104
Table of Contents

Introduction: Between fear and resentment

Notes to introduction

1. Barbarism and civilisation

Being a barbarian

Being civilised

From civilisation to cultures

An Enlightenment heritage

Judging cultures

Technology and works of art

A dream of Enlightenment

Civilisation and colonisation

Some misunderstandings

Notes to chapter 1

2. Collective identities

The plurality of cultures

Culture as construction

The functions of culture

States and nations

The fragile State

A State without culture?

Moral and political values

A ministry of identity

Culture and values

Notes to chapter 2

3. The War of the Worlds

Make love or war?

Religious wars and political conflicts

Men like us?

The Manichean vision

Islamism and totalitarianism

The war on terrorism

The end and the means

Torture: the facts

Torture: the debate

Notes to chapter 3

4. Steering between the reefs

Murder in Amsterdam

The anti-Islamic combat

The Danish caricatures

The reactions

A few reflections

The Pope’s speech

By way of Islam

Notes to chapter 4

5. European identity

In search of an identity

Plurality as the basis of unity

Forms of coexistence

The cosmopolitan model

Europe in the West

The frontiers of Europe

Notes to chapter 5

Beyond Manicheism


About the Author
Tzvetan Todorov is an independent scholar
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"Fascinating and important."
New York Review of Books

"One of the most provocative cultural analyses of the current situation."
Cultural Studies Review

"This work is more than a masterpiece, it is a treasure. Profound erudition, eloquence, formidable common sense, a brilliant refutation of Western and non-Western- "terrible simplifiers", this beautiful defense of humanism, pluralism, tolerance, this eloquent critique of manichaeisms and inhumanity (including torture) is, in my opinion, the best of Todorov's many books, the summary and summa of his work. In less than 200 pages, it is the most irrefutable defense and illustration of the values of the Enlightenment and of their immense relevance to the present condition of the world."
Stanley Hoffmann, Harvard University

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