This academic text is strong on historical context but weak on analysis.
In a reaction against political scientist Samuel Huntington’s â€œClash of Civilizations” theory (which projected that the principle conflicts of the 21st century would stem from cultural and religious differences), Kumar posits that the recent rise in global Islamic extremism is not a manifestation of East-West conflict. Rather, Kumar argues that this extremism signifies the growing pains of a reformation in Islam. The author takes a textbook-like approach to this argument, building to his central thesis with long historical descriptions of the post-World War II world that leave little room for original analysis. Though they can seem remedial, his explanations of topics like Islamic thought and Cold War proxy wars in the Third World prove enlightening, particularly in their inclusion of little-known details. Unfortunately, they’re sprinkled with subjective outbursts, which are jarring when presented as part of an objective history. Even sympathetic readers may wish Kumar would provide clear reasoning for what he calls President George W. Bush’s incompetence, rather than having it stated as incontrovertible truth. Kumar bases his central premise, that the world’s Muslim nations will eventually embrace secular governance, on a shaky foundation that he tries to shore up by using overly declarative statements. These make his work sound more like a prophecy than an academic treatise. The author’s predictions that the United States’ economy will collapse and that there will be a rise in Islamic militancy seem prescient in light of recent events. The final chapter abandons those arguments altogether to advocate a utopian reorganization of global society, in which capitalism and democracy would be replaced with localized production centers.
The analysis holds gems for trivia buffs, but little for those seeking a coherent sociopolitical theory.