The Middle East and Conceptions of ‘International Society’
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Of all the areas of the third world, the Middle East is the one that has the longest history of interaction, military, political and economic, with the ‘West’ and, in particular, with the European state system, this latter understood as the set of institutions and norms that have together shaped modern, that is post-1500, and in particular post-1945, international relations. China, remote and unsubjugated, and the Americas, subjugated but unassimilated, have for sure provided alternative points of reference, not least with regard to arguments as to the universality of human character and customs, but for all their importance, real and symbolic, they have been markedly less important than the Ottomans, the Arab world, ‘Islam’ and Persia. At the same time, engagement with this region, and the conceptual, normative and policy debates this has occasioned, has done more than any other to stimulate and challenge European and more generally ‘Western’ thinking on international relations. In recent years this engagement has taken particularly acute and vivid form, in debates on the ‘Clash of Civilisations’, the incidence of terrorism, the failures of democratisation, and broader discussions of cultural and normative difference between the Muslim and Western systems.
KeywordsSaudi Arabia Foreign Policy Middle East International Relation Arab World
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