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Transformation and Survival_In Search of Humane World Order by Rajni Kothari_Reviewed by Michael Haas

Transformation and Survival_In Search of Humane World Order by Rajni Kothari_Reviewed by Michael Haas

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Asia General -- Transformation and Survival: In Search of Humane World Order by Rajni Kothari
Haas, Michael
The Journal of Asian Studies;
May 1991; 50, 2; ProQuestpg. 369
BOOK
REVIEWS-ASIA
GENERAL 369a gradual process
of
"cosmopolitanization"
as
the
world acquires a single culturalmold inspired by
the West;
or self-articulation by various native cultures producinga single, shrunken globe
with
a pluralistic variety and creativity. Gordon himselfopts for the
third
alternative,
but
believes
the
second-world
uniformity-appears
most probable.
In
either case, he argues
that"the
West
will remain materially andpsychologically an important variable" (p. xviii).Some methodological problems arise
with
Gordon's data.
The
book has,
as
thesubtitle says, a
Third World
perspective,
but
the definition
of
Third World
scholarused by Gordon
is
a debatable one. Gordon's list includes V.
S.
Naipaul, SalmanRushdie, Fouad Ajami, who have long lived and worked
in
the
West;
it
is
the
West that
is
now
their
home.
How
are they
third
worlders except by the accident
of
their birth?
We
may
as
well call
Dr.
Kissinger a
German
or
the
late President
Zia ul-Haq
an Indian because they were born in those nations.
Third World
scholarswho live and work
within
their own societies, such
as
Professor Khurshid
Ahmend
or Turabi, are missing from Gordon's pages. For
important
third
worlders, we
turn
to
John
Esposito's work, where they are
permitted
to speak in
their
own voices.This imbalance
is
further worsened by
the
heavy references to figures who, pre-Said,were stock in trade for the
Orientalist-even
T.
E. Lawrence
is
quoted.Another criticism
of
Gordon applies generally
to
American experts on Islamwho tend to equate Islam
with
the Arabs
in
the
Middle East and Iran while ignoringSouth Asia and
the
Far East, where the majority
of
the
Muslim population lives.This is reflected
both
in Gordon's text and
in
his otherwise exhaustive bibliography.Even Gordon's style
in
capitalization,
e.g.,
Yellow Race, East,
Third World,
hasthe effect
of
reinforcing
the
very cultural stereotypes he warns us against.
As
Gordon points out, Third World societies have many faults. Too often peoplein
the
ThirdWorld
are busy killing each other. This may well be a historical phasethrough which
their
societies are passing. Indeed, it's part
of
the
process
of
comingto terms with local identity,
as
Gordon rightly points out, in relation to the powerfulreality
of
the
West. His
gloom is therefore exaggerated.
The
East, according
to
Gordon's own definition, includes economically vigorous countries such
as
Japan,
Malaysia, and Singapore.Earthshaking events, like
the
collapse
of
Communism
and
the
Gulf
Crisis,
that
have come since
the
publication
of
Gordon's book, help underline his
main
themeabout the central role
the
West
plays in shaping
the
whole world.
On
a lesser scale,through the publication
of
a novel such
as
The Satanic
Vers~,
Salman Rushdie becamefor large parts
of
the
Muslim world a caricature
of
a
Western
stooge.
In
South Asiaalone, more
than
twenty people died protesting
the
novel.
Within
the
Muslim angerlies
the
perception
that
the
West
is
somehow linked
to
Rushdie's views. Gordon
must
ask himself, how authentic
is
Rushdie, in this case,
as
representative
of
the
Third World
perspective?AKBAR AHMED
Selwyn
College
Cambridge UniversityTransformation
and
Survival: In
Search
of
Humane World
Order.
By RA]NIKOTHARI.
New
York: New Horizon Press, 1989.
234 pp.
$27.50.In
this collection
of
essays from 1974 to 1985,
the
author's primary thesis
is
that
world resources are
toO
limited
to
allow for
the
benefits
of
"development"
to
 
370
THE
JOURNAL
OF
ASIAN STUDIES
reach all
the
peoples
of
the
world, so a more humane world order
is
needed before
the
gap
between rich and poor widens
in
the
future, resulting
in
famine,
human
degradation, and war.
This
is the world crisis
of
survival.
The
book
is
primarily an
editorial-it
contains no quantitative data. Sweepinggeneralizations about causes and solutions are asserted eloquently
but
are largelyundocumented.
The
few
scholarly references
that
are cited,
though,
are
quite
useful.
The
virtue
of
the
book
is
that
it challenges
the
reader
tothink
of
solutions to globalproblems
that
will remain unless a transformation occurs in
human
thinking.
The author argues, without defining his terms, that what he considers the currenthegemony
of
Hellenic-Judaeo-Christian and Enlightenment ethics
is
responsible for
the
world crisis. As Hebraic ethics center on the
Ten
Commandments, and
the
Israelite war
with
the Caananites clearly violated
"Thou
shalt not
kill,"
manycontemporary non-Zionist Jewish theologians argue
that
the
essence
of
Judaism
is
that
humans
must
first establish world justice before Yahweh will send a messiah
to
the earth; yet Kothari paradoxically eschews the perfection
of
the social orderwhile seeking a just society. Christian ethics
puts
the
test
of
"Thou
shalt love thyneighbor
as
thyself" to all
human
actions; yet Kothari favors individual autonomyover a "man-centered order."
The
Enlightenment aimed
to
bring knowledge to all
so
that human liberation would be possible, stressing human rights
as
a preconditionto
that
liberation, yet Kothari favors "self-realization"
as
if it
were a value opposedby the Western intellectual tradition. Many readers, thus, will be baffled
at
Kothari'sfailure to criticize capitalism, which celebrates
the
parable
of
the Absent Samaritan(Adam Smith's
"hidden
hand"), rather than Christianity's exemplar
of
the
GoodSamaritan. His unexplained theological alternatives appear to be Buddhism andZoroastrianism.
His
main secular alternative
is
the
thinking
of
Mahatma
Gandhi,
and Kothari cherishes
the
values
of
autonomy, justice, nonviolence, participation,and self-control.
The
most compelling aspect
of
Kothari's message
is
his proposed solutions tothe contemporary world crisis.
He
argues on behalf
of
a pluralism in which eachnation will be expected to achieve its own destiny
without
domination by othernations through a world federation that would be a concomitant
of
world disarmament.
He
favors alternative forms
of
self-reliant development so
that
nations and peoplescan live
without
exploitation. Although his objectives are not new, they have beenignored far too long in
the
nuclear age, and they are particularly timely
in
the wake
of
the
collapse
of
the
socialist systems in Eastern Europe in 1989.
His
recommended political pathway toward
the
new world order
is
for
the
antisystemic forces-increasingly marginalized by technology's imperative to make humanlabor
expendable-to
band together
throughout the
world. First, he would combinesmaller
Third World
states together so they have more economic viability whilepreserving local autonomy. Second, subregions
of
the
Third World
would formcommunities in order to achieve greater self-reliance.
Third,
these new subregionalcommunities would exert pressure for change on
the
First
World,
where there
is
increasing disenchantment
with
the
established order. Current polities
must
movetoward pluralism, decentralization, human technologies, self-reliant economies
with
a
minimum of
"experts." A tall order indeed.Kothari's scenario for change would enable India
to
playa
pivotal role, he writes,on behalf
of
the Nonaligned Movement, which
has
been disunited
for
several decades
out
of
fear
of
losing First
World"aid."His
pro-Indian bias
is
understandable
but
would be more persuasive
if
he disavowed Delhi's past bids
for
Third World leadership
that
have been resented and rejected by more equalitarian-minded nonaligned states.

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