Tuesday, February 12, 2008

When Did PC MC Begin? Fourth Case Study

The main purpose of this series is to examine Western academic scholarly articles from the past that seem to manifest attitudes and assumptions consonant with Politically Correct Multi-Culturalism (PC MC).

My original thesis always assumed that PC MC does not go further back from the present than to approximately 50 years agoroughly, the mid-20th century. The previous three installments of this series found PC MC in articles dated 1849, 1917 and 1963.

s installment dates from 1942.

Clearly, at least three of these articles demonstrate that PC MC existed before the middle of the 20th century. (The 1963 article comes at a date that one would hope to safely assume was a time when the sociopolitical dominance of PC MC was only in its infancy.) My adjusted assumption, in light of this, was to reiterate my original thesis, but simply to highlight the difference in eras not as one where absolutely no PC MC existed prior to 1950, but rather in terms of a relatively sparse existence of PC MC prior to 1950 as more or less representative of a minority view, and then a growth into mainstream dominance of PC MC throughout the West after 1950.

I stick to this original thesis
—with its slight adjustment; but the more I see articles like the one I proffer today, the more I wonder how, and why, so much PC MC thought existed in the good old days. It should be noted that all four articles I chose were randomly selected: I did not have any criteria by which to go hunting for articles that reflect PC MC; my ongoing project is based upon merely browsing among old academic journals in fields relating to Orientalism, with specific interest in any title adverting to Islam or things Islamic. Evidently, the roots of full-blown PC MC (i.e., the PC MC that has dominated the mainstream for the last 50-odd years) run far and deep.

At any rate, here is today
s installment: The article in question is The Origins of Pan-Islamism, by Dwight E. Lee, in The American Historical Review, Vol. 47, No. 2. (Jan., 1942), pp. 278-287.

First, Prof. Lee sets the tone of his article by approvingly quoting a letter of Arminius Vambéry dated
December 31, 1877, and published in the Daily Telegraph (London), January 12, 1878:

I repeat therefore . . . that the Moslem population of India, amongst whom Panislamitic ideas are spreading from day to day, will not remain inactive in the future should the Christian West continue to indulge in the sport of modern crusades.

Then Prof. Lee goes on to suggest that, while the one extreme of utterly discounting Pan-Islamism as a veritable movement should be taken with a grain of salt, nevertheless, one ought not:

...to rush to conclusions whenever the unity or brotherhood of Islam or the universal authority of the sultan-caliph are mentioned. He may well follow the example of those scholars who have attempted to distinguish between theory and definite acts or organizations. Furthermore, as the quotation from Vambéry suggests and as most writers agree, the tendency toward Pan-Islamism was one aspect of the reaction of Moslems to the impact of the Christian West.


...neither the intellectual and religious bent nor the actual steps to exploit it [i.e., Pan-Islamism] should be separated from their proper context of Oriental-Occidental cultural and political conflict.


...there is another context from which a study of Pan-Islamism cannot be separated, namely, the imperialistic rivalry of the Western Powers. In the period between 1850 and 1880 the most serious conflict which directly affected Islam was that of
Russia and England in the Near East and in Central Asia, just as at a later date other rivalries developed to a critical point in Egypt, Morocco, and Tripoli. It is not surprising, therefore, that the most willing and eager supporters of the Ottoman caliphate in the earlier period were Central Asiatic and Indian Moslems, who, at the mercy of both British and Russian expansionists, frequently discussed the idea of a Moslem league and occasionally appealed to the Turkish sultan for aid.

Shades of “it was the
US and Soviet ‘interference’ in Afghanistan that spawned modern terrorism”!

There is more. Prof. Lee, after citing European exploitation of Pan-Islamism in the 1870s, then WWI, then Italy in 1930s, writes:

It would appear, indeed, that Pan-Islamism has always had either behind it or paralleling it the imperialistic policy of some European power whose aims and interests at the moment seemed to coincide with those of Islam or of some Moslem potentate. Thus one may come to the tentative conclusion that without British support in the beginning and that of others later, Pan-Islamism would never have developed into a significant movement.


...Pan-Islamism and the revival of the caliphate are linked with the whole problem of the reaction of the Islamic world to the impact of the Occident

And, after soberly recommending that we study
Islamic sources, Prof. Lee ends with these two conclusionsthe only conclusions, apparently, which such a study would definitively reveal:

Only after such a study can one definitely decide whether an effort to translate the
tendency toward Islamic unity into an actual movement was a phantasm or a reality and whether Pan-Islamism was a genuine Moslem reaction to Western encroachment or merely a weapon of imperialism, conceived by Western brains and forged by Western hands.

I.e., after the scholar has incorporated a study of Islamic sources, the only alternative explanations that would explain Islamic supremacism (i.e.,
Pan-Islamism) would be either that it represents an impractical phantasm among a few extremists, or thatif not a phantasm but a realitythen that it represents a Moslem reaction to Western encroachment, with the added spice of possibility that such a reaction was really just a tool manipulated by Western Machiavellians.

Prof. Lee
s thesis, written in 1942, reflects one of the major axioms of the PC MC paradigm: namely, that all major Islamic problems and pathologies stem, ultimately, from Western activities and interference in the Orientand that, therefore, there is nothing specifically, fundamentally Islamic about Islamic problems and pathologies.

As to the crucial question of whether, and to what extent, Prof. Lee’s proto-PC MC was popular in his era (the early 1940s), a couple of remarks in the article itself unfortunately only offer, when combined, ambiguous indications.

An indication that Prof. Lee feels he is operating against a broader grain seems plausible from his complaint that:

...it has been the purpose of this article to show that the usual interpretations of Pan-Islamism and especially the story of its origins, both as to chronology and causes, have been inadequate and unsatisfactory...

Apparently, there were “usual interpretations” current at the time that differed from the proto-PC MC of Prof. Lee.

On the other hand, elsewhere in the same article, Prof. Lee mentions that
“most writers agree” with the drippingly anti-Occidentalist sentiment of Arminius Vambéry from 1877 (quoted at the beginning above), which seems to enjoy the role in Prof. Lees article of a guiding light for his overall theme.


A broader and deeper sampling of scholarly articles, from various journals and various academic locations throughout the West, would be able to illuminate where more precisely lies the chronological borderline demarcating a proto-PC MC from a full-blown dominant and mainstream PC MC. It could well be that the assumption of a mid-20th century line needs to be redrawn considerably earlier. This more substantive investigation, in addition, will help uncover why those proto-PC MC tendencies were there in the first place, so possessing the sufficient nutritive and metastatic potential they evidently had as to enable the later growth into mainstream dominance that is, in our time, as plain and normal as sunshine on a sunny day.


Westward Ho said...

Very clarifying. Excellent.
You've convinced me - it's much older than I ever thought.

Westward Ho said...

Alright, now I am really thinking differently about the age of multiculturalism's seeds. From an intro to Montaigne's On Cannibals (1580)(!)


"No writer was more strongly moved to view his own society from a new perspective in the light of reports brought back of the habits of the natives of the "New World" than Michel de Montaigne. He began a long tradition of using non-European peoples as a basis for engaging in a critique of his own culture, undoubtedly in the process romanticizing what Jean-Jacques Rousseau would later call "the noble savage." It is a theme which still appeals to many Westerners."

Wow. He "began" the tradition? So *he's* the culprit!

Hesperado said...

Thanks westward ho,

Interesting quote from Montaigne. Even with Montaigne, I wouldn't say he is THE culprit. I don't think any one thinker, even someone as influential as Montaigne, was responsible alone -- it was a complex movement of many minds over time. It seems like I will have to add Montaigne to the list, though...