The following article, reprinted with permission from the excellent French monthly Espirit (in some respects a French Dissent), presents the first serious social portrait we have seen of Afghanistan society. Without glossing over its inequities or technological backwardness, Olivier Roy paints a picture far more complex than the ignorant or malicious talk about “feudalism” that apologists and half-apologists for the Soviet invasion have spread. Some of the author’s references are to French political figures, but no one should have much trouble finding American equivalents. — EDS.
People became interested in Afghanistan only after the Soviet intervention. As to what is really going on there, a certain consensus seems to exist in France, at least on the left: the old Afghan regime was a form of retrograde feudalism that one would hesitate to support even as one condemns Russian intervention. Many people take this position without realizing that they are covertly advancing an old colonialist argument that confuses technological backwardness with a lag of civilization and that, in the name of progress and history, justifies moving from an outdated to a newer mode of product...
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