Don’t be so critical

May 18, 2008 at 9:53 am (Islam, KB72, left, religion, Rosie B)

The Freethinker interviews Ophelia Benson of Butterflies and Wheels:-

FT: Is it true that your upcoming book, Does God Hate Women?, was turned down by the first publisher because in was too critical of Islam?

OB: Yes, a publisher did turn it down for that compelling reason. It wasn’t exactly the first publisher since it never actually accepted it, but it was very interested, got Jeremy [Stangroom, the co-author] in to have a chat etc (I live six thousand miles away or I would have gone along for the chat too, whether they’d invited me or not) – then said they’d decided no because one mustn’t criticize Islam.

FT: How did you feel about that at the time?

OB: A mix of amusement and disgust, I think – amusement at the docile predictability, disgust at the crawling. I also felt even more convinced that the book was needed, precisely because a publisher would turn it down for such a reason. What publisher, you wonder? Verso.

Verso, the great left wing publisher describe themselves as putting out “Books with a critical edge“.  Except about religion, or a religion, of course.

144 Comments

  1. voltairespriest said,

    Hmmm. Me likey Butterflies and Wheels – never read it before. Will add a link from our blogroll.

  2. D.B. said,

    Would that great left-wing blog Shiraz Socialist be willing to publish work which its editors deemed “too critical” of Judaism/Israel? I presume you’d be understandably wary of provoking blood-curdling screams of ‘anti-Semite!’ which would typically eminate from some of your own contributors. Likewise, I dare say Verso is conscious of being accused of ‘Islamophobia’ for “singling out” (to use an oft-used phrase among certain quarters) Islam for disproportionate criticism.

    It’s not all black and white, is it…

  3. voltairespriest said,

    Would I publish, say an article by (for example) John G criticising Israel in any terms he so chose? Yes, without hesitation.

    Am I rather confused as to how a book criticising Islam is supposed to “not be disproportionately critical of Islam”? Err, yes. Unless you think that any book criticising said religion should not be published because criticism of Islam is “Islamophobic”?

  4. D.B. said,

    No, I don’t think any book criticising said religion should not be published because criticism of Islam is “Islamophobic”. I would encourage Verso to publish it. although I think their reticence in the current climate is understandable. I’d venture a guess that it’s not so much about being reluctant to publish one book or one article which is “too critical” of Islam, but rather being seen to add to a steady stream of criticism which builds up into a tidal wave, much as I’m sure you would protest if a torrent of one-sided criticism was directed towards the state of Israel, for example…

  5. twp77 said,

    Oh please – let’s get real. This is a publisher that has printed the statements of Osama Bin Laden and Nusrallah from Hezbollah in the interest of dialogue and discussion! Let’s not pretend that there aren’t being one-sided in this case – but it may be down more to whether or not they think it will sell amongst their readership.

    And I say this being a massive fan of Verso books I might add!

  6. D.B. said,

    Fair point, twp77.

  7. Darren said,

    TWP probably right in that the decision was as much about business as anything else.

  8. KB Player said,

    I think it is unlikely that Ophelia Benson would “single out” Islam for criticism in its treatment of women. She’s an equal opportunities critic of religion. So Verso estimates that its readership isn’t interested in criticism of religion and its treatment of women? or merely that “Islam” is treated less than sensitively, delicately etc?

  9. Ophelia Benson said,

    Also, I should add (I should have made this clear in the interview) – the book wasn’t written yet, and we didn’t single out Islam in the proposal. (We don’t single it out in the book, either.) So Verso’s caution was pre-emptive, as it were. It didn’t even know how much we were going to talk about Islam; it just decided not to risk it.

  10. resistor said,

    Verso publishes ‘Being Arab ‘ by Samir Kassir which it promotes saying, ‘Kassir suggests that the current crisis in Arab identity lies in the failure to come to terms with modernity, instead embracing false solutions such as pan-Arabism and Islamism. ‘

    Perhaps Verso didn’t publish the book because

    1. It wouldn’t sell any copies.

    because

    2. It wasn’t any good.

    Which is why most books don’t get published.

  11. Sue R said,

    As a regular reader of ‘Butterflies and Wheels’, I have the utmost respect for Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom. Knowing some of the people involved with Verso, I can’t say the same of them. Resistor is talking through his arse. Quite obviously Verso published a book by an arab (Samir Kassir) that is critical of prevailinig idoelogies in the Arab world because the author is an arab, but they are not prepared to publish a book by Europeans that may be critical of aspects of the arab world, in other words, there is no universality in political discourse. Only those with the right passport can venture an opinion. And as for the reasons why most books don’t get published, they are many and various.

  12. KB Player said,

    Resistor not only talks through his arse, he reads with it as well. It expressly states in the post that the reason for this book being turned down by the publisher was because Verso thought it would be critical of Islam. So never mind why “most books” don’t get published, why this particular book is not being published by Verso is for that reason,

  13. Ophelia Benson said,

    Besides which, resistor, you buffoon, I just said in the comment before yours that the book hadn’t been written yet, so Verso couldn’t have known whether it was any good or not. And it wasn’t that Verso thought it wouldn’t be any good and wouldn’t sell any copies, either, because it was interested, it did summon Jeremy to a meeting. It considered, it wavered, it doubted, and in the end it decided no for the reason given. The point here (obviously) is not to moan about not getting published (the book is being published), it’s to point out Verso’s tragically terrible reason. The book is about what many religions do to trample on women’s rights – yet Verso thinks it’s more important not to criticize Islam. That’s pathetic.

  14. johng said,

    perhaps they disagree with your politics on the question Ophelia? Don’t know and its not an allegation but it is a possibility. Yet another muscular secular book (after all there is a long list of them) and yet another book explaining oppression in terms of the prevalence of religion, in the current climate a kind of political statement about Islam (‘we’ after all have entered the light of secular society ‘they’ have not). They might have been wrong about this, but this rather then ‘censorship’ on the one hand or fears about declining sales, just might have been the reason. Do left wing publishers have a right to have a line on these things? That would fit with the decision to publish a book by an author who may well have taken a different political line on how to tackle the question.

  15. Amusement and disgust « Max Dunbar said,

    […] and disgust Via Shiraz Socialist, the Freethinker carries a great interview with Ophelia Benson, my editor at Butterflies and […]

  16. Ophelia Benson said,

    Well spotted, John G. Yes, presumably they do disagree with my politics on the question. That’s rather the point. It’s interesting that a putative left-wing publisher disagrees with the politics of defending women’s rights against misogynist reactionary religion in all its forms.

  17. johng said,

    Well it is interesting yes. Its long been the divide between broadly marxist and on the other hand liberal athiest politics, since about the time Marx wrote on the subject. It might be worthwhile working out the basis for this political divide rather then pretending its about something else. Given that we are rational, and secular, progressive, modern, and generally oh so twentieth century etc, etc.

    Me I prefer 16th century Sufi poets (and the marxist might ask, whats going on here in the 16th century, whilst the liberal asks only: are they believers? are they secular? thus missing the point, and revealing themselves to be essentially theological in their mindset).

    Bullhe Shah (1680-1752) acclaimed Punjabi Sufi poet. He wrote treatise in Persian prose and was drawn to the philosophy of Vedanta:

    Neither Hindu nor Mussalman, let us sit and spin, abandoning the pride of religion.
    Neither Sunni nor Shi’a, I have taken the path of peace and unity.
    Neither hungry nor full, neither naked nor clothed
    Neither weeping nor laughing, neither exiled or settled
    Neither a sinner nor pure, I do not walk in the way of sin or virtue.
    Bullhe! In all hearts I feel the Lord,
    So I have abandoned both Hindu and Muslim.

    Love and Law are struggling: I will settle the doubts of your heart, holy sir, the questions of Law and the answers of Love.
    Law says: go to the Mulla and learn the rules and regulations;
    Love says: one letter is enough, close your books and put them away.
    Law says: perform the five baths and worship alone in the temple:
    Love says: what is this veil for? Let the vision be open.
    Law says: Go inside the Mosque and perform the duty of prayer:
    Love says: go to the tavern, read the naphal drinking wine.
    Law says: Let us go to heaven, we will eat the fruits of heaven;
    Love says: We are the keepers and will ourselves distribute the fruits.
    Law says: faithful one, perform the haji, cross the bridge:
    Love says, the Ka’aba is the door of the Beloved, from there I will not stir.
    Law says: We put Shah Manur on the stake (mystic heretic put to death 922)
    Love says: through you he entered the Beloveds door.
    The place of love is the highest highest heaven, the crown of creation;
    Out of love he has created Bulha, humble, and from dust.

    Waris Shah (1730-1790) Punjabi: the divine beloved is male according to convention and the soul longing for communian is female:

    Ever new, ever fresh is the Spring of Love!
    Ever new, ever fresh is the Spring of Love!

    When I learnt the lesson of love,
    My heart dreaded the sight of the Mosque.
    I went into the idol temple,
    where a thousand horns were blowing,

    When I grasped the hint of love,
    I beat and drove out all senses of ‘I’ and ‘you’,
    Both my heart and my vision became clear.
    Now in whatsoever direction I look, I see only the Lord.

    I am tired of reading Vedas and Qur’ans;
    My forehead is worn by constant protestations in the mosque.
    But the Lord is neither at Hindu shrines nor at Mecca,
    Whoever found him, found him in the light of his own beauty.

    Burn the prayer mat, break the bucket,
    And do not touch the beads or the staff.
    The lovers are proclaiming at the top of their voices,
    “Give up the lawful and eat carrion”

    I have lived all my life in a mosque,
    But my heart is still full of dirt.
    I had never vowed for the prayer of unity of God
    Now why do I rave and cry.

    Love has made me forget to prostrate myself before you,
    Now why do you quarrel with me in vain?
    Waris is doing his best to keep silent about it,
    But love says “Kill-destroy all show and formality”.

    Khwaja Mir Dard (1720-1785) son a Naqshbandi teacher of Delhi. An ascetic recognised as a spiritual leader in both Naqshbandi and Chisti orders. Wrote much poetry and prose in Persian but best remembered as one of the “pillars” of Urdu poetry. Here is the pain that comes from loving the divine:

    If someone has not seen you here on earth,
    It makes no difference if he sees the world or not.

    Compressed so tight with sorrow is my rosebud heart
    That no one yet has ever seen it open.

    Ah, you strange one, you solitary mystery,
    Never have I seen another such as you.

    What pain and misery, what trials and disgrace!
    Within your love, there’s nothing that I have’nt seen.

    My scars have made me like a tree of lights,
    And yet you never came to see the show.

    Your negligance has bought me to this pass,
    But you’ve never looked, never looked my way.

    The veil across the Beloved’s face was nothing but myself:
    When my eyes opened, I did not see the veil.

    Oh Dard! Night and day, I am at his door,
    Whom no one here has ever seen or understood.

  18. Sue R said,

    So, now we know where Johng is coming from.

  19. resistor said,

    Oh I see, ‘the book hadn’t been written yet, so Verso couldn’t have known whether it was any good or not’ – but they should have agreed to publish it unseen. And you call me a buffoon!

    I’m afraid it doesn’t take more than a glance at Ophelia’s website, B&W, to see that OB has an unhealthy obsession with Islam. I don’t think any reputable publisher needs to further indulge her hatred of Muslims.

  20. Paul Fauvet said,

    What precisely is it that resistor resists ? Common sense, perhaps ? For if anyone looks at Butterflies and Wheels, they will see that it attacks all manner of obscurantist nonsense – be it Christian, Islamic or New Age.

    As for how publishers deal with books, clearly resistor has never written one. Unless you’re some kind of celebrity, you can’t just deliver 100,000 words to a publisher and say “please print this”.

    You have to interest them first. You have to produce some kind of outline, tell them why it’s an important subject, and why it might sell. Presumably that was what Ophelia Benson and her colleague were doing, and Verso turned them down out of sheer political cowardice.

    It couldn’t have been a commercial reason – after all, Dawkins and Hitchens have proved conclusively that atheism sells books.

  21. johng said,

    er, where do you think i’m coming from Sue R? do you also think Obama is a Mooslim?

  22. Sue R said,

    Obama? Do you mean the man standing for the Presidency of the United States? Thought he was a Baptist. As for where are you coming from? A very romantic, naive view of politics. That’s where.

  23. Ophelia Benson said,

    “but they should have agreed to publish it unseen”

    Der, resistor. Do try to keep up. There was a book proposal. That’s how these things are done. Verso was *interested* – then it decided that in spite of being interested it would say no because of worry about inclusion of Islam in overall discussion of religion and women.

    Apparently you’re unaware of the fact that publishers do in fact agree to publish books unseen. That’s the usual way of it. Few authors want to risk writing a whole book without a publisher already lined up.

  24. anti-karsh said,

    ‘the marxist might ask, whats going on here in the 16th century, whilst the liberal asks only: are they believers? are they secular? thus missing the point, and revealing themselves to be essentially theological in their mindset’

    Well said!

  25. Ophelia Benson said,

    (How on earth did Obama get into this? And what does ‘also’ mean in ‘do you also think Obama is a Mooslim?’? That doesn’t refer to me does it? Or does it. If it does them’s fighting words – I think Obama’s the best candidate we’ve had in generations. In some ways he’s the best we’ve had *ever*. I don’t ‘also think he’s a Mooslim,’ whatever that’s supposed to mean.)

  26. KB Player said,

    “Me I prefer 16th century Sufi poets (and the marxist might ask, whats going on here in the 16th century, whilst the liberal asks only: are they believers? are they secular? thus missing the point, and revealing themselves to be essentially theological in their mindset).”

    What liberals are these? Do you mean liberals can’t appreciate religious poetry, or music, or architecture? That is total nonsense. A liberal atheist is quite capable of appreciating Gerard Manley Hopkins, or Milton, or Herbert, or Dante. A liberal atheist can read and admire the King James Bible.

  27. johng said,

    No Ophelia. Didn’t mean you. I got the impression that Sue R believed that she had uncovered something dark and dangerous about me on the basis of infatuation with 16th and 17th century poetry.

  28. Voltaire's Priest said,

    I don’t ‘also think he’s a Mooslim,’ whatever that’s supposed to mean

    I think it’s a new diet for moose.

  29. johng said,

    “What liberals are these? Do you mean liberals can’t appreciate religious poetry, or music, or architecture? That is total nonsense. A liberal atheist is quite capable of appreciating Gerard Manley Hopkins, or Milton, or Herbert, or Dante. A liberal atheist can read and admire the King James Bible”

    I should have pre-fixed ‘muscular’. And I am of course referring to Marx’s critique of Bourgoise athiesm which see’s religion as simply a set of errors and sought to explain inequality on the basis of nefarious activities of priests, rather then explaining priests on the basis of social inequality. Marx however as was well known was an APPEASER who made EXCUSES for people being religious.

  30. voltairespriest said,

    Errm no not quite.

  31. johng said,

    well no.

  32. Sue R said,

    Yer getting yerself into a tangle, Johng. I’d have an early night if I were you.

  33. charliethechulo said,

    The only “appeaser” here, is John G, whose repeated attempts to get round Marx’s atheism have simply succeeded in showing that he, and his party (the SWP) are irrational relativists who don’t understand the a-b-c of real Marxism.

  34. Flying Rodent said,

    …they’d decided no because one mustn’t criticize Islam.

    Really? Publishers have to operate according to market rules too, you know.

    No offence to Ophelia, but publishers aren’t obliged to put out your work just because you think it has value. If they don’t think a book will sell, they won’t publish it – that’s not censorship, that’s common sense.

    Because it’s hardly as if there’s a gap in the market for this kind of thing, is it? You can get it served up in the blistering, Enlightenment-praising style of Hitchens or Dawkins, or you can get it in the deranged wingnut lunatic style of Mark Steyn and Melanie Phillips, but it’s not as if the bookshelves are barren.

    US wingnuts are always on about this, incidentally – perpetually whining that they can’t find their point of view being pimped in Hollywood movies etc. without stopping to consider whether anyone would pay to see the Islamonazi remake of Red Dawn.

  35. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Except that Ophelia’s made it fairly explicit why the book was turned down hasn’t she? I don’t think you can discredit her just by saying “oh yeah that’s what Melanie Phillips says”.

  36. johng said,

    no i’m not tangled and nor am i trying to ‘get round’ marx’s athiesm. i’m making the point that marx understood religion as a product of social relations, and not social relations as a product of religion. For him the failure of bourgoise athiesm to understand this turned it into a form of idealism. you don’t change reality by smashing its mirrors. And this remains a divide on the left, a divide which explains why Verso, whose politics seem to me to be informed by, if not identical with, a proper Marxist take on the question, might not have been too keen on adding to the market of liberal idealism which puts religion at the centre of its account of whats wrong with the world, an account which distorts both what religion is, as well as whats wrong with the world. As Marx argued.

  37. Ellen said,

    “Except that Ophelia’s made it fairly explicit why the book was turned down hasn’t she?”

    Since when do publishers tell authors exactly why they’re being turned down?

  38. Flying Rodent said,

    Since when do publishers tell authors exactly why they’re being turned down?

    Exactly. I’ve never been told to my face that my work sucks or is too weird, tedious or plain predictable to sell, but on reflection a lot of it has been. I’ve always got “It’s not what we’re looking to publish just now” or “we’ve already got something similar”, when they mean “Go away and leave us alone”.

    I don’t think you can discredit her just by saying “oh yeah that’s what Melanie Phillips says

    It’s as well I was saying “The market is glutted with righteous defences of enlightenment values, and you can get it served in 57 ideological varieties if you like” then.

  39. Ophelia Benson said,

    Oh for christ’s sake. They did tell us, that’s all.

    They couldn’t very well pretend it was just not the right kind of thing for them etc etc when they’d already expressed interest, brought Jeremy in for a meeting, all that. It was too late to just say ‘Very nice but doesn’t quite fit our list thanks so much all the same.’ They did say why, and that’s what they said.

  40. Ophelia Benson said,

    Also – I’ve already answered this one –

    “publishers aren’t obliged to put out your work just because you think it has value. If they don’t think a book will sell, they won’t publish it – that’s not censorship, that’s common sense.”

    No kidding. My reply to Freethinker wasn’t about publishers in general, it was about one in particular, which did say what I said it said.

  41. modernityblog said,

    Ophelia,

    that’s that problem, no matter what you write, no matter how you explain it, contrarians such as splinters sunrise, wouldn’t bother reading it or make the slightest effort to understand it ( as shown above )

  42. Sue R said,

    Johng, why so you always assume your oppenents are idiots and uneducated? No-one here has given a full theory of religion therefore how can you claim tht your opponents have a bourgois atheisitic idealistic understanding of religion. You are making up your own counter arguments. I’ve no idea of Ophelia Benson’s philosophy of religion, but I do know that on criticising the empirical presentation of it (all religions not just Islam) she is accurate.

  43. KB Player said,

    “Because it’s hardly as if there’s a gap in the market for this kind of thing, is it? You can get it served up in the blistering, Enlightenment-praising style of Hitchens or Dawkins, or you can get it in the deranged wingnut lunatic style of Mark Steyn and Melanie Phillips, but it’s not as if the bookshelves are barren.”

    By its title, I would guess that Ophelia’s book is from a feminist angle, and that at least is a different angle from the above. The patriarchy is never quite such a self-righteous bully as when it puts on a robe and starts intoning from some holy book.

  44. paul fauvet said,

    Johng, what on earth is “bourgeois atheism” ? In what way does bourgeois disbelief in the supernatural differ from proletarian disbelief?

    Next you’ll be telling us there are bourgeois and proletarian flavours of the theory of general relativity.

    Of course, Marx thought atheism alone was not enough, but he certainly regarded it as an essential component of any revolutionary ideology. He would have been horrified to see people who describe themselves as marxists forming unprincipled alliances with islamic bigots.

    As for the curious idea that a book by Ophelia Benson wouldn’t sell because Dawkins and Hitchens have already cornered the market in atheist literature – surely the message from the huge success of their books is that there are lots of people who want to read about enlightenment values, want to read arguments against religion, and would certainly buy Benson’s book.

    The left is in a sorry state when a left wing publishing house will not publish a left wing author for fear of offending right wing islamists.

  45. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Apparently JohnG’s against Bourgeois Enlightenment B52 Liberal Anti-Seymour Marxism (the kind that privileges class politics over support for anyone and everyone who’s against the USA)… ;)

  46. Jim Denham said,

    John G continues to wriggle in his increasingly desperate campaign to downplay Marx’s atheism (presumably in order to justify the SWP’s rotten bloc with religious bigots): where, exactly, does Marx denounce “bourgeois atheism” as “a form of idealism”? Pointing out that religion is a distorted reflection of social reality is, of course, correct: but most atheists (“bourgeois” or otherwise) realise that and don’t need to have the bleedin’ obvious pointed out by the hard-of-thinking Mr G. That fairly banal point cannot be used to downplay Marx’s militant and uncompromising atheism, and one is forced to ask why Mr G seems so keen to misrepresent Marx on this particular issue.

  47. KB Player said,

    What I expect of a left wing publisher:-

    It will publish books which analyse powerful entities and how they affect the lives of the powerless. These entities may be institutions like the IMF, or a corporation like Halliburton. They may be the rulers of a state. They may be something more amorphous, like a dominant ethnic group or a religion. If a left-wing publisher refuses to publish a book because it is critical of one of these entities, I think, What the Fuck is Going on Here?

  48. Flying Rodent said,

    I would guess that Ophelia’s book is from a feminist angle

    I’m sure that’s a new and inventive angle that’s never, ever been covered before, and more fool the publishers for failing to pick up this instant bestseller.

    They did tell us, that’s all.

    How to put this – you’re a formidable woman, Ophelia. If you walked into the bar I used to work in and the manager ordered me not to serve you, I’d probably base it on the grounds that you’re too rude about Islam, if it’d get you out of the door quicker.

    If you’d been wearing tacky shoes, it’d have been that instead.

  49. voltairespriest said,

    You really can’t accept that she could both be telling the truth and be correct about what happened, can you? How utterly extraordinary.

  50. KB Player said,

    Verso seems to be putting out books about America as well. Haven’t we got enough books out about America? Who would ever want to buy another one?

    Note:- “formidable” is like “shrill” or “hysterical” – an adjective most commonly applied to women. “Formidable” thus applied usually carries a hint of amused denigration.

  51. Ophelia Benson said,

    Heh – yeah. Something tells me ‘How to put this – you’re a formidable woman’ is code for ‘You’re a mouthy bitch.’

    It’s always fascinating that people are willing to go on the record with this kind of stuff. Putative leftists sneering at women’s rights – they haven’t gone the way of the unicorn yet. Good to know.

  52. Clive said,

    Personally, I do think it’s a problem with the Dawkins/Hitchens etc approach to religion that they tend to see it simply as intellectual error, rather than as the product of ‘social relations’. As a result they don’t adequately address any of the positive things which have come, historically, from religious belief – eg, art. Lots of art.

    But what they say about the beliefs themselves, surely, is true – that is, religion is a false as an account of the natural world/universe, and as a guide to moral behaviour.

    So – a question to johng and others who seem to be attacking Ophelia (and whoever it was said she was ‘obsessed’ with Islam):

    How can you possibly pursue this argument – which, all qualifications etc – is basically right – *without* referring to Islam? A book which slagged off Christianity and remained silent about Islam (and Judaism, and other religions – Hitchens entertainingly takes on the ‘eastern solution’) would be very, very odd.

  53. Clive said,

    Jesus! Those fucking smileys!

  54. Jim Denham said,

    Yes, they are annoying aren’t they? Can anyone tell us how to avoid/get rid of them? They just don’t go with serious argument (or an image of being a grumpy old git).

  55. Flying Rodent said,

    ‘You’re a mouthy bitch.’

    Excuse me?

    I said “formidable” because I thought it was more polite than “frighteningly monomaniacal” or “a bit nuts”, or even “precisely the type of person who would regard a rejected book deal as a damning indictment of the moral depravity at the heart of leftism”.

    This is precisely why I detect a whiff of utter bullshit about this The-moral-relativist-liberals-won’t-publish-my-book-because-I-criticise-the-Muslims story. That could well be the entire tale, accurately reported, but when you’re dealing with people who are prone to throwing about phrases like Putative leftists sneering at women’s rights on the strength of one word, it’s vital to keep a functioning bullshit detector close by.

    Sneering at women’s rights! Honestly… I’d advise you to stop working on critiques of unreason and focus on obtaining a basic sense of proportion.

  56. Sue R said,

    I’ve just read an interesting article on ‘The Weekly Worker’ website, that explains the material conditions in Iran which makes Islam such a block on raising its population out of poverty. I wonder if Johng or Lying Rodent or any of the wise old men who are so sure that they are the true defenders of truth and reason, could tell me what is the fallacy in the argument in that article?

  57. Ophelia Benson said,

    ‘precisely the type of person who would regard a rejected book deal as a damning indictment of the moral depravity at the heart of leftism’

    That’s so schewpid. I didn’t say anything about ‘moral depravity’ or ‘the heart of leftism.’ I said Verso’s reason for (after being tempted) saying no was a tragically terrible reason, and pathetic. That’s what I think. But I don’t take Verso to represent the whole of the left – I’m on the left myself, so it would be odd if I did. And I never said I did, or anything resembling it. The hyperventilating rhetoric is all yours.

    I didn’t say ‘The-moral-relativist-liberals-won’t-publish-my-book-because-I-criticise-the-Muslims.’ (Apart from anything else, I wouldn’t dream of calling Verso ‘liberal.’) And it’s not a story. And it’s not my book (I have a co-author). By ‘I detect a whiff of utter bullshit’ you of course mean that I’m lying. It’s bad manners to tell people they’re lying, especially when you have no grounds whatsoever for saying so. You ‘detect’ nothing, you just want to go on calling me a liar. But I’m not telling a ‘story,’ I’m reporting what happened.

  58. Ophelia Benson said,

    Needless to say, I didn’t put that smiley there. That was a close-parenthesis. I don’t smiley at people who tell me I’m lying.

  59. voltairespriest said,

    Ah. I get it. You see Ophelia, Mr/Ms Rodent has realised that his/her case only holds together if s/he can pigeonhole you as an Oriana Fallaci type. Hence the constant repetition of the “ah yeah look, Ophelia thinks it’s an Islamist conspiracy that her book wasn’t published”-esque meme, in the hope that those reading this thread will believe that’s what you think.

    What’s causing him/her to stumble is the fact that you keep repeating the simple facts, which don’t agree with that narrative.

  60. Flying Rodent said,

    By ‘I detect a whiff of utter bullshit’ you of course mean that I’m lying.

    I mean that a person capable of divining deep sexism and contempt for women’s rights from the use of one word in a blog comment is perhaps not terribly trustworthy on anecdotes of this type, and should be treated with skepticism, especially when you consider the points I made at .34 and .38. I don’t doubt that the word “Islam” cropped up in the conversation – I’m saying that it’s possibly not the entire story, merely the part of it that you consider most important.

    That’s so schewpid…

    Of course it is, that’s how it was intended. You’ll notice the comment was about a general lack of any sense of proportion leading to the telepathic divination of bad intentions.

    ….ah yeah look, Ophelia thinks it’s an Islamist conspiracy that her book wasn’t published…

    This is ridiculous – look at the post. …they’d decided no because one mustn’t criticize Islam.

    That’s what they said, is it? Verbatim, no other points left out for convenience? I haven’t said it was an Islamist conspiracy, I’ve just repeated the assertion Ophelia made – that the book was knocked back because it criticised Islam.

    At no point have I said this is tantamount to implying an “Islamist conspiracy”. I’m saying that it doesn’t ring true for me – it clashes with my own experience with publishers and their priorities and fits too neatly into the narrative of politically correct lefties and Muslims beloved of the press.

    Charitably, I think you’re distracted by the fact I cited US wingnut calls for “an Islamonazi remake of Red Dawn“. The tendency to believe that other people don’t see the value in our work because of moral failings on their part is hardly limited to mad American right wingers, it’s just that they’re the most paranoid and amusingly dense on such issues, and the easiest to poke fun at.

    For a more direct but less amusing comparison, I could’ve cited Nick Cohen’s venting at Verso for their decision to decline to publish his feeble work “What’s Left?” Nick himself believes they did so because they are mired in relativism but, having read lengthy extracts, I suspect they declined on more obvious grounds than that.

  61. KB Player said,

    Flying Rodent’s aerobatic display in this exchange is a wonder of loops and rolls:-

    34 Events that happened can’t be as described

    38 Events that happened can’t be as described as they haven’t happened to me

    48 Events that happened may have happened but there was an underlying and reasonable motive for them happening

    55 Events that happened happened but why are you making such a fuss about it?

    60 Events that happened can’t be as described because that would be too much like evidence for a theory that I dislike and therefore must be discounted.

  62. Flying Rodent said,

    That’s certainly one way of putting it, although I don’t think it’s particularly fair. Another would be

    34. I think it’s possible that we’re not hearing the whole story, because book-selling is a business and people usually want to avoid confrontation.

    38. Allow me to elaborate on that point while noting that publishers may tell you one thing while meaning something else entirely, because book-selling is a business and people usually want to avoid confrontation.

    48. I don’t think the feminist angle really affects my contention. By the way, it’s not just publishers who will tell you one thing while meaning something else entirely – lots of other people also work for businesses, and they generally want to avoid confrontation too.

    55. Oh dear, I think this kind of wild over-reaction helps my case a lot more than it does yours, and also adds weight to my point about confrontation. It makes you look like the type of person prone to drawing erroneous conclusions from minimal evidence, which is pretty fatal if you’re asking me to take you at your word.

    60. I’ll restate the point about reliability I made at 55, then attempt to clear up some rather silly assertions. Here’s the point I’m making in the most unambiguous language I can muster.

    It’s not that I “dislike” the theory, it’s that it I don’t think it’s particularly credible and the reactions when I queried it have solidified my doubts rather than dispelled them.

  63. Ophelia Benson said,

    I’ll restate my point, too. You’re continuing to call me a liar on the basis of nothing. It’s not a theory, it’s a report of what happened. I’m not lying about it.

  64. Clive said,

    I don’t know you, Flying Rodent, or who you are, and I don’t wish to do the sort of long-distance psychologising which infests these discussions. But you appear to be more concerned to show you know how publishing ‘works’ than anything else. And I get a hint of someone who’s been rejected…

    Of course there *could* be some explanation of what happened which is different to that being offered by the one person who’s had direct experience of the incident. It’s very peculiar, though, to put it mildly, to want to make such a big deal about questioning her account of it in the name of some completely hypothetical account on behalf of the publisher.

  65. Jeremy Stangroom said,

    Flying Rodent, Resistor, etc

    I really shouldn’t waste my time with you, but for the record:

    1. Verso turned down the book because it was critical of Islam.

    2. It was a matter of politics. Various strands to this: (a) Islam is wrong target – since Islamic fundamentalism is inextricably linked to American imperialism; (b) Islam is a buttress against American imperialism; (c) Link to “Islamaphobia” – and then the whole thing about racism. (Not that I agree about any of that stuff, but that was the thinking.)

    3. I had a two hour meeting with them prior to their taking the book to their commissioning meeting when we went through this stuff in detail.

    4. I got to find out what was said at the meeting *because I’m friendly with some of the people at Verso*.

    5. They were right to turn down the book in the sense that it *does not* fit with their list.

    6. OB and I were fairly incredulous prior to the commissioning meeting that they hadn’t yet realised it (we probably have emails between us to this effect.).

    7. It is quite possible that even if Verso had accepted the book, we would have turned them down. I was certainly uneasy about having them as the publisher (I think OB was too – but I’m not sure). (Note – I’m not saying we would have turned them down, just that it was possible.)

    8. The book “Being Arab” is not comparable. It is highly critical of American intervention in the Arab world. It pushes the whole idea of an Arab Enlightenment, etc., that fits perfectly well with Verso’s list.

    9. “Does God Hate Women” does not focus entirely on Islam.

    10. John G is right about Marx and religion, of course. But we’re not idiots. I’ve read his damn Thesis on Feuerbach (and just about everything else he wrote); I know what he means says that religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, a product of distorted conditions, heart of the heartless world, etc. There are whole chapters in the book about the relationship between religions, politics, culture. We have a mantra – be careful about arguing to causality.

    Look – I don’t expect to be respected by you people; I don’t expect you to agree with me; or even register my existence frankly.

    But suggesting that OB is lying. It’s lazy, it lacks class, and IT ISN’T TRUE.

  66. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Noticeably, Rodent is now trying to subtly backtrack from the assertions that s/he initially made. Self-evidently having realised that s/he has got it wrong, whilst simultaneously having been backed into a corner. Not able to tag Ophelia as an Islamophobe or an egotist, s/he is now trying to assert that perhaps it was all a miscommunication.

    Indeed, there is also a fair element of ego evident in Rodent’s recent comments – s/he sounds like one of those who do no not like to admit that they have made a mistake once they have put themselves out on a limb.

  67. johng said,

    Jim, Marx’s writings on religion were explicitly critical of bourgoise athiests of his time, and explicitly designed to demonstrate that rather then aiming all ones fire at religion it was neccessary to aim ones fire at the conditions that gave rise to the need for religion. This was the entire point of Marx’s writings, and if you can’t see that, you have either never read Marx on the subject or have so badly misread him that you understood nothing in it. The collapse of a part of the left back into pre-Marxian idealism on this question, just at the moment when our rulers are proclaiming that the reason why there is a lack of democracy and freedom in the world is because of religion and not because of the social relations they preside over, is one of the more depressing features of contempory ideological scene. Its this divide that seems to be crucial in the dispute about the publication of the book under discussion. Its perfectly honourable for a left wing publishers not to publish books whose politics they disagree with. Given that this is probably the major faultline on the left today, I don’t see anything strange about them turning the book down. As Jeremy on the other side of this faultline puts it, its a wonder that they ever considered it in the first place.

  68. Jeremy Stangroom said,

    “Its perfectly honourable for a left wing publishers not to publish books whose politics they disagree with.”

    Indeed. And also for authors not to want to be associated with lists that represent a politics they don’t agree with. Frankly I cannot envisage a circumstance in which I would now write something for Verso. (My feeling about this has hardened over the last year.)

    My view is that Verso’s problem is the nature of the politics of its list. Not that it was inconsistent, or wrong on its own terms, in turning down our book.

    The reason they considered the DGHW book is simply that our previous book was successful in terms of sales (relatively speaking, of course) and the amount of publicity and interest it attracted.

  69. Clive said,

    Oh, for goodness sake, johng. What you say is true, but only in the sense that Marx was taking the ‘bourgeois atheist’, ie vulgar materialist (rather than idealist), case against religion *for granted*. His predecessors iike Feuerbach had done all that work on God being an expression of human alienation, and Marx *from that starting point* was asking questions about the broader more-than-philosophical social context for God.

    He was critical of vulgar materialist atheism. But he was still a fucking atheist, wasn’t he.

  70. Ellen said,

    “One mustn’t criticize Islam”…So that’s what they really said? Or was there some issue about tone, style, balance, fairness? And did they have those concerns based on reading B&W? And if they did would the authors be told so? I suspect there may be more to this, and you really can’t analyze a publishing decision without having the publisher give their side of the story.

  71. Jeremy Stangroom said,

    Ellen

    Well of course from Verso’s perspective there was an issue about “tone, style, balance and fairness”.

    Sheesh!

    This is not about whether “authors” would be told. I know people working at Verso. I’ve spent time with them in a non-publishing context. I’ve worked with them on other books for different publishers.

    Of course it is entirely possible that actually the reason Verso didn’t publish the book was because they:

    a) Think we’re aliens from the Planet Zog;

    b) Thought “Why Truth Matters” was the worst book ever written, and that it only sold one copy to my dead granny.

    c) That DGHW was only going to sell no copies;

    etc, etc.

    But this is not what I was told.

    The reason they gave is also entirely plausible when you consider the kind of stuff they actually publish.

  72. voltairespriest said,

    I wonder if there’d be all this umming and ah-ing if the author was (say) JohnG, the point of view given in the book was the opposite of Ophelia’s, and the publisher was one of the mainstream houses? I doubt it. Certainly people wouldn’t be calling his integrity or the veracity of his account in the way they have here with Ophelia and Jeremy, apparently just because they’re saying something which people don’t want to hear.

  73. Flying Rodent said,

    Noticeably, Rodent is now trying to subtly backtrack from the assertions that s/he initially made.

    That would be difficult, since I’d struggle to backtrack from assertions that exist entirely within your own mind. Reading back, the point I made was essentially the same as TWP77 did – that the book might not sell. If that looks like an allegation of rampant Islamophobia, it could be because you’ve spent too long arguing with Resistor.

    If there’s one type of person I have far too much experience of, it’s the frustrated artist – the painter or writer whose rejections are unrelated to the quality or commercial viability of their work, but are instead caused by the closed-mindedness and timidity of others. This isn’t lying, since the person in question believes it entirely, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct.

    This kind of paranoid thinking seems to be all too common in print and on the internet, as I’ve seen countless people bemoaning the political “censorship” that prevents them getting their message out. Whereas it was once the preserve of the political extremes, it now seems to be coming from everywhere – it doesn’t seem to matter whether the message is coming from left or right, whether it criticises communism, capitalism, Islamofascists or Zionazis or whatever the bugbear of the day is.

    This kind of thing bugs me immensely, particularly since it’s usually accepted unquestioningly with no consideration of the entirely obvious questions about the potential market for such material and the existence of plenty of similar work… In fact, pose these perfectly reasonable questions, and you’ll get hostility and suspicion in return.

    So when I stumble across a writer explaining how their work was turned down because one mustn’t criticise Islam – note, not that it shouldn’t be criticised in a particular way or from a particular angle, but must absolutely never criticised, ever – while waving away questions about the economics… Well, it always looks to me like somebody has taken a right-turn off Reality Road and is galloping furiously down Denial Drive.

    …if there’d be all this umming and ah-ing if the author was (say) JohnG, the point of view given in the book was the opposite of Ophelia’s

    Put it this way – I won’t be buying Lenin’s book, and not just because of his turgid prose style.

  74. voltairespriest said,

    I actually might buy Seymour’s book when it’s out in paperback, if only because I rather suspect it’ll be a classic for the same reason that the World’s Worst Poet just won an award.

    KB has already gone through the variance in your responses, so I don’t propose to do so again. My answer to you is therefore “what she said” if you will. Suffice to say I think it’s clear to anyone who reads this that you’re backtracking.

    Now, what does interest me is why you’re so bothered about this (after all it’s an article which is about someone else’s unpublished book) as to argue about it for days? Do you have a financial stake in Verso or something ;) or is there some other reason?

  75. Ophelia Benson said,

    But that obviously isn’t what it’s about, Rodent. I’m not a frustrated artist (or an artist of any kind). The book does have a publisher. I made no general point about publishers censoring – I simply made a factual statement about one publisher.

    Note that you’re still calling me a liar. I repeat, you shouldn’t do that. I’m not lying.

  76. Flying Rodent said,

    …I think it’s clear to anyone who reads this that you’re backtracking.

    Let “anyone” read and decide for themselves, then.

    …what does interest me is why you’re so bothered about this

    I explained that in my last comment – the kind of artistic victim complex that imagines unfair treatment by villainous liberals/neocons etc. at the root of every rejection is just one of those things that really gets my goat, like some people just can’t stand Marmite.

    In fairness, I’d have let it go without further comment if it hadn’t been for that dig about sneering at women’s rights. You can’t really come out with that kind of thing, based on sweet FA, and not expect to be taken up on it.

  77. Jeremy Stangroom said,

    Flying Rodent

    “that the book might not sell.”

    I was told explicitly by the person at Verso, after they had turned it down, that they thought it would sell very well.

    In my experience, publishers are happy to tell authors if they think a book won’t sell. It is not what they said.

    Give it up, Flying Rodent, you’re making a fool of yourself.

  78. Voltaire's Priest said,

    You see, Rodent, the book was actually published (look it up on Amazon), and besides these two are hardly the sort of internet ranters or “frustrated artists” that form your latest caricature of them. So your previous answer doesn’t fly.

  79. Ophelia Benson said,

    You can’t really keep accusing me of lying, based on sweet FA and under cover of anonymity, and not expect to look like a blustering fraudulent git.

  80. Jeremy Stangroom said,

    Mind you, having said all that I also find the “frustrated artist” railing against the iniquities of the publishing system very irritating.

    Oddly enough it’s a common enough trope in leftist politics: the trouble with all these bourgeois publishers is that they’re just not interested in a forensic examination of the Marxian inversion of Hegel’s idea of objectification. The bastards! :-)

  81. Flying Rodent said,

    it’s a common enough trope in leftist politics

    I can assure you it’s annoyingly common right across the political spectrum, nor is it restricted to internet ranters.

    I was told explicitly by the person at Verso, after they had turned it down, that they thought it would sell very well.

    And they still turned it down? Last I heard of them, they were supposedly begging Hitchens to let them keep his final royalty cheque (as related by Nick Cohen at HP). Clearly, they have a poor understanding of economics and a hankering for bankruptcy.

    I’ve said my piece on this and don’t have anything to add to it. Rather than repeat myself, I’ll leave it to VP’s “anyone reading” to decide whether I have a legitimate point here.

  82. Ellen said,

    FR–Before you scurry away, I just want to say you do have a point. It could be OB and JS are telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but it’s inherently suspicious-making when someone tells a one-sided story. It’s like hearing about a divorce just from one partner. It’s especially suspicious-making because OB’s whole deal at Butterflies and Wheels is “scourging and dispatching” opponents just as the Freethinker heading said. So why should you have assumed her account of Verso’s decision wasn’t another bit of “scourging and dispatching”? So don’t let yourself get trounced into silence.

  83. modernityblog said,

    the flying contrarian is never trounced into silence, chance would be a fine thing.

    no doubt he’ll update his pet dictionary on all things “decent” with this as a new entry

  84. Ellen said,

    !!! Then I won’t fret.

  85. Ophelia Benson said,

    Aw, diddums, has it been trounced into silence then? The poor brave contrarian who hides behind a pseudonym? By the bad nasty liberals who say they’re not lying? Aww. That is so unfair.

  86. Jeremy Stangroom said,

    Flying Rodent

    “And they still turned it down? Last I heard of them, they were supposedly begging Hitchens to let them keep his final royalty cheque (as related by Nick Cohen at HP). Clearly, they have a poor understanding of economics and a hankering for bankruptcy.”

    Yes, they did. Whether a book fits the list of a publishing house is a key thing. Of course it matters whether something will sell, but it isn’t the only thing. Also, I’m sure they didn’t think it was going to sell as well as a Hitchens book.

  87. Clive said,

    Flying Rodent, to be honest you don’t seem to have a point at all, legitimate or otherwise.

  88. Jeremy Stangroom said,

    Ellen – Frankly you’re being very foolish here. For various reasons:

    1. Verso did not “know” about us because of B&W. (They were in fact not familiar with the web site when I met them; mainly because they are not big internet users). They knew about us because of the success of our previous book. And because one of the top guys there worked on a couple of books I had previously written. So your question: “And did they have those concerns based on reading B&W?” is based on a false premise.

    2. OB did not have any contact with Verso. She lives on the West Coast of America; they’re based in London. Consequently I took the meeting (because I was based in London, and I already knew them!). Everything Ophelia has related here is an accurate representation of what I told her. The suggestion that *she* is not telling the truth is unfounded, and if you have any class, you’ll withdraw it.

    3. Of course it is a one-sided story! We are telling you what they said. We cannot tell you in their own words what they said because we are not them.

    4. There is plenty of other evidence to suggest that FR’s story is spurious (even if you don’t take us at our word). (Do you know what face validity is, by the way? – I doubt it, somehow). (a) We’re not struggling writers (I have more book contracts, and offers of book contracts, than I know what to do with); (b) Our book doesn’t fit Verso’s list; (c) The book is being published elsewhere; (d) Our previous book sold well, so there is every reason to suppose that Verso would think that this one would sell well; etc, etc.

    I could go on. But… well this is just too daft.

  89. Ellen said,

    If you’ll just reread what I said you’ll see I didn’t call anyone a liar. The name-calling is all on your side. I said a degree of skepticism was warranted, for a couple of reasons. And yes, I do think so. It’s been fun.

  90. Ophelia Benson said,

    If you’ll just re-read what Jeremy said, you’ll see that he didn’t say you called anyone a liar. He said “The suggestion that *she* is not telling the truth is unfounded”.

    You did “suggest” that I was not telling the truth. You didn’t merely say a degree of skepticism was warranted; you said more than that.

    Name-calling…I’m always surprised by people who don’t hesitate to say or imply or suggest that other people are lying, when they have no real basis for saying so. Among people I know that’s just way over the line. Anonymity makes it much easier, of course, but still – the lack of inhibition always does surprise me.

  91. Jeremy Stangroom said,

    Ellen – you’re out of your depth here.

    I did not say that you called anybody a “liar”. I said the suggestion that OB is not telling the truth is unfounded. You did *suggest* that she might not be telling the truth (I used the word *suggest* precisely because you did not quite come out and say it).

    To be exact, you set up the possibility that we were telling the whole truth, and then announced your “suspicion” that this was not the case, your further suspicion on the basis of the style of B&W, and then asked why it should be assumed that OB’s account was not just “another bit of “scourging and dispatching””.

    Moreover, in posting 70, you quoted OB’s statement ‘One mustn’t criticize Islam’, and then followed it by a question: ‘…So that’s what they really said?’ (Again the implication being that she is not telling the truth or at any rate some variation of that implication).

    So you’re saying that skepticism about OB’s account is warranted because of the nature of B&W even though OB got all her information about Verso from myself – who isn’t involved in the content of B&W – and has reported accurately what I told her.

    Zero out ten for Reasoning 101 there, I’m afraid.

  92. KB Player said,

    “t was a matter of politics. Various strands to this: (a) Islam is wrong target – since Islamic fundamentalism is inextricably linked to American imperialism; (b) Islam is a buttress against American imperialism; (c) Link to “Islamaphobia” – and then the whole thing about racism. (Not that I agree about any of that stuff, but that was the thinking.)”

    All those reasons are what I would have thought was their rationale and I’m glad to have it spelled out.

    When I read the interview I was reminded of how left wing publishers were reluctant to publish anything that was critical of the Soviet Union or Stalin eg the publishers Victor Gollancz They published George Orwell’s early works of fiction:-

    To Victor Gollancz [Orwell’s publisher]
    19 March 1944

    Dear Mr Gollancz,
    I have just finished a book [Animal Farm] and the typing will be completed in a few days. You have the first refusal of my fiction books, and I think this comes under the heading of fiction. It is a little fairy story, about 30,000 words, with a political meaning. But I must tell you that it is—I think—completely unacceptable politically from your point of view (it is anti-Stalin). . .

    Eric Blair

    Gollancz turned Animal Farm down and it was published by Warburg.

  93. Ellen said,

    “So you’re saying that skepticism about OB’s account is warranted because of the nature of B&W even though OB got all her information about Verso from myself – who isn’t involved in the content of B&W – and has reported accurately what I told her.

    Zero out ten for Reasoning 101 there, I’m afraid.”

    Oh come off it. You joined this discussion at comment 65! Skepticism had already been expressed at that point, and I think it was based on the sense of getting one partner’s side of a divorce story, and on the “scourging, flaying, and dispatching” tone of B&W. You actually expect everyone to have seen your later account in a crystal ball? Hello? Who needs to take Reasoning 101 here?

  94. Jeremy Stangroom said,

    Ellen, Ellen – Your latest would be more impressive were it not for the fact that you made all your substantive points after I had joined the discussion!

    I don’t think I have anything else to say to you. Except I do think you’re funny!

  95. Jeremy Stangroom said,

    KB Player

    “All those reasons are what I would have thought was their rationale”

    Well quite. This is why OB and I found it very hard to believe that it got as far as it did. We were wondering when they’d figure that actually our book was precisely against everything that their kind of “left-wing” (though not actually left-wing) politics stands for.

    But, to be fair, there were suggestions that the decision not to go ahead was not unanimous. I don’t want to say too much – because of the possibilty of talking out of turn – but I’m not sure that Verso’s decision making process is democratic.

  96. Ellen said,

    The main substantive question I raised, after reading your account, was whether there were issues about “tone, style, fairness, and balance” as opposed to the issue being simply that “one mustn’t criticize Islam” and whether there may have been worries based on B&W. Apparently your rendering of events was so complete and flawless I wasn’t supposed to wonder about these things. I did wonder, and you did answer. Thank you.

  97. Jeremy Stangroom said,

    No Ellen, your main substantive point was that all this was deeply suspicious. Your point about “tone, style, fairness and balance” was just trite (see my response 71).

  98. Ophelia Benson said,

    Ah yes, the ever-popular ‘all I said was'; the attempt at a dignified retreat; the re-writing of history. And, of course, the complete failure to withdraw the suggestion that I wasn’t telling the truth. Impressive.

  99. Sue R said,

    Just had a row on B&W because I claimed that (dis)honour killings are not a concept in Western jurisprudence. I have been told that the shaving of collaborators heads in France after the Second World War was an example of honour killing. Idon’t believe it. OB herself reasoned that because there is no evidence of honour killings in the Western Europe tradition, that is not proof that they do not/ldid not happen. BULLSHIT. All I was trying to do was to look at the reasons why honour Killings are so accepted as legal behaviour in the East. instead I was accused of racism in lumping together the societies and cultures of the Middle East and India. Unfortunately, when I tried to specify cultures I was forced to use the one I know best, English, and therefore appear a Nazi. I really think unless someone is prepared to think very hard as to why the murder of women and girls for ‘unacceptable’ behaviour is permissible, then we are not going to progress. As a Marxist I believe that social conditions determine consciousness, therefore, it must be something in the cultural and social and actually existing conditions of those societies that legitimizes such murders. I challenge anyone to tell me at what period of the West’s (and I hate that term I am just using it as shorthand) history honour killings were allowable. Please, somebody tell me. I just feel that the book in question must have been the usual boring American liberal hogwash, but it should still have been published.

  100. johng said,

    The origins of Honour killings are related to patriarchal agrarian social structures. I didn’t think this was a huge mystery for Marxists.

  101. johng said,

    yes he was still an athiest. and so am I. But his Marxist as opposed to bourgoise athiesm meant that he had a very different take on the approach to religous ideas.

  102. Sue R said,

    Dear Johg, it’s not a mystery for me, but it is for Butterflies and Wheels apparently.

  103. Sue R said,

    My point was that it must be related to the social organisation of the production of farming etc and that (as far as I knew) the European Iron Age villages were more collective ie communal roundhouses and agriculture in a temperate climate is a enterprise tht extends beyond the immediate family. Apparently, this means I am a dreadful person. not quite sure why exactly.

  104. johng said,

    I’ll always remember a conversation with someone about the difference between sexism in urban Mumbai and in northern Bihar. In urban Mumbai if a woman smokes on the street people will make lewd comments suggesting she is ‘available’ etc. In northern Bihar she would probably be killed. This is because the control of women in semi-feudal relations is directly related to power connected to land in the patriarchal system, whilst in the more urban enviroment its only related to power over women in terms of personal relations etc.

  105. johng said,

    In other words the one is a challenge to social convention the other is a challenge to actually existing social relations.

  106. modernity said,

    JohnG,

    the substance of your anecdotes is often so profound and informative, but could you answer a far simpler question:

    in your and the SWP’s views, JohnG, is Holocaust revisionism antisemitic?

  107. Sue R said,

    I don’t doubt what you say Johng, but my point is that one wants to go beyond that to ask WHY is it like that. What causes one system to be like that whilst another is differently organised. Surely it is legitimate to ask, even if one comes up with the wrong anwer, and it is argued against, as long as it is cogently argued against.

  108. DFG said,

    Sue,
    You did make some strident and unsupportable statements over at B&W.

    Such as this one:

    “Incidentally, it is not just Islam, but all Eastern societies that go in for dishonour killings.”

    Do you still make that claim? ALL Eastern societies?

    DFG

  109. Sue R said,

    Yes I do. Please, I am not a Nazi, I am not advocating ‘racial science’, all I am saying is look at the mode of production. I was thinking about it a bit more today and I thought about polygamy. In the East, and I admit that is a portmanteau term but I don’t want to list all the countries seperately, and in tribal Africa, polygamy is the norm in general. Or does someone know of a monogamous society that will disprove/falsify this claim? Anyway, why is polygamy teh norm in those societies and not in the West? Is it two different ways of dealing with maternal death? Given that women are actually essential for survival in most societies, it would be dreadful to be left without a woman. Some societies solved this problem with polygamy, so there would always be a spare. There are also other arguments concerning the lack of men, which is why the Mormons went in for polygamy, but they were very much an artificial society. Perhaps because of the more clement climate and conditions in the West (sorry for using that term again) women were more likely to survive childbirth and illness. I have never heard of polygamous societies in the West. Taking Ireland as an example of a pre-Roman society, from what I know of Irish history, it was never polygamous. Can DFG name an Eastern Society that does not practice ‘dis’honour killings? By the way, I am not claiming to be infallible, I am only hoping for a mature and informed discussion rather than insults and hysteria, especially from people who think that the term ‘feminist’ is outrageous. I only started being personally rude when I was personally insulted and treated with contempt. I also think people who use forms of arguing as their total content of arguing are rather jejeune. I thought my observations on Shakespeare where rather interesting but obviously, beyond the reach of some people.

  110. DFG said,

    Nobody called you a Nazi.

    You made a claim. Can you back up that claim without dissembling about Shakespeare, tribal Africa and the Mormons?

  111. Sue R said,

    i didn’t say anyone called me a Nazi, I said I felt like a Nazi and although I didn’t state it, I have felt that my arguments have been misunderstood. I’m sorry you thing talking about literature, history and other cultures is dissembling. You must be a scientist. Can you or anyone show an instance where honour killings have been an accepted part of the jurisprudence of the West? I have stated my position and I don’t see why I should continue to argue it, ie lay my pearls before swine (before you get upset, it’s a Biblical quote) when they are only able to nitpick without actually adducing arguments or facts to refute anything I have written.

  112. DFG said,

    Now THAT is dissembling.

    My question was very clear, you have chosen to answer another.

    To repeat:
    You made this claim:
    “Incidentally, it is not just Islam, but all Eastern societies that go in for dishonour killings.”

    All that was requested was that it was supported by some evidence. Evidence, it would appear, that you cannot provide.

  113. Sue R said,

    Dissembling? You mean lying?

  114. Sue R said,

    If you could allow me to lie a little bit more, I woudl refer you to an American blog that I have found called ‘gendercidewatch.org’ which deals with ‘dis’honour killings and blood feuds. They liken the Medieval Witch trials to ‘honour’ killings, but I am not so sure, You haven’t answered my question either. At what point in European history was it legally acceptable to kill women for bringing their family name into disrepure ie shaming their family?

  115. KB Player said,

    “At what point in European history was it legally acceptable to kill women for bringing their family name into disrepure ie shaming their family?”

    I don’t know why you are so indignant that a random collection of bloggers can’t answer what is a question requiring a fair amount of research in all the different legal systems of the various nations and kingdoms and empires that have made up Europe since the end of the Roman Empire, or possibly since the Roman Republic, or the Greeks.

  116. Sue R said,

    Now who’s dissembling?

  117. DFG said,

    Please refrain from putting words in my mouth. I am not accusing you of lying.

    I have never argued your point regarding legal ‘honour’ killing of women in Europe. Reading back through B&W will demonstrate this.

    I have, however, taken issue with your your assertion that ALL Eastern Societies go in for honour killings.

    Yet you continue to dissemble.

    Do you plan to respond with any evidence for the claim, or not?

  118. DFG said,

    pwned

  119. Sue R said,

    No, just getting on with my life.l

  120. johng said,

    Gosh modernity, yes holocaust revisionism is anti-semitic. why do you ask? Could it be that you want to suggest that because I support self determination for Palestinians and some Palestinians have drawn on European anti-semitic propaganda because they’re involved in combat with a state which claims to represent Jews, therefore I’m an anti-semite, or I collude with anti-semites, this rather revolting allegation being a cats paw to suggest that anyone who supports Palestinian nationalism must be dodgy on anti-semitism, better or worse? Or is it perhaps simply because you want to portray both Hamas and Hezbollah as Nazies and therefore beyond the pale of civilised discussion?

    In terms of the arguments about polygamy and why not in western europe I’d suggest that christianity may have something to do with it. Its unclear though whether there is any connection between polygamy and honour killings. There is so far as I know no difference between the rate of these horrendously oppressive practices in rural India and rural Pakistan despite the fact that in Hindu and Sikh society there is no polygamy (there is however considerable continuity in terms of cultural codes about these questions). Its also true I believe that stoning women for adultry can be found in the OT and so far as I know Jews are not polygamous. In terms of whether women have been killed for breaking family honour in western Europe’s feudal past I have to admit to being unsure.

    I do know that feudal concepts about honour are by no means restricted to so-called ‘eastern societies’ and I strongly suspect that women have been killed for adultery in the feudal past (well ‘enry the VIIIth I am, I am etc). However one reason why there isn’t much historical memory of this may have something to do with the increasing importance of the State in western Europe which largely superceded local codes and ways of doing things. In Europe this was built into wider social development, whilst in the East such states tended to be constructed in competition with the west, often without having such a large extension into local societies. To raise the question about this difference is however to enter a vastly disputed territory (its probably the largest and most controversial question in accounts of global history).

    My own hunch is that eastern societies solved the problems of a pattern of accumulation built on agrarian exploitation whilst Europe being more backward did not. Hence the contrast between the vastly superior levels of culture and technology to be found in the eastern world (just saw wild china last night which showed a scene were tea pickers were living in houses and fortresses built in the 8th century: this would simply not be possible in Europe because they would have fallen down!! Also much of chivalry, romantic poetry and indeed important elements of the renaissence were borrowed by the ‘Franks’ from the islamic world during the crusades, the difference in the levels of culture being obvious and stunning) and the very recent ‘rise of the west’. In the west, hitherto a backward and ramshackle place, breaking through to a new mode of production was neccessary to resolve the crisis of feudalism.

    In the east there was no such crisis until it was confronted by the more dynamic mode of production of capitalism. I think a Marx whose understanding was not distorted by reliance on East India Company Savants might have understood this in terms of the dialectics of history. Its one reason why both in terms of literature and philosophy, the wests past is one of shocking stagnation in comparison with what was possible in other even apparently feudal societies (this take would also suggest that its quite wrong to imagine that ‘the west’ has a unified historical culture superior to others simply on the basis of recent historical developments). In other words Europe was an unsuccessful pre-modern society, the others were successful ones. Its really the best explanation I know for the paradox of how the most backward and barbarian part of the worlds social systems could leapfrog foward to be the most advanced in less then one hundred years….(rather staggeringly as late as the mid-18th century Cornwell and Ireland suffered regular raids by Corsairs from morocco: An attempt to imagine this in the mid-19th century gives some sense of how staggering the transformation over that period must have been: in other words comrades, its capitalism).

  121. modernity said,

    JohnG wrote:

    “this rather revolting allegation being a cats paw to suggest that anyone who supports Palestinian nationalism must be dodgy on anti-semitism,”

    as I haven’t made such allegations, it seems pointless that you should reply to something that hasn’t been said?

    rather if you will cast your mind back (and I often wonder if SWPers gifted with the memory of a goldfish (none at all)), you will remember the previous discussion where your comrade, Richard Seymour asserted that Hamas were changing their antisemitic ways

    this, of course, was contradicted by the evidence to hand, subsequently you avoided answering this simple question because it would have directly conflicted with Seymour’s ludicrous point

    the case put forward by Richard Seymour, a key SWP blogger is:

    Hamas is in the process of abandoning the antisemitism in its original Covenant, and has been for some time. This has been expressed by Azzam Tamimi (boo hiss, I’m sure), Khaled Meshaal, and now Bassem Naeem.”

    see lenin’s comment of 19 May 2008, 1:37 pm at http://www.hurryupharry.org/2008/05/19/lying-hamas-and-the-lying-liars-who-lie-with-them/

    yet this is entirely contradicted by Khaled Meshaal’s 31 April 2008 statements in a sky interview, where Meshaal advances Holocaust revisionism “But, we believe the Zionists have exaggerated the numbers [of the Holocaust] to get sympathy from other nations.”

    http://news.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,30200-1311184,00.html

    as Holocaust revisionism is, generally accepted to be, antisemitic it follows that the Hamas leadership haven’t changed and are still intent on articulating anti-Jewish racism

    thus, Seymour’s original point falls

    That’s the reason, the rest of your spiel is just covering up your own political shiftiness.

    JohnG, had you elementary reading skills you would have seen that I have never suggested that Hamas or Hezbollah are Nazis, that is a crude SWP type generalisation.

    The overall point was to show that, you and the SWP, will even lie (by omission) about Holocaust revisionism (or Nasrallah’s speeches) should it suit your political purposes, and that is why you are so contemptible, you’re not only a bit thick but you don’t lie very well.

  122. modernity said,

  123. johng said,

    And what is the point your trying to demonstrate here Modernity? Presumably that western socialists are naive fools persuaded by statements from Hamas designed to decieve. I don’t think this is true. I think its much more likely that there are pulls away from the kind of filth reproduced in the protocals and also pulls back in. In any ethnic conflict with a sectarian element this will be the case. I’ve just been reading a fascinating book on the troubles in Northern Ireland (Armed Struggle by an author rather unfortunately called English) which demonstrates this duality. You believe that the essence of Hamas and Hezbollah is defined by the sectarian element (in that conflict largely anti-semitic versus anti-arab racism), and I don’t. Its really as simple as that. Its perfectly possible for sensible people to disagree about this. One of the more interesting things in English’s book is the way in which he very much demolishes the theses that the IRA could be understood simply in terms of a formative apolitical militaristic ideology untouched by contemporary events and simply obsessed by history. The ossciliation between politics and sectarianism according to him was closely related to the rise of what some have called ‘defenderism’, whereby the provos were seen as defending the local area: in such situations the sectarianism came to the fore (often extremely viciously and nastily, tit for tat killings of civilians etc). In other circumstances politics was very much to the fore. It was mistaken to treat either of these factors as unreal. Any examination of the last two decades and changing forms of rhetoric in the Middle East conflict would demonstrate a very similar logic I believe. It is the case though that has Hamas has increasingly adapted itself to nationalist ideologies it has left behind the kind of propaganda it used to be largely associated with. This is by no means a complete or linear process (in many ways the evolution is much more striking in the case of Hezbollah, an organisation on many levels, unrecognisable to the organisation at its inception, and for much the same reason. One suspects that recent comments were informed by the Iranian regime giving them a platform where they could speak as much as anything else. Anti-Semitism is not, I think, an essential part of their ideology in the way it was for, for instance, Nazies, and its wrong to equate the two as is frequently done.

  124. modernity said,

    JohnG wrote:

    “And what is the point your trying to demonstrate here Modernity? “

    again,

    the point is a leading SWPer have stated “Hamas is in the process of abandoning the antisemitism in its original Covenant,” whereas only a few weeks before a major Hamas leader invoked Holocaust revisionism, and as that is antisemitic it follows that the SWPer’s point is wrong.

    or shall I explain again???

  125. johng said,

    But as I have pointed out it doesn’t ‘follow’ at all. anymore then if someone was to refute “Israel has clearly moved away from its refusal to acknowledge the existence of Palestinians” by pointing out that politicians still routinely use a rhetoric which implies the same. I am constantly struck modernity by your dogmatic inability to see that people might genuinely think otherwise to you. This is why your stuck accusing people of being liars or fools (the only kinds of arguments I have ever heard you make). Of course this doesn’t worry you overmuch because your mainly concerned to demonstrate that people are liars or fools. It does imply a rather narrow view of human beings and the sorts of things they are though.

  126. modernity said,

    JohnG wrote:

    “I am constantly struck modernity by your dogmatic inability to see that people might genuinely think otherwise to you. This is why your stuck accusing people of being liars or fools”

    I’m constantly struck by your inability to actually represent and understand a simple point (and there are two rather elementary points here)

    1. a leading SWPers stating “Hamas is in the process of abandoning the antisemitism in its original Covenant,”

    2. a few weeks earlier a major Hamas leader making an antisemitic comment concerning the Holocaust

    thus, the Hamas leader’s comments directly contradict the SWPer’s assertion

    JohnG, if you can’t understand the simple flow of that, then I pity you, it is a simple point.

  127. johng said,

    But it doesn’t “prove” any such thing. Anymore then an IRA bomb in Canary wharf ‘disproved’ the fact that the IRA was abandoning the armed struggle. You seem incapable of normal rational argument and wholly dependent on propaganda soundbites. When the hollowness of such soundbites are demonstrated both politically and logically you just start bellowing them louder. As often suspected, defending propaganda rather then rational discussion is clearly your main agenda.

  128. modernity said,

    JohnG wrote:

    “But it doesn’t “prove” any such thing.

    the recent evidence indicates that parts of the Hamas leadership far from giving up antisemitism have it very much ingrained into their mentality, the fact that you cannot acknowledge this salient point is more indicative of your reasoning skills and political alliances than of the evidence

    I will leave it to readers to judge the issue

    but they should note that the SWP have provided a platform for Hamas’s London representative, Dr. Tamimi, who is well known for his racist outbursts, see http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1663.htm

    and given that leading SWP members probably met Hamas representatives at the Cairo conferences they are hardly going to criticise them, whatever the evidence

    So there you have it, political malevolence wins over evidence, and the SWP often wonder why they have such a bad name? or maybe they don’t, if they are as dim witted as JohnG?

  129. Sue R said,

    You must really curse teh fact that your parents are Westerners (assuming they are). I’m not sure that citing China as an example of a successful Eastern society is necessarily correct. China since its foundation was a society that relied on massive engineering projects to produce food, and thus the sense of society ie conformity is very strong. Europe was so backward that it sailed to the New World (and slaughtered all the peopel it found there, but it still managed to get tehre). Why were the Corsairs raiding Devon and Cornwall? For slaves was it not? In fact, one of teh wives of a 16th century king of Morocco was an Englishwoman. I dealt with the case of Henry VIII before, can’t be bothered to capitulate, let’s just say that Anne Bolyn was accused of adultery, an executable offence for the wife of the King, not normal women. Just to be sure he could get rid of her, he also charged her with witchcraft, so if one accusation failed to stick, teh other one would get her. Her putative lovers were also executed.

  130. Sue R said,

    By the way Johng, what do you thing about the truce between Israel and Hamas?

  131. johng said,

    I think its an excellent thing that there is a truce between hamas and israel and hope something further can be built on it. naturally. unlike modernity i don’t take the demonology approach to politics. its a shame that you misread my comments. you should perhaps read them again. the privilages of backwardness is a real feature of world history and seems to fit the case of Europe very well. Yes Corsairs were raiding for slaves. As were europeans. As were almost every society without exception in the pre-modern era. My point was that what distinguished Europe was the failure to solve the problems of societies based on rural exploitation (which invariably involved slavery: presumably you regard the Roman and Greek worlds as more backward then societies charecterised by feudal arrangements?). this therefore produced a protracted crisis in the feudal mode of production, producing hundreds of years of war, rapine and famine which repeatedly shook up the medieval european world until it was ripe for revolution. There was of course war, rapine and famine aplenty in other societies, but in both China and the Islamic world the levels of culture and technology compatible with an agrarian world of exploitation, which did not call the entire system into question, were far higher. Hence the experiance that any visitor will have to these countries, an old society far in advance of European old societies culturally, politically, economically and philosophically, but overwhelmed with staggering speed by the new society developing in Europe (which because of its backwardness and internal problems was far more open to borrowing from other cultures to solve its problems then other societies not experiancing the same level of crisis). I know of no other explanation for this that does not rely on idealist metaphysics involving ahistorical references to a ‘west’ which has not existed for more then a few hundred years. As to where I would like to have been born: well, if I could have been assured of a comfortable middle class existence I would quite like to have been born in Bengal yes. But the history I’ve just described means that being born outside of the ‘west’ is a rather riskier business even then being born in the west, where you can of course be unlucky too. The odds are better though. Nobody however chooses were they are born which is why ‘pride’ in ‘western culture’ is rather odd (you’d almost think sometimes that people like Modernity or Jim Denham imagine they had something to do with creating it).

  132. johng said,

    Actually I take back my remark about bengal. Bombay, I would like to have been born in Bombay:

  133. Sue R said,

    Do you mean Bombay in teh middle ages or Bombay of the present moment? What about being born the son of a untouchable, or a slave or a poor person? I’m sure their lot was just as hard wherever they lived in the world, is that why you qualified yor response by saying you would like a nice middle class life?

  134. johng said,

    Sue you really must learn to read what people say and not rely on your own rather unpleasent right wing stereotypes about the left. if nothing else it makes for extremely tedious discussion. with modernity one always imagines one is hanging upside down in a police cell, with you, you seem to start sensibly enough, but as with modernity refuse to engage with anything anyone says. On the subject of oppression in pre-modern times, if I had to choose were to live if I couldn’t be sure of who I would be born as, probably the Islamic world would be the best bet. Far better then Europe in a similar period. Thats just a historical reality and if it offends your sense of propriety I don’t see what a rational person can do about this. Being born in Islamic Spain in the 10th century would probably be just about the best place anyone could be born in in the 10th century.

  135. Sue R said,

    If I have misunderstood anything you (or anyone else has written) then you shoudl correct me. I assume you mean born as a Muslim, to a merchant family, not as a christian or Muslim convert to a labouring or slave family. Probably true that there wasn’t anything to choose between the Islamic world and Christendom in the 10th century. Shame we are now living in the 21st.Why do you think that living in 10th century Cordoba (I assume you mean) would be ‘nicer’ than living in 10th century Wales or Italy? In both life was probably nasty, short and brutish.

  136. johng said,

    Because the level of technology was much higher, the standard of living even for peasents was much higher, and it was the high point of one of the greatest cultural florences of what was then the most developed human society on earth. Whats remarkable Sue is that you are so caught up in the bigoted culture wars of the present that you see such a claim as in some sense as a ‘challenge’ of some sort. Its just a historical fact. One of the things about Andalucia and that period was the extraordinary cultural syncretism that existed which, in many ways, produced what we today think of as ‘spanish culture’. Think for example of sherry, and the uniform of the bloke who makes the sherry, think of much spanish food etc. It also bought glassware to europe, as well as seperate courses for meals as well as cutlery (believe it or not). Not to mention of course oranges. Oh yes and then there is of course the music (its a kind of what have the romans ever done for us conversation). It is in fact one the best examples of the theses I put foward. That is that the later pre-eminance of the west is inexplicable if an attempt is made to locate this in its prior cultural achievements. Because until about the 14th century Europe lagged massively behind in this respect (there were of course exceptional parts of Europe: Venice with its city Republics, the Scicilly which produced St Thomas Aquinas, both of them areas with considerable contact with the more advanced societies of the East). Rather the rise of the west is best seen as a product of the ‘advantages of backwardness’, which led to much freer adaptation and borrowing as well as the social and political neccessity for them. Today it is likely to be countries like China which step into this mode, and are increasingly stepping into this mode. The explorers of the Americas produced a stream of precious metals which could be utilized in penetrating the far more advanced trading networks to the east (the much wealthier and more advanced commercial networks of the Indian ocean being a magnet for the merchents in the west who travelled that far simply because there was nothing much to hand at home), whilst the kingdoms to the east did not develop mercantalist states largely because their society didn’t require that kind of protection, and the eastern traders remained unprotected largely because the empires were not dependent on that trade. Hence a generation of Europeans made their home in the east and as the balence of trade turned, eventually took it over. And so the setting for the “Great Transformation” was achieved. Within one hundred years the societies of the west were ‘advanced’ and the societies of the east were ‘backward’, a reversal as abrupt and dramatic in global history as the european revolutions which completed this process were in the west. We all live in the light or the shadow of this great transformation and its unsurprising that some have developed mystical beliefs about the superiority of ‘western culture’ to explain it, in the same way that primative tribes develop magical beliefs to explain the productivity of the land. Its quite staggering how these mystical beliefs have suddenly been revived in relationship to 21st century geo-politics though. You really just have to break from your manchian conception of the history of the world which involves looking for magical properties in European history. They don’t exist.

  137. johng said,

    One reason for the extraordinary speed of the spread of Islam was precisely linked to more advanced agricultural techniques, less oppressive forms of exploitation, and the resulting lack of opposition from the mass of the population who had no reason to love their own rulers. The notion the what was decisive was the ‘sword of islam’ in this world full of war-like nomadic peoples is thankfully now a historical memory, suffice to say that the reason for the extraordinary pacification of tribes and peoples associated with the most barbaric despoilation of settled societies (think of Turks, Mongols etc) was precisely these massive advances. That within a mere one hundred years the Islamic world stretched from the shores of the Atlantic to the South China seas, bound togeather largely through trade, and this during the same period when our own ages were ‘dark’ (having just read a fantastic work by Chris Wickham on Europe 6th to 8th century AD) one can’t stress enough quite how dark this darkness was: to the extent that it is extraordinarily hard to reconstruct this period: during this period you see the first minarettes going up in Beijing, representing a religion which has its origins in the saudi penninsula: In Europe the dark woods Eastern Europe had still not even been penetrated by Christianity: this hundreds of years after its establishment. The conclusion for any Marxist must be staggeringly obvious.

  138. Sue R said,

    Sorry, maybe I am being dense but, what is the staggeringly obvious conclusion to the fact that the technology of some parts of Islamic Spain, maybe even all parts, surpassed that of Christendom in the early middle ages? Could you please spell it out for me.

  139. johng said,

    Well its staggeringly obvious that Europe was an extremely backward part of the pre-modern world at the time. And that the other eastern societies were vastly superior in terms of economic, cultural and political development. This was not just true of the Islamic societies but also true of China. It was though to be the role of Islam in world history to link up these advanced societies in a massive trading network, described by some scholars as the ‘first globalisation’. The theory that that the location of ‘the great transformation’ of the later period, which lay not only in the revolutionising of European society but also the abrupt reversal of this pattern, lies in some kind of cultural heritage uniquely possessed by the west is just obvious bunkum. This is what is startlingly obvious. The wests more recent pre-eminance can be traced ultimately to the ‘advantages of backwardness’. It was the inability of the old backward European societies to sustain social change without political instability which led to the social, political and economic changes we associate with the rise of modern capitalism, and the predetory nature of the relationship of this early modern system with its neighbours (exploration, patterns of trade etc) fully backs this theses up. All the mystical hocus pocus about the west having some unique gift to give to the world is just that: mystical hocus pocus.

  140. Jeremy Stangroom said,

    “All the mystical hocus pocus about the west having some unique gift to give to the world is just that: mystical hocus pocus.”

    There’s a genetic fallacy lurking in your analysis.

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