Catalysts

Traditions: the call of God

Both the idea and the concrete dynamics of global civil society can be better grasped by dwelling for a moment upon its historical origins. Intellectual proponents and activist champions of the idea of a global civil society have a bad habit of supposing that its institutions were born yesterday. By disregarding traditions — the gift of the dead to the living — the fans of global civil society fail to spot the deep roots of this globalising civil society. These run deep and have an entangled and branched — rhizomatous — quality about them. The social ties bound up with these traditions that feed present-day global civil society can be clarified by examining two separate but overlapping examples — taken from the worlds of Islam and Europe, respectively. They are arbitrarily chosen, but each illustrates two points that are of fundamental interest: that global civil society was formed by the horizon-stretching effects of previous social formations; and that these world-defining effects made possible the 'action and reaction at a distance' effects that are an intrinsic feature of global civil society.

Religious civilisations certainly developed world-views and world- girdling institutions that feed the streams of social life that are today global. Consider the new world religion of Islam, which was born in the early seventh century AD, in a region of the Arabian desert blanketed with crescent-shaped dunes and spotted with palm-fringed oases and teeming market towns populated by wandering tribes of Arab pagans and Jewish and Christian traders and travellers. Within a century of the Prophet's death (632 AD), the call of the muezzin from the minaret — 'There is no god except God and Muhammed is the Apostle of God' — echoed in communities as far afield as Spain and China. 1 The lands that curved from Gibraltar around through North Africa and stretched eastwards to the Middle East and Persia were typically seen by Muslim scholars and

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1
Richard M. Eaton, Essays on Islam and Indian History (Oxford, 2001).

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Global Civil Society?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Global Civil Society? *
  • Global Civil Society? *
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Unfamiliar Words 1
  • Catalysts 40
  • Cosmocracy 92
  • Paradise on Earth? 129
  • Ethics Beyond Borders 175
  • Further Reading 210
  • Index 214
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