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20182019 – ACU2001 – 00 – REGULAR – 6165771

Submission: Possible Scenario of Secular Western Society

Cultural Pluralism

Name [ Sarah Shinjung Hong ]

Student ID # 6165771 Always 7 positions, no letter I. Add a zero at the beginning

if only 6 positions.

E – mail address

Course code A CU2001

Group number 06

Supervisor/tutor [Maud Oostindie]

Assignment name Fi nal paper

Assignment # 0 0 The end work of a course always carries the number 0 0.

All other assignments are numbered chronologically

starting with 0 1 .


Academic year 201 8 201 9

Date 31 – 3 – 2019

Words 18 1 7

Filename 20182019 – ACU2001 – 00 – REGULAR – 6165771 .

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Submission: Possible Scenario of Secular Western Society



Western countries have been top – dogs in history and their system is educationally,

socially and economically quite influential to diverse states. But we can observe that

Western culture is in trouble with some side – effects from their flourish. A French

au thor, Michel Houellebecq, exemplifies subversively conversion of decay ed

postmodern secularity to Islam and characters who submit whatever for salvaging

their devasted psychological condition in his book, Submission .

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Based on David

Price’s review and Hynders & Bo x’s literary diagnosis of the book with applying

several theories of thinkers , Parekh, Habermas, and Mahbubani , et al., this paper

shall spell out that readers should accept significantly what this novel implies about

Western contemporary society.

A Frenc h novelist, Michel Houellebecq, wrote a book, Submission, that he imagined

France has been converted to Islamic culture in 2022 , because it is bogged down

between ideology and value of the Western’s institution and postmodern secular

society. A nd his book was published on the very day that the attack of Islamic

terrorists on Charlie Hebdo took place.

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His scenario made people in Europe not only

feel outrage but elevated their attention to themselves in reality ; the author told

readers something about the exp erience of the present in a surreal perspective.

Houellebecq (2015) described in his novel that “an author is above all a human being,

present in his book, and whether he writes very well or very badly hardly matters –

as long as he gets the books written and is indeed, present in them” (p. 15). He tried

to reflect current societal issues by incorporating himself in a main character,

Francois, following in the footsteps of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, the French

author creates an alternative near – future to critique today’s political strategies

(Hynders and Box, 2004).

Though liberalism developed during the period of European colonial growth has had

an enormous effect on articulating the concept of the individual and freedom,

diversity in Europe has bee n threatened in assimilation process and secular, reason –

based and scientifically – oriented society are paradoxically associated with politics, of

which impractical policies of right – wing and populist in France make the people

anxious. What Houellebecq sugg ests in the novel and its contribution not only

Submission: Possible Scenario of Secular Western Society


scathing critique of Western democratic societies (Price, 2015) but a message using

alien his own words in that it triggered many Europeans to think about their life in

today’s opportunism, individualism and political decline of Western society.

The title of Houellebecq’s book presents image of absolute and authoritative power

contrary to background of the story in democracy or modernization. It has been over

200 years to accomplish scientific advancement , emancipation and personal choice

of religion, in which people must reciprocally accept other cultures and recognize

differences. However, ideals of Enligh tenment of the West that emphasized the right

of an individual are what has made it possible for those free individuals to sink into

self – indulgence and willful blindness (Price, 2015), resulting in being stuck in former

supremacy and material complacency . Such a contradiction le d to abuse and unease

of freedom and to turn away from civilized society which Houellebecq, as well, has

reflected on in several books. Ungureanu (2017) claims that Houellebecq questions

the values of Enlightenment and modernity fro m his first novel onwards; his first

novel, Whatever , is already an indictment of the way modern liberalism and

individualism bring about atomization and alienation. His seventh book, Submission ,

reflects on why human is vulnerable in crisis of civilizatio n and is not resilient any

more without religion in modern society, as illustrating an intellectual protagonist

whose private ambition and vocation is waning, and only interest is first or foremost

getting away from ennui in his life. In other words, Franc ois is worried about withering

away alone, yet never tries to remedy the emptiness in his life. Neglected, pleasure –

seeking, yet never satisfied, Francois looks for people’s possessions, physical

appearance and achievements while paying no attention to per sonality or emotional

connection. He admits himself “I had no friends true, but when did I ever?” (p.152).

As for Francois’ desolation of modern society, he could understand the problem of

the limit and existence in study of Joris – Karl Huysmans dialectical ly, who is well –

known for his novel ? rebours and submission to religion, Catholicism.

Houellebecq points out that Christian religion and democratic politics in Europe would

not guarantee ethical and faithful freedo m on a par with freedom before

Enlightenment , in effect, he has skeptical stance to the aspect of Europe secularism

because Western society is getting more and more narrow to engage in a serious

Submission: Possible Scenario of Secular Western Society


issue such as, critique of Islam or diverse and plural responses against political

regulations. In addition, though Houellebecq is hostile to the Muslim, dominant and

conservative politicians in Franc e do not listen to citizens to show their opinions or

autonomy and their exclusive polarization which has weakened the base of

democratic system and is only interested in gaining power engender his decadent

expression. It is possible layout of conversion i nto more fundamental religion to fulfil

the basic carving. Mohammed Ben Abbes, who is a leader in Muslim brotherhood in

the story, realizes an important problem of the West that secularized democracy has


All in all, among many scholars there are talks of the “end of secularization theory”

(Habermas, 2008, p.18), which means that past tolerance for humanistic vision as

well as responsibility, morality, and belief start to break down and it is not easy to

search for one’s own value or ethics by reli gion or ideals in post – modern. In the case

of France, anti – Christian was prominent when French Revolution took place, following

a more than a century struggle between two visions – conservative and Catholic, the

other progressive and anti – clerical (Burger, 2005). Such a separation gave the French

the chance to eliminate religious symbol in their life for the notion of free from

religion, accepted various people, and formed multilateral society which is necessary

to devise a political structure in order to e mbrace new people. Whilst deferring to and

giving several ideologies some meanings for the world, western Europe has

established great reasonings of powerful nations. Unfortunately, after World War II,

along with global changes Western and Eastern Europe i s the most secularized,

people’s religious bonding lapsed and the reliance of it has reduced drastically and

prefer their private interest to pursuing universal values. As J. Habermas notes, post –

modern secularized societies are unable to generate their ow n values, morals or

ethics, but instead rinse and repeat those from their Judeo – Christian heritage which

they never truly abandoned, but are unable to consistently believe in (Habermas,

2008, p.17 – 18). Houellebecq takes very seriously destruction of Enligh tenment

philosophy and thinks that people reestablish simply with the enterprise of foundation

of faith, not examining a series of questions for corruption.

Submission: Possible Scenario of Secular Western Society


Ben Abbes elected a new leader of France on 31 May in t he scenario because he

postulated what the people wanted cleverly, with the manner in which its economic

and political life depends on how it defines, legitimizes and regulates, and what

meaning and significance of it assigns to the pursuit of wealth and the exercise of

power, respectively (Parekh, 2000, p.151). He also reforms the educational system,

and his fundamentalist’s suavity and sureness sneak into scholars’ and allied party’s

aspiration to hark back their prosperity. Western nations have interfered and

colon ized a number of developing countries for their objectivities, as such.

Machiavellian tactic of European nations (Mahbubani, 2018), that is the West for a

long time have been obsessed with accomplishing its desire and ambition, made some

people lost their soul and utterly blind to arrogance. On the other side, Eastern

countries including China not only overtook several powerful countries remarkably by

embodying traditional and modern value, but lots of western people are disturbed by

disillusionment of capi talism and personal ontological significance in civilization.

Francois is enticed by the idea of Rediger, who is an academic writing a thesis on

Nietzsche and who converts to Islam several years before the rise of the Muslim

Brotherhood. He eventually chos e to submit the Islam that makes him feel self –

centered and retain his blatant, but agonized profession.

Price said, ” This theme of Submission can be interpreted by a superficial reader as

a warning against a post – democratic dystopia and the threat of Is lam to the Western

world” (Price. D, 2015). But, most factors of the narrative, 2020 election, parties,

and name of university, that Houellebecq set up are based on reality in France. This

is imaginary scenario (Hynders and Box, 2004) that offers not far a way epoch faced

with spineless authority and exhausted individuals who do not care for involving in

their sober volition. In probable consequence, not as straightforward satirical

Islamophobic or Islamization, but as a mutual and scrupulous discourse it en courages

to assess and critique current politics and the public in Western Europe. Languages

of several characters, like Francois and Ben Abbes, the author attempts to illuminate

the conventional hedonistic surface of French life and then with ‘image in ar tistic

prose’ and ‘the image of novelistic prose’ (Bakhtin, 1934, p.1203) the direct,

unmediated intention of the social consciousness is unfolded under authentic

novelistic situation. Furthermore, at the part of Francois writing a diary and discussing

Submission: Possible Scenario of Secular Western Society


pol itical situation with his acquaintance, who says “Ben Abbes’ true ambition . . . is

eventually to be elected president of Europe – greater Europe, including all the

Mediterranean countries” (Houellebecq, Submission , 128 – 29) – however impossible,

Houellebec q’ s intentional expression and dialogue more often than not allow to look

into oneself and respond to certain features beyond the text of a novel. As a

journalist, sociologist, and philosopher, of course a novelist, he attempts to converse

with readers an d is waiting for some answers within intimate interaction. It is

uniqueness of novel discourse, which enables to offer an ideal moral order and as

such, prompt the reader to think about how to live together in society (Hynders and

Box, 2004). Francois’ imp assive but trenchant words bear specific emotions of

mirroring us ourselves.

Modern society having grown so quickly and broadly, global village came up and the

world is quite intense and minimalized. Simultaneously, many countries including

France are col liding various kinds of conflicts or discordance and agitation of the

people make them find more egoistical contentment. Francois’ dilemma and

predicament portrayed in his monologue is never inevitable to inspect emptiness or

despair in late – capitalist mul ticultural society. Reading this book, I can contemplate

issues about my country, South Korea, as well as Western Europe. Oscillation

between humanity and fulfillment, eagerness of newness and consumption – oriented

society provoke individuals to be not only greedy and indifferent to belief but

pretentious to others. Houellebecq criticizes those who do not look back, even

picturing subversive narrative of Islamization of France. Price (11 September 2015)

concluded his article, saying

“By combining the person al story of Fran?ois with the political frame story of the rise

of the Muslim Brotherhood, Houellebecq compels us to examine why and how we

have come to this point, where free societies appear to be too timid to engage in a

serious critique of Islam, the p olitics of identity, and the role of religion in secular


Most importantly, I am so glad to interpret a polemical content and expand the point

of view by interdisciplinary of art and literature, society, and philosophy. This is why

a lot of wri ters should analyze the culture and world, creating their own language and

Submission: Possible Scenario of Secular Western Society


characters in the novel. Ishiguro’s Nobel prize lecture (2017) – “Let us at least think

about how we can prepare our own small corner of it, this corner of ‘literature’, where

we r ead, write, publish, recommend, denounce and give awards to books” – gives

deep resonance.


Houellebecq, M. (2015). Submission. Penguin Random House.

Bakhtin, M. (2001 [1934 – 35]) From Discourse in the Novel. The Norton Anthology of

Theory and Criticism, ed. by Vincent Leith et al. New York: W.W. Norton & Company,

pp. 1190 – 1216.

Berger, P. L. (2005): Religion and the West. The National Interest. Available online:

// – and – the – west – 858 .

Habermas, J. (2008). Notes on the Post – Secular Society. New Perspectives Quarterly,

25 (4).

Heynders, O. & Bax, S. (2015). Imaginary Scenarios: Literature and Democracy in

Europe. Pivot 5.1, 247 – 276 .

Mahbubani, K. (April 14, 2018). – How Asia is rapidly overtaking The West. De Balie.

Public lecture. Available online:

Parekh, B. (2000). Politics, R eligion and Free Speech. Rethinking Multiculturalism.

Cultural Diversity and Political Theory (pp. 295 – 336). New York: Palgrave.

Price, D. (11 September 2015). Book Review Michel Houellebecq’s Sousmission.

Southern Humanities Review.

Available online: – soumission – by –

michel – houellebecq.html .

Submission: Possible Scenario of Secular Western Society


Ungureanu, C. (2017) Michel Houellebecq’s shifting representation of Islam: From

death of God to counter Enlightenment, Philosophy and Social Criticism, 43(4 – 5),

514 – 528.

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20182019-ACU2001-00-REGULAR-6165771. (2019, Nov 24). Retrieved from

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