The term “civilization” comes with considerable baggage, dichotomizing people, cultures, and histories as “civilized”—or not. While the idea of civilization has been deployed throughout history to justify all manner of interventions and sociopolitical engineering, few scholars have stopped to consider what the concept actually means. Here, Brett Bowden examines how the idea of civilization has informed our thinking about international relations over the course of ten centuries.
From the Crusades to the colonial era to the global war on terror, this sweeping volume exposes “civilization” as a stage-managed account of history that legitimizes imperialism, uniformity, and conformity to Western standards, culminating in a liberal-democratic global order. Along the way, Bowden explores the variety of confrontations and conquests—as well as those peoples and places excluded or swept aside—undertaken in the name of civilization. Concluding that the “West and the rest” have more commonalities than differences,this provocative and engaging bookultimately points the way toward an authentic intercivilizational dialogue that emphasizes cooperation over clashes.