May 16, 2011
As PhD students in political science at Harvard some twenty years ago, two of us (Shah and Philpott) had to take an introductory course on comparative world politics, and the first book we distinctly remember reading in that course was The Passing of Traditional Society, by Daniel Lerner. This was a classic, highly influential study of the coming of modernity—modern values, modern education, modern organizations—and how the juggernaut of modernity was inexorably, inevitably revolutionizing the traditional societies and cultures of the Middle East. Reading that book in the early 1990s, we vividly recall Lerner's sweeping conclusion about what modernity would mean for religion and traditional culture and for Islam. He concluded that Islam in the Middle East is "absolutely defenseless" in the face of the rationalist and positivist spirit of modernity. The modernization, urbanization, and industrialization of Egypt and other Arab countries in the Middle East would inevitably bring the secularization of Egypt and the countries of the Middle East.
Shah, Timothy, Daniel Philpott, and Monica Toft. "God and Political Science." Public Discourse, May 16, 2011.