The Fear of Barbarians: Beyond the Clash of Civilizations by Tzvetan Todorov, an award-winning Bulgarian-French historian, critic, and essayist, is his political philosophy book tying together historical attitudes leading into current events, free for a limited time courtesy of publisher University of Chicago Press.
This is an English-language translation of the original French La peur des barbares : au-delà du choc des civilisations, published in 2008 by Robert Laffont, translated by Andrew Brown. Apparently, this book gives a slightly different take on the roots of the current tensions between Middle East and West, drawn from the author’s own personal experience growing up in communist Bulgaria and immigrating to France, evaluating and arguing for a shift in the balance between fear of imported ideology and ideals of freedom and tolerance, as used by western locals and applied to foreign immigrants.
Offered worldwide, available through the month of February, directly from the publisher.
Free for a limited time throughout February as their Free Book of the Month offer directly @ the university’s dedicated promo page (ADE-DRM PDF available worldwide in exchange for your valid email address). You can also read more about the book and its author over at its regular catalogue page.
The relationship between Western democracies and Islam, rarely entirely comfortable, has in recent years become increasingly tense. A growing immigrant population and worries about cultural and political assimilation—exacerbated by terrorist attacks in the United States, Europe, and around the world—have provoked reams of commentary from all parts of the political spectrum, a frustrating majority of it hyperbolic or even hysterical.
In The Fear of Barbarians, the celebrated intellectual Tzvetan Todorov offers a corrective: a reasoned and often highly personal analysis of the problem, rooted in Enlightenment values yet open to the claims of cultural difference. Drawing on history, anthropology, and politics, and bringing to bear examples ranging from the murder of Theo van Gogh to the French ban on headscarves, Todorov argues that the West must overcome its fear of Islam if it is to avoid betraying the values it claims to protect. True freedom, Todorov explains, requires us to strike a delicate balance between protecting and imposing cultural values, acknowledging the primacy of the law, and yet strenuously protecting minority views that do not interfere with its aims. Adding force to Todorov’s arguments is his own experience as a native of communist Bulgaria: his admiration of French civic identity—and Western freedom—is vigorous but non-nativist, an inclusive vision whose very flexibility is its core strength.
The record of a penetrating mind grappling with a complicated, multifaceted problem, The Fear of Barbarians is a powerful, important book—a call, not to arms, but to thought.