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Cultural Dimensions of Modern State and The Challenge of Muslim Countries

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Cultural Dimensions of Modern State and The Challenge of Muslim Countries
Cultural Dimensions of Modern State and The Challenge of Muslim Countries

Pewartanusantara.com – When we read historical books, soon we would find that the national development of each country has their paths. Until now, at least 200 country established around the globe. And almost all advanced nations take place in the West. Everybody, who live not in the West may ask the question why the West more modern and prosper than the East? The common answer is because the West has been shaped their state through extracting resources from the East, in other words, they colonize the rest of the world. But someone must criticize this economic exploitation argument to address that the abundance of material is not the guarantee for society to evolve to the next level.

The other explanation about the improvement of the Western nation-state tends to stress cultural factors. This means that culture is the human product both symbolically and materially constituting to transform Western people with modern spirit. As Weber said, the spirit of capitalism is shaped by a certain kind of ethics that is derived from new interpretations about religion. This argument infers to counter rationalist argument state that human being in nature is rational, therefore they always find a way to maximize their interest. I am not amazed about this influential argument because historical accounts explain the mercantilist period arose the self-interest attitude. However, we must consider that human being never dissociates from their beliefs, morality, and normative values.

As a tool of culture, information has a decisive rule to coordinate further human conduct. Toward information effective organization dan emotional attachment is made possible. Traditional societies have a problem called the scarcity of information. Surely, this is because at the time people do not invent mass information transmitter technology yet. And the consequence is educational institution was limited capacity to absorb pupils. To maintain society the educator selected which important pieces of knowledge and skills to be learned. We can say that a traditional society with limited information inflow manages little invention and innovation.

Perhaps we must understand which traditional state that arose the most valuable innovation for modern society. Historians affirm that the Abbasid Caliphate (around 8-13 centuries) was the first advanced state with attractive knowledge discourses and have a fundamental invention legacy that establish modern science disciplines such as mathematics, astronomy, and healthcare. Why did this happen? I would answer this question with two folds.

First, the state massif promotion to boost knowledge circulation through translating foreign literature into the Arabic language. We don’t know how much literature precisely had been translated and copied. But we can expect, assuming with the traditional transcription technology, that this mega project certainly involved a million scholars. Because of that literature was enormous both on the matter and the variety, the division of knowledge discipline emerge. At the time, scholars are not enforced to choose specific disciplines. They feel free to learn the knowledge they need as much as possible. This is the reason why most of the leading scholar figures are experts in a different specialty.

Second, is the relative secularization policy to liberalize Muslim society. Relative secularization refers to the separation space to build boundaries between the scope of state power exercised and the range autonomy of society. This also indicates that the state can hold legitimate political power without promoting official ideology. We must point out that when that ability vanishes the state tends to utilize their coercive power. However, persecution and restriction during the Abbasid period were rare. These conditions arouse the vitality of society to create a whole range of cultural matters that govern Muslim society according to Islamic norms. But interestingly, no one of these matters claims to be absolute and canonized.

After all, I want to point out that the establishment of the Islamic traditional state has a dissimilar essential value from the modern one. This lies in the perception of nature and the belief in human objectives. Contrasted with modern thought insist that nature is treated only for human interests, instead, Islamic traditional thought tends to preserve nature. This is why the material production technologies of the Islamic traditional state are not well developed. In other words, they cannot manage and organize the economy to achieve prosperity. I think this problem still seems obvious right now within Muslim majority countries.

When we switch our attention to the Western development progress the pattern is quite same, but the scale is tremendous. The rise of western civilization is always mentioned with Renaissance and Enlightenment. The former triggered European peoples to be aware of learning dispositions. We can say that this cultural initiative comes from people, not the state. Without incentives from the state, this initiative process works slowly. But its advantage is more persistent and influential. And the latter made Western countries entrance to the phrase of rational discourses. This scale of discourses was massif because many scholars easily spread their ideas to the public thank to the print machine. In the other words, the information within society flows smoothly. But we must keep in mind that rational discourses tend to resist religious narratives. In another world, most modern scholars displace religious values with secular humanism as foundational thought.

That evolutionary processes then construct the form of modern state. Despite the structure of modern state carrying two separations; religion from state and politics from economy, we necessarily need to consider its cultural dimensions. This cultural dimension arranges from what people believe subjectively to the normative value that governs societal institutions. But I would limit our concern on the ethics of productive work. In this term, we tend to cast unrestricted meaning.

An ideal modern state requires their citizen to be more productive. This is also the only way to gain legitimate power in modern times. The meaning of productive is not limited to the economy but also, more importantly, cultural sense. Economic productivity essentially is oriented to provide necessary basic goods to achieve well living for everyone. But as always, the improvement of economic productivity depends on the cultural process that provides educated workers, innovative technology, leaders, and strategic planners. For this reason, we can say that the power of modern state to transform society rest on the specialized division of labour. With specific tasks and skills, the effectiveness of social organization will incrementally be better. Nevertheless, the objective of modern state is to build a complex social system driven by speciality knowledge. We must notice that the ethos to achieve knowledge in an advanced modern state is strong. For them, education is a most valuable achievement. This made western people feel challenged to create and figure out knowledge. And the government support it through a systematic approach. I suppose this is the heart of the cultural dimension of modern state.

Thus, what about the Muslim majority country? They seemingly have been established a modern state to govern their societies. But I think the cultural dimension of modern state still has not concerned by Muslim majority countries yet.

Read also: The Evolve of Patriotic-Capitalism: A short reflection in Russia and Indonesia

Yogyakarta, 27 Maret 2022

Pewarta: Agus EfendhyEditor: Moh. Sobakhul Mubarok
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