The Universal Hunger for Liberty

Why the Clash of Civilizations Is Not Inevitable


Starting with 9/11 and continuing with the struggle for peace in Iraq, the West has been forced to interact more fully with the civilization of Islam. In The Universal Hunger for Liberty, statesman and award-winning author Michael Novak sets forth a new model for facing this challenge-and for healing a still violently fractured world. In place of ongoing conflict, he offers a surprisingly optimistic vision of how the concept of fundamental human liberty-shared by the Islamic and Judeo-Christian traditions-can heal our cultural, economic, and political differences.

Originally Published: 2004


“In The Universal Hunger for Liberty, Michael Novak boldly confronts a daunting but crucial challenge: to find among the descendants of Abraham a common foundation for human freedom. Amid today’s intensifying intercultural antagonisms, Novak’s creative approach is invaluable and his central insight critically important: that conciliation among the world’s religions can only come through a thoughtful combination of reason and faith.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski
Center for Strategic and International Studies


“Can one imagine, post-9/11, a universal civilization where diverse peoples advance in their varied ways toward self-government, human rights, and the conquest of poverty? Michael Novak holds no illusions about the dark dangerous side of human nature, but he presents a compelling vision of our world as a place where the human longing for freedom is at work, effecting inner changes in peoples and civilizations, moving them toward self-transformation, opening new horizons and possibilities. Such is Novak’s power of thought and grace of style that few will put down this book without a renewed faith in the human capacity to affect the course of history through reflection and choice.”

Mary Ann Glendon
Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University


“Always the original thinker, Michael Novak has given us a thought provoking, penetrating analysis of the course of freedom on the road ahead. Every reader will be enriched intellectually and spiritually by this honest, well reasoned and beautifully written book. ”

George McGovern

“Michael Novak alerts us to the historic greatness and beauty of Islam as well as to its current turmoil. In the interest of building a universal culture of mutual respect, a dialogue between Islam and Christianity is essential, he insists. To this end, Novak argues eloquently for why Christians and Muslims alike should support democracy as the form of political life most consistent with capacious human yearnings for decency and liberty. Novak’s latest is a book at once hopeful and realistic and a genuine pleasure to read.”

Jean Bethke Elshtain
The Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics
The University of Chicago

“With this book Michael Novak cements his reputation as America’s foremost conservative philosopher. Looking forward as well as to the past, he makes conservative values relevant to our times. Particularly profound is Novak’s discussion of the role of Islam as it interacts with the Christian West and how this interaction sharpens and defines its struggle for human dignity today.”

Jim Leach (R-IA)
US Congress, Committee on International Relations

“Michael Novak’s writings have always moved easily among politics, economics, culture, and theology. Until September 11, his deep understanding of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam was a pleasant bonus in his political writings. Now it is essential. Fail to understand how religion fits into globalization, the decline of Europe, and the struggle with militant Islam, and you fail to understand the dynamics of the 21st century. The Universal Hunger for Liberty integrates the many strands of his thinking and applies them to a sweeping range of issues. It is a dazzling work, urgently needed, and one that only someone with Novak’s erudition could have written.”

Charles Murray
Author of Human Accomplishment

“With characteristic breadth, incisiveness, and hope, Michael Novak has written a sweeping road map for the 21st century. Unlike any other writer today, he is able to integrate a unique understanding of religion’s centrality into a comprehensive analysis of politics and economics. The result is a vision of friendship between Islam and the democratic West based on a common belief in liberty and human dignity.”

Carl Gershman
President, National Endowment for Democracy

“Over the years, I have had a chance to speak on democratic capitalism in Egypt, Morocco, China and elsewhere, and have found Michael Novak’s insights practical, clearly expressed, and easily communicated. From “enterprise zones” in US cities to dialogue between civilizations, Novak’s thinking is of daily use to practical people.”

Jack Kemp
Director, Empower America

“This book is an extraordinary panoramic look at the culture and politics of the twenty-first century, filled with amazing insights from one of the great thinkers of this era. The chapter on “Blue Environmentalism” is worth the price of the book. The same can be said for the very hopeful prospects for democracy in Muslim nations.”

Charles W. Colson
Chairman of the Board, Prison Fellowship Ministries

“Democracy may have Christian and Jewish roots, but its fruits are available to Muslims too. That is the exciting and urgently relevant message of Michael Novak Like democracy itself, America’s great champion of faith and freedom has now gone global.”

David Frum
        Author of An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror and The Right Man
        Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

“This valuable book illuminates the critical impact of liberty not just on one or another activity, but on the whole of a society. I enthusiastically recommend it.”

Jeane Kirkpatrick

“As Islamic extremism surges throughout the world, America must defend its values and way of life through reasoned ideological persuasion, as well as on the battlefield. In this farsighted, comprehensive and accessible book, Michael Novak shows us the way. The Universal Hunger for Liberty identifies the core issues for this great dialogue between two radically different civilizations, and drawing on philosophy and facts provides America’s talking points — on political freedom, capitalism and religious culture.”

Nina Shea
Director, Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom

“ The great question in the world today is the relationship of Islam to the West. In this powerful book, Michael Novak addresses that question with wisdom, generosity of spirit, and great boldness. Dare we hope for a world culture dedicated to liberty and elevated by our shared connection to the Creator? To his great credit, Michael Novak tells us that we can–and how. ”

David Blankenhorn
President, Institute for American Values