The Misinterpretation of Modernity

Architecture of the Future
The Misinterpretation of Modernity - Mehtab Dere


The term “modernity” is rooted in ideas that are embodied in the Enlightenment, namely, the triumph of reason, rationality and individuality, and is often associated with a Western worldview. However, to use the term singularly in this sense is to not fully understand its complex constitutive elements. This paper explores how modernity can be interpreted in diverse ways by different actors. It highlights the two main trends followed by various modernity projects, and further illustrates how this divergence in interpretation increases the potential for conflict at various levels.


From as far back as the fifth century, people have used the term “modern” to differentiate their present era from past times. Its Latin usage as the word modernus was first applied to differentiate the Christian era from the Roman and pagan past.[1] Today, the concept has taken on a special significance. It is seen as rooted in ideas embodied in the Enlightenment, namely, the triumph of reason, rationality and individuality, and is often associated with what is widely regarded as a Western worldview. In common parlance this ideational conception has often been superseded by a more economically-oriented definition of modernity, linking it to the development of a market economy and an increase in material wealth. However, to use the term “modernity” singularly in this sense is to not fully understand its complex constitutive elements, a misconception which in turn leads to further misdiagnoses of certain social and political trends.[2] In other words, modernity can mean different things for different people, and it is important to understand the implications of this when dealing with political issues at an inter-state as well as a sub-state level.

In contemporary political discourse, Samuel Huntington’s terminology regarding a “clash of civilizations” has achieved widespread usage.[3] While there is merit to the argument that constructed concepts such as identity can play a role in conflict, I disagree with his notion of civilizational identity now being the primary premise of conflict. International conflict will continue to be defined by state interests and actions, but there is an added explanatory dimension which can be utilized at various levels of analysis: the role that diverging conceptions of modernity play in exacerbating the potential of a clash between various actors. The battle lines are therefore made darker at the places where conceptions of modernity diverge.

This paper will explore the thesis that modernity can be interpreted in different ways by different actors, and this divergence in interpretation creates potential for conflict. It begins with an overview of how modernity is conceived, and how it can be constructed in multiple ways. It then dwells on the potential for conflict that is inherent in this phenomenon. It concludes with a brief look at the implications in terms of policy formulation that stem from the previous analysis.

What Is Modernity?

The term modernity as used in this paper refers to particular conceptions of worldviews, ideas, and identity, which may manifest themselves in the form of political, social and economic institutions and structures. The development of modern thought is rooted in the principle of deconstructing social, economic and political orders that are in existence.[4] Deconstruction is therefore the permissive initial stage; but modernity itself implies a further reconstruction of concepts. This reconstruction is based on a break with the past, as to the ontological premises of ideational and material structures in the social, economic, and political sphere.

The program of modernity, as it evolved from the fifteenth century onwards,[5] gave rise “to the belief in the possibility of bridging the gap between the transcendental and mundane orders—of realizing through conscious human agency, exercised in social life, major utopian and eschatological visions.”[6] Therefore, intrinsic to the idea of modernity is the implication that actors attempt to give their ideational programs material shape. However, a common misconception is to assume that modernity refers principally to the material and economic spheres without recognizing its strong foundation in the ideational realm.

The onset of the current phase of modernity consisted of a shift in the view of human agency: it involved a rising belief in the cognitive power of man to shape what until then were perceived as natural orders.[7] This questioning and breaking down of previous structures applied especially to political orders. Among the ideational structures that are reconstructed in any conception of modernity, collective identity, its nature, and defining boundary conditions are inherent features. There has often been an attempt by actors to appropriate the principles established in the original project of modernity. Furthermore, these actors have attempted to manipulate these principles to influence the boundaries and actions of collective identity groupings. This is clearly seen in projects such as the building of nationalism, trans-national movements (e.g., the pan-Arab movement), and religious identities.

In this regard, modernity is linked to the reconstruction of political and social structures, based on changes in patterns of thought, which are rooted in the principle of deconstructing traditionally accepted notions. The views related to the optimal organization of political and social space derive from the particular conception of modernity held by a specific actor. The Axial Age as elaborated by Karl Jaspers was an epoch of liminal change in the realm of ideas related to transcendental thought;[8] similarly, in its political dimension, the Enlightenment could be considered a period of liminal change with regard to the role of human agency and man’s link with structures of governance.[9] Undoubtedly this first occurred in the West. However, the notion of deconstructing the premises of traditional thought, as was seen during the Enlightenment period, has spread outwards from the West.[10] Therefore, as Shmuel Eisenstadt writes, “Western patterns of modernity…enjoy historical precedence,” but they are “not the only ‘authentic’ modernities.”[11]

The above statement implies that, depending on the social, political, and cultural flows that an entity has interacted with, modernity can have different interpretations. This fundamental concept, termed “multiple modernities” by Eisenstadt,[12] implies that when actors deconstruct traditional patterns of thought along with the related material structures, the new ideal type structures that each actor seeks to build in the reconstruction process can differ. The concept of multiple modernities is not a retreat into solipsism, but rather a suggestion that each conception of modernity sees itself as being the true vision, differentiated from the rest at a conceptual level, yet nevertheless associated with the rest in some manner—harmonious or antagonistic.

To use the example of Iran and its revolution of 1979, one could claim that the protagonists of the revolution saw the conflict and the dependent ideas and structures that followed as a conception of modernity. Influential actors questioned the rule of the Shah and deemed it illegitimate and unreasonable. They proceeded to tear it down and replace it with social and political structures which, to the new ruling actors, seemed most optimal. In effect, it was an attempt to give material form, in the mundane world, to a utopian vision based in an eschatological realm, through the power of human agency exercised in social life.[13] In Eisenstadt’s words mentioned earlier, this is exactly the principle underlying the original project of modernity.[14] It was an action designed to rearrange the social and political space in line with what was seen as optimal in the eyes of the protagonists. This vision of optimality differs from the widely-accepted one of the West, simply indicating that this notion of modernity is different from the broad Western one.

It is noteworthy that Islamic fundamentalists consciously try to be anti-Western. This is the great paradox of Islamic fundamentalists: even while striving to counteract Western progressive forms of modernity, they are unwittingly being modern, albeit under a “conservative” modernity matrix.

Although multiple modernities may exist, in politically significant terms there are currently two main visible trends, or matrices, to the notion.[15] I term these “progressive modernity matrix” and “conservative modernity matrix.” Both trends share the original foundations of the project of modernity—the notion of potent human agency, and the reconstruction of pre-existing structures. However, they tend to diverge after the initial point. Progressive modernity is based on the Enlightenment idea of the importance of reason and rationality. It gives rise to structures which are not dependent on primordial or religious elements in order to derive legitimacy.[16]Although it is born within a specific cultural (i.e., Western) framework, it does not cling to it in order to substantiate itself. Conservative trends of modernity, on the other hand, directly relate their main ideals to a specific cultural premise. They undertake the construction of social and political space primarily within the limits of the traditional matrix to which they attach themselves. Within this inherent difference lies the potential for conflict between the two trends. In much the same way as the self reinforces and builds itself through differentiation from the other, actors identifying with one matrix or the other seek to highlight their intrinsic differences. This can take place at the level of the individual, a localized community, or even national and transnational entities. If actors identify with differing trends of modernity, and they attempt to give their divergent models actual material form, it creates the potential for antagonism. This potential is proportionally linked to the actors’ level of interaction, and the level of sharing of social or political space.

The Different Levels of Possible Conflict

The divergence of modernity matrices helps one understand some potential roots of conflict. In international relations theory, there are generally three accepted levels of analysis: the individual, the state, and the systemic-structural level.[17] This paper now examines how divergent modernities could play a role at the first two levels.[18]


 I. The Sub-State Level (First Level of Analysis)

The first level of analysis includes individuals and local communities. Western Europe provides a good case study for this level as it includes actors holding divergent modernity matrices. Currently, an overarching issue of contention in the region is that of immigration and the question of how to integrate immigrants into the host society.

France and Britain follow two different models in this regard: the French model attempts to subdue the original cultural tendencies of immigrants and superimpose homogeneous and institutionalized social norms that the state deems acceptable. The British model, on the other hand, largely allows each immigrant group to maintain its original cultural-social patterns. Francis Fukuyama recently commented that the French model is more successful.[19] Events such as the 2005 bombing of the London subway carried out by British citizens, albeit of non-Anglo-Saxon parentage, tend to lend empirical credibility to this view. One can, of course, point to the 2005 and 2007 French riots in the banlieue as evidence that the French model might not be perfect either. However, as Fukuyama pointed out, one of the primary reasons for the French riots was that the youth were not getting the economic opportunities that they thought they deserved by virtue of being French citizens.[20] This brings out a fundamental difference in the two cases. The French case is arguably a struggle for recognition based on a desire for equal economic opportunities and better living conditions.

In the British case, at least three of the four bombers were from economically privileged families. Bruce Hoffman, a well-known terrorism expert, has concluded that the bombers perceived their actions as being for the benefit of the umma (universal Islamic community), and their allegiance was not to the British state, but to their religious community.[21] This is not to state that the bombers blew themselves up solely because their conception of an ideal society was radically different from the existing one in Britain, but rather that the divergence of modernities acted as a permissive cause, working as one of the factors that allowed them to rationally justify the suicide attacks. Unlike the French case, the British case was not founded in an economic struggle, which would fall under a materially measurable category. Instead, it can be placed in an ideational realm. The British bombers were influenced by radical imams who were preaching in British mosques. The agenda of some of these imams includes a desire to change the way in which their society is organized; they deny the authority of man-made laws and seek to enable the victory of Islam and Islamic law through various means, including the instigation of suicide bombings.[22] The difference in the modernity matrix of the extremists from that of the majority of the population, allows the extremists to rationalize violence as a means to help the spread of their own ideal type of society.

One can make two deductions from the above case study: firstly, the wider the gap between the modernity matrices of two communities, the higher the potential for violence; and secondly, the higher the level of integration of immigrants within the local community, the lesser the likelihood of violent conflict erupting from ideational differences. Real world events, past and present, such as war between the root collective identities of the various communities, could also exacerbate the potential for conflict.[23] It could therefore be hypothesized that modernity matrices play a role in the analysis and understanding of the nature of certain conflicts at the sub-state level. This would include friction between certain immigrant groups and host communities in some Western European countries. It is important to accurately understand the nature of conflict if one is to counter it appropriately.

Looking further at the immigration discourse in the West, one danger is that host societies might come to view entire communities of immigrants as potentially hostile entities, thus creating a sense of conflict even if there is not a solid base for it. It is possible for people from different cultural, religious, or ethnic backgrounds to share the same conceptual matrix of modernity. In the case of Western Europe and certain individual immigrants, this implies that these individuals give credence to progressive trends of modernity rather than traditional ones—this does not mean that they hold exactly the same vision of modernity, but rather it falls within the same matrix.

The tension in the social fabric would occur primarily due to immigrants holding a different modernity matrix. In Western Europe the host community and the immigrant communities may disagree as to the optimal legitimate punishment for a crime; nonetheless, if they share the view that the state’s constitutionally mandated judicial system should be the one to deliver a fair judgment, then one can say that there is not much inherent conflict. However, if the host community views the constitutional legal system as valid, while the immigrant community gives precedence to an external system (such as religious laws and personal revenge killings) as the legitimate form of redress, then there is an innate ideational clash, and the potential for conflict is greater.

Therefore, immigrants willing to let go of previous cultural premises and ideas which are in conflict with basic norms of their host country will give little cause for disharmony. In contrast, those who give preference to traditional habits and norms, even if they are contradictory to those of the host country, are more likely to create tension in the social fabric.

From a policy perspective, one could conclude that if the integration process is to be successful it should lead to the adoption and acceptance, by the immigrants, of the basic conceptions of modernity as they exist in an institutionalized form in the host country. This does not mean that the population should be completely culturally homogenized, but rather, that the immigrants adopt core tenets of the modernity matrix of the host society. Although the diversity of cultures can be recognized, culturally-based practices can still be evaluated from a universalist perspective—this implies cultural relativity rather than cultural relativism.[24]

If one uses Huntington’s terminology, then the above example could be called an inter-civilizational example, though it might be more accurate to call it an inter-cultural example. However, a modernity-rooted conflict can also exist within members of the same civilization.[25]In the U.S., anti-abortionists have committed numerous acts of violence against abortion clinics. This is an example of a case where a split based on what could be called an ontological premise of human life has led to violence within a single civilization. Ontological premises fall squarely within the realm of ideational constructs, and as such are a part of one’s worldview—which is intricately linked to one’s modernity matrix.

Within the framework of Islam, individuals like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie have either explicitly criticized certain aspects of Islam or have rejected its tenets in their personal lives, thus rejecting the religious premises to which they should supposedly adhere given their original civilizational background.[26] Their conception of modernity is in conflict with the vision of the Islamic mullahs, and their views as to the optimal construction of contemporary social, political and intellectual space is thus highly divergent, implying a clash between the two matrices of thought. This sort of occurrence is seen almost everywhere, including Western countries, where one finds extremely vocal and increasingly fundamental religious groups, such as those of the Christian evangelical movement on one end of the spectrum and atheists on the other. This does not mean that every time there is a divergence of ideas a violent conflict will occur. However, when a progressive modernity matrix and a traditional modernity matrix interact, then the potential for violence is increased, and the greater the difference between the two, the higher the chances of conflict.


II. The Inter-State Arena (Second Level of Analysis)

Stating that conceptions of modernity have an influence on inter-state relations places this argument in the realm of constructivist theory. While there is not enough space here to defend constructivism, I claim to adopt a thin form of constructivism, using some of its ontological assumptions, rather than constructivist theory as a whole.[27] In this context, understanding how diverging modernity matrices affect the potential for conflict is more of an insight, rather than an explicit theory. It does not seek to definitively predict what will happen when certain conditions are met, but it helps explain why certain actions could happen under certain conditions. It is an approach that helps one to understand actions rather than predict outcomes.

Liberal democracy could be construed as an institution rooted in a matrix of progressive modernity. It is a defining type in the organization of social and political space. The governance structures of authoritarian systems such as China and Russia clearly hold differing views on the ideal type of normative construction of political and social space from those of liberal democracies. Modernity, as explained earlier, is inherent in identity formation, and actors such as states often seek to appropriate modernity in the process of building a collective group identity. If these state-appropriated conceptions belong to divergent modernity matrices they can then be used to differentiate one group from another. Therefore, when the modernity matrices adopted by state machinery vary among states, they affect the potential for conflict. This provides the rationale for analyzing the role of modernity conceptions in understanding interstate relations.

For example, one can look at the democratic peace theory—the argument that liberal democracies do not fight wars with each other—through the lens of modernity matrices.[28]Liberal democracies share a similar modernity matrix. This would imply that, despite differing cultures or civilizations, if states share core elements in their conceptions of modernity, then the potential for conflict stemming from the ideational realm is less than it is among states that appropriate different modernity matrices.

In this context it is undeniable that the U.S., India, and Japan possess different cultural backgrounds, yet ever since the post-Cold War period, U.S. and Japanese relations with India have steadily improved. The three countries recently conducted naval exercises together, which some analysts purported as being aimed at China. The U.S. and India are increasingly strengthening their economic, military, and political ties. Despite the fact that these countries embrace different cultural backgrounds, the potential for conflict between them, given the current trends, appears quite low. Applying the same analysis to China and Russia, however, it is evident that they are seen in a different light. Although the two groups of countries share different histories, this is probably not the only factor involved. After all, the U.S. and India have a checkered history as well. The U.S. and Pakistan were allied throughout the Cold War, at times against India. Despite this background of mutual suspicion, after the structural constraints of the bi-polar system were removed, their relationship improved considerably.

One of the reasons that the U.S., Japan, and India do not consider each other a high security threat is that they share, to an extent, similar political-social institutional structures. This is not to claim that the rights of individuals, the rule of law, and the general functioning of these structures are as effective in India as they are in the U.S. or Japan. Nonetheless, similar structures are in place, and normatively speaking, their end goals fall under the same modernity matrix.

This implies that countries with a broadly similar conception of the optimal organization of political-social space have a reduced potential for conflict. This does not mean that there cannot be conflict between such countries, but their respective conceptions of modernity will probably not act as inherent sources of tension. Alternatively, countries with divergent modernity matrices, such as the U.S. and China, will have a higher potential for conflict. Looking at current strategic analysis and discourse, this view lends some credibility.

Why is it that the actual or potential possession of nuclear weapons by states as diverse as China, North Korea, Iran, Libya, and Russia are seen as threat scenarios by the U.S., whereas this is not the case when it comes to states such as France, the U.K., Israel, and India? From the above list, one can deduce that the latter countries share certain premises and core principles in their organization of social-political space, such as free press, universal suffrage, the existence of an independent judiciary, free multi-party elections and so on. In contrast, the potential high threat countries all have social-political structures which are constitutively different from those of the U.S. It is clear that political actors in the U.S. feel most threatened by the states whose political actors hold conceptual frameworks alien to their own.

Policy Implications

In terms of inter-state relations, the analysis of modernities implies that it would be relatively easy and optimal for Western countries to solidify their ties with countries holding a similar modernity matrix. In countries with a divergent modernity matrix, ideas and concepts such as liberalism, market economics and individualism, which underlie a progressive conception of modernity, should be promoted using the principle of soft power. The use of military power by Western countries tends to create obstacles to the acceptance of Western ideas even if they could help in material improvements. Soft power would enable the West to fight ideas with ideas – which is probably the optimal method in the long run.

Understanding the divergence in modernities means to comprehend that entities with views that differ from Western progressive modernity are seeking to re-construct their own modernity; they want to build something new, not something from the immediate past, even though they might be looking at a real or imagined past to draw inspiration for their new vision. As modernity is inherently an ideational concept often manifested in material structures, any attempt to influence it should take multiple forms. The ideas related to the spread of progressive modernity could be actively encouraged. This could be done through the exertion of influence in the educational sphere, relevant support to political actors and institutions, and the linkage of aid to specifically targeted social improvement programs. This could lend support to the shaping of local identities, worldviews and social structures which would be compatible with a progressive modernity matrix.

In the nation building process, political structures, educational institutions, and the media could help promote a progressive modernity matrix. In any unstable region, security is normally of paramount concern. Economic development is arguably contingent on the attainment of a secure political environment. Of course these should be primary targets, but additionally, the social realm, especially educational institutions, should not be ignored. Some aid should be given to countries specifically with the aim of promoting educational institutions with a progressive approach (in contrast to religious schools teaching solely religious texts). Support could be given to the youth from these regions to study in Western institutions. An attempt should be made to ensure that the younger generations in these countries grow to identify themselves with the progressive trends of modernity.

With regard to the immigration-related integration policies of Western countries, the attempt to impose certain values will sometimes be met with resistance. In this regard, Stefano Zamagni has elaborated on a social model that seems well suited to the Western European situation.[29]According to him, original cultural practices of immigrants that could be allowed (on the condition that they maintain a respect for universal human rights) fall into three broad categories—tolerable, respectable, and potentially shareable. The allocation of public resources with regard to sustaining culturally different practices should then be made according to which category the practice falls under.[30] Although the practices under these three categories could be allowed, the ones that can merely be tolerated should be actively discouraged as they are likely to have potential for social disruption. The ones which can be respected and shared are easier to deal with, as it is probable that they are not intrinsically in confrontation with the tenets of progressive modernity. Action may be needed to effect an evolution in the conceptions of certain immigrant populations. In this regard, educational institutions are again crucial. However, it is likely that they will be effective over a long term period.

Concluding Thoughts

For the West, the Enlightenment was the struggle and victory of reason and rationality over structures that were based on ideas from the past. The traditional norms were thoroughly questioned, deconstructed, and found to be flawed, and in their place new ideas and norms took hold. This process of deconstruction and reconstruction is the root of any modernity project. In different societies, and among different individuals, the end point of following these principles has been different. This has resulted in multiple conceptions of modernity. The further the gap between these conceptions, the greater the potential for conflict in their interaction.

The promotion of discourse along civilizational terms as formulated by Huntington implies that an entity, be it an individual or a community, does not have a choice as to its thought patterns but instead is automatically a constitutive part of a given cultural background.[31] This implies a lack of individual cognitive power when it comes to choosing one’s social identity—a conclusion that I would disagree with. The rationale for my views has been well stated by Amartya Sen: “[t]here is a significant role for reason in the choice of identity, and there are solid bases for rejecting the communitarian premise according to which social identity is a question of ‘discovery’ rather than a process that incorporates the choice.”[32] As civilizations by Huntington’s assumptions are distinct entities in terms of constitution as well as agency, they cannot be changed and are condemned to have a high potential for conflict with each other. However, the analysis of multiple modernities allows for a more intricate understanding of the situation. It provides the insight that a difference in civilizational backgrounds does not automatically create the basis for conflict. Instead, it is the adoption of divergent modernity matrices that can act as a causal factor in increasing the potential for conflict.

The modernity hypothesis suggests that the creation and strengthening of institutions and structures that promote the development of a progressive matrix of modernity is desirable. Progressive modernity implies that an entity is able to shed culturally rooted ideational constraints which may impede the path of material progress. Even if this is criticized as cultural imperialism, in certain spheres universalist concepts such as this are perhaps applicable as well as desirable.

The constitutive process on which the principles of the Enlightenment era are based has not come to an end. Rather, some of today’s conflicts, despite being ideationally in contradiction to the ideals adopted during the Enlightenment, locate their constitutive process along the same lines. In this light, understanding the process through which modernity can be a “global projection of a problematic that remains open to conflicting interpretations” at various levels of analysis, is essential for the proper understanding of the multidimensional nature of certain conflicts.[33]

Notes & References

The author would like to acknowledge Derrick Fiedler for his suggestions during the writing of this paper.

  1. Jürgen Habermas and Seyla Ben-Habib, “Modernity versus Postmodernity,” New German Critique, Special Issue on Modernism, No. 22 (Winter 1981) p. 3. Accessed from JSTOR website:
  2. The term “constitutive elements” refers to the myriad of elements, including economic aspects and views on legitimate political and social norms, that form the modernity conception of an actor. Bjorn Wittrock, “Modernity: One, None, or Many? European Origins and Modernity as a Global Condition,” Daedalus, Vol. 129, No. 1 (Winter 2000), p. 31. Accessed electronically from the Gale Group:
  3. Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 72, No. 3 (Summer 1993), p. 22-49. Accessed electronically from the Gale Group:
  4. Shmuel N. Eisenstadt, “Multiple Modernities,” Daedalus, Vol. 129, No. 1 (Winter 2000), p. 1. Accessed electronically from the Gale Group:
  5. Arguably, the changes associated with the current conception of modernity began in the Renaissance period; however, the paradigmal shifts that occurred took more visible forms in the later time period, i.e., in the eighteenth century.
  6. Shmuel N. Eisenstadt, “Multiple Modernities,” Daedalus, Vol. 129, No. 1 (Winter 2000), p. 1. Accessed electronically through the Gale Group:
  7. Ibid.
  8. Karl Jaspers, The Origin and Goal of History. Translated by Michael Bullock. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953. The Axial Age was the period from about 800 to 200 B.C. During this period, similar ontological changes regarding the conception of the transcendental realm occurred in various unconnected human societies.
  9. The term “liminal period” implies a time when the basic structures and ontological assumptions related to the particular subject are thrown into chaos and changed.
  10. Shmuel N. Eisenstadt, “Multiple Modernities,” Daedalus, Vol. 129, No. 1 (Winter 2000), p. 1. Accessed electronically through the Gale Group:
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. The term “eschatological” refers to the theologically oriented beliefs in the ultimate destiny or future of mankind. In this paragraph, it points to the desire of the mullahs to create a society based on the principles of Islam.
  14. See p. 3 of this paper.
  15. This is not to say that there are only two visions of modernity, but rather, there are two main matrices, within which there can be a number of different modernities.
  16. This is Edward Shils’ terminology; he uses these terms to highlight the different forms in which legitimacy is obtained. Jack E. Shils, “Primordial, Personal, Sacred, and Civil Rights.” British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 8, No. 2 (June 1957), p. 130-145. I have referred to Shils’ ideas as they were mentioned by Eisenstadt, in “Multiple Modernities,” Daedalus, Vol. 129, No. 1 (Winter 2000).
  17. Kenneth Waltz has referred to these as the three images. See Kenneth Waltz, Man, the State, and War, New York: Columbia University Press, 1959.
  18. The third level deals with the structure of the system in terms of polarity and the condition of anarchy. The conception of modernity, being an abstract social construction, occurs at the lower two levels. These deal with the interaction of social groups, rather than the nature of the system as a whole.
  19. Francis Fukyama, “Identity and Immigration,” Lecture at Johns Hopkins University, SAIS Bologna, 15th January 2008.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Bruce Hoffman, “Terrorism, Radicalization & Subversion: the 7/7/05 London Attacks, 2006 Airline Plots, and al Qaeda’ resurgence,” Institute of European Affairs, audio/bruce_hoffman_8_october_2007.ppt. Accessed 20 January 2008.
  22. “Road to Martyrdom,” Journeyman Pictures, Accessed on 20 January 2008.
  23. Root collective identity groupings are taken to include entities such as countries, religious communities, and so on.
  24. This difference is elaborated upon in Stefano Zamagni, “Migration, Multi-culturality, and Politics of Identity.” Accessed through the SAIS Bologna intranet, CIAO. An Italian version of this essay has appeared in volume C. Vigna and S. Zamagni (eds.), Multiculturalità e identità, oggi, Milan, Vita e Pensiero, 2002.
  25. To use the word civilization as a definable monolithic block with clear boundaries and agency is inaccurate at best, which is why I prefer the term cultural background.
  26. Ali was born into a Muslim family in Somalia, and Rushdie was born into a Muslim family in India.
  27. For more on this see Alexander Wendt, Social Theory of International Relations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  28. The foundation of the Democratic peace theory goes back to Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace (1795), but in more recent times it has been popularized by various scholars including Michael Doyle in “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Summer 1983), p. 205, 207-208.
  29. Stefano Zamagni, “Migration, Multi-culturality, and Politics of Identity.” Accessed from the SAIS Bologna intranet, CIAO.
  30. Ibid.
  31. Referring to Huntington’s thesis that different civilizations will inevitably be in conflict with each other. Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 72, No. 3 (Summer 1993), p. 22-49.
  32. Stefano Zamagni, “Migration, Multi-culturality, and Politics of Identity.” The original source is Amartya Sen, Reason before Identity, Oxford, 1998.
  33. Derrick Fiedler, “Civilizations and the Study of World Politics,” thesis submitted at The American University of Rome, December 2007. Originally from J.P. Arnason, Civilizations in Dispute: Historical Questions and Theoretical Traditions, 2006, Leiden: Brill. Understanding Intercivilizational Encounters. Thesis Eleven 86: 39-53.
Mehtab Dere is an M.A. candidate in International Relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University. His primary academic interests are international relations theory and political philosophy. He received a B.A. in International Relations from The American University of Rome.