What are we to make of the rise of fundamentalisms for the future of the international system?
This is the issue confronted in this chapter, and it develops remarks made about the rise of fundamentalisms in the previous chapter. In most people’s eyes ‘fundamentalism’ is associated with religion and particularly with the rise of militant Islam. Clearly, Islamic fundamentalism is an important issue and one that could threaten the future of a broadly liberal domestic and international environment if it were ever to seriously take hold as a global political force. But religious fundamentalism is not confined just to Islam. It represents a strong feature of contemporary Christian doctrine as well, particularly in the form of the ‘born-again’ movement in the USA and elsewhere (Northcott 2004). In addition, we should not ignore secular fundamentalisms (Ruthven 2004; Sim 2004). One of these with a strong ethical underpinning is militant animal rights activism. This has engaged in a series of harassments, intimidations and bombings. Another would be fundamentalist nationalism: the kind promoted by extreme right-wing political groups such as the Front National in France and the BNP in Britain (though at the moment the BNP may be something of a spent force in the context of British politics). This fundamentalism is often associated with overt racism. But the one that has had – and continues to have – the greatest potential impact at the international level is extreme neoliberalism, or, as it is better known, ‘market fundamentalism’.