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Created: March 8, 2002
Latest Update: March 19, 2002

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A Reconciliation within the Left:
Islam and Modernization

Thomas McDonald's post to Hab list.

Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individaul Authors, February 2002.
"Fair use" encouraged.

All of us who are struggling with the dilemma of how to grasp the full measure of what's happening in theory with the "Left," Marxism, thinkers like Habermas, should find this post of Thomas McDonald's interesting. There's been lots of discussion on the Hab list on this post. Nag me to catch up for you. We'll return to this issue of Islam and Modernization presently in moot court, and next Fall in our theory seminar. March 19, 2002. jeanne

On Friday, March 8, Thomas McDonald posted to Hab list:

In response to my post "Why has Islam failed to modernize?" I received two responses that I believe so accurately characterize *the division* that cripples the contemporary Left in *the struggle to organize a credible challenge to capitalism*. It also seems to me that the possibility of healing this division is what attracts people to Habermas's project..

I must admit that I purposely framed the question "Why has Islam failed to modernize?" specifically to lure these two types of responses because I believe this question draws out the heart of the division in the contemporary Left. I am personally divided about how to reconcile this kind of division, which is why I put the question out in the way that I did..

Forgive me for not taking time to quote specifically from each post. I just wanted to spit this out as quick as I could. I take full responsibility for these being *my interpretations*, made for sake of argument:

Ali responded from what I would call a Postmodern Left stance. Ali expressed an outrage at perceived *insensitivity* on my part toward 'the other' by using words like 'failure' to describe Islam (regardless of the fact that my accusation was pointing to it's failure at pluralism). Then, to further justify defence of 'the other' (because all non-hegemonic 'others' tend to be automatically defended by the Postmodern Left, regardless of circumstances) Ali rationalized that Islamic fundamentalism was only being targeted by America because it is *a* form of resistance to capitalism. This rationalization assuages some on the Left, but not people like Bob..

Bob responded from what I would call a Modern Left (or neo-Marxist) stance. As much as Bob might dislike America, he understands Marx. Modernists (like Habermas, opposed to radical postmodernism) still believe in 'progress'. A society *must progress* past mythical, premodern psychologies to achieve liberation. Capitalism is a necessary stage that must be reached before it can be surpassed with Socialism (while the idea that 'others' 'must progress' is painfully offensive to the Postmodern Left). From this Modern Left perspective, one has to be against Islamic fundamentalism in this war, on the grounds of a Socialist Ideal that rejects *all* religious claims to absolute Truth.

This division has the American and European Left in knots. Not only about this war.. but I think this problem represents a deeper problem that is stopping the Left from organizing a legitimate challenge to capitalism.

Until these divided perspectives can reconcile their differences, capitalism rules.

I'm looking for an answer to this problem as much as anyone else, since I have sympathies for both Jesus and Marx. I'm motivated by the transcendance of soul and body over capitalist oppression.

This is basically why I'm interested in Habermas. He seems to be the only contemporary thinker pointing the way toward such a reconciliation within the Left. "Something was lost when sin became guilt." -Jurgen Habermas Regards, Tom