Cosmopolitanism and the clash of civilizations

Authored by: Bryan S. Turner

Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  July  2010
Online publication date:  September  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415474450
eBook ISBN: 9780203891377
Adobe ISBN: 9781134026159


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Inter-civilizational contact invariably creates a sense of the otherness or alterity of different societies and cultures. Any society with a more or less coherent cultural boundary and identity, acting as an inclusionary social force, tends to have an exclusionary notion of membership and hence otherness; the more inclusive the feeling of ethnicity and national membership, the more intense the notion of an outside. With globalization involving the compression of spatial relations between societies, the problem of alterity has been magnified. Thus a paradoxical relationship exists between the growing cultural hybridity, interconnectedness, and interdependency of the world—indeed, the modernization of societies—and the notion of alterity in politics, philosophy, and culture. The emergence of alterity as a theme of inter-civilizational and transnational contact should not, however, be seen as an evolutionary progression, marching in tandem with modernization. The divisive question of alterity has been closely associated with the rise of world religions, the creation of imperial powers, and the history of colonialism and post-colonialism. The question of the other is not easily separated from the “fear of diversity,” which can be seen as in fact the foundation of ancient Greek thought (Saxonhouse 1992).

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