The Clash of Cultures

“Western civilisation has known five universalist cultures: ancient Greece, ancient Rome, medieval Christianity and Islam, and the Enlightenment. Three were secular, two religious. They brought inestimable gifts to the world, but they also brought great suffering, most notably though not exclusively to Jews. Like a tidal wave they swept away local customs, ancient traditions and different ways of doing things. They were to cultural diversity what industrialisation is to bio-diversity. They extinguished weaker forms of life. They diminished difference.”

“Today we are living through the sixth universal order: global capitalism. It is the first to be driven not by a set of ideas but by a series of institutions, among them the market, the media, multinational corporations and the Internet. But its effect is no less profound. It threatens all things local, traditional and particular. September 11th happened when two universalist cultures, global capitalism and an extremist form of Islam, each profoundly threatening to the other, met and clashed.”

The Dignity of Difference, Prologue, p. 17