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.