Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century

… the past is all we know, the future is always obscured by cloud, we hack our way through it towards nowhere we know, and whenever we tire of the endless exploration, as well we might, whenever life seems absurdly short and the horizon no closer than when we set out all those years ago, it is the past that is always lying in wait for us, tempting us with the infallible promise of the trusted, the explored, the warm and the safe, the only real home we shall ever have. Waiting to tuck us up tight.

James Hawes’ excellent satire is a timely reminder that the most seductive, and repressive, of utopias are not ones that offer a bold vision of a future remade but those that seek to impose a fictitious past on a reluctant present. This is one of the paradoxes of the anti-totalitarian left’s understanding of political Islam, currently dominated by Paul Berman’s illuminating analysis. He stresses the modernism of Jihadi and Salafi Islamism and its links with European Nihilism and Fascisistic totalitarian thought. This would seem to be enough in an era when the former leader of the Neo-Nazi organisation Combat 18, David Wyatt, has converted to Islam, ostensibly finding the Jihadi movement sufficiently anti-Semitic, violent and authoritarian for his tastes. The ideological contortions, too, of the Respect Coalition neatly confirm Berman’s analysis of the opportunism of the left, placing conflict above principle.

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