THE CLOSED CIRCLE by David Pryce-Jones


An Interpretation of the Arabs
Age Range: 160 - 200
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English author Pryce-Jones (Paris in the Third Reich; Next Generation: Travels in Israel; etc.) offers a well-conceived, basically critical interpretation of the modern rise of Arab nationalism, as he focuses on the failure of the Arab states to fully take their place among the influential community of nations. As a consequence of the fatal alliance of the Ottoman Empire with Germany in WW I, the Arab states found themselves under the aegis of Britain and France, whose colonial management was so efficient that it ironically allowed the Arabs to speak to the West after the Second World War in Western idioms that appealed to the European bent towards political independence. But, argues Pryce-Jones, the West was hoodwinked by clever nationalists who acted in a "recognizable Western mold." In reality, the 160-200 million Arabs live under what has been professed to the West as "Arab socialism," but which is, in effect, absolute rule. Under that rule, the author writes, Arabs have made "no inventions or discoveries in the sciences or the arts, no contribution to medicine or philosophy. . .Sucking in Western goods out of all proportion to their capacity to abort them, the Arabs are returning only oil." The author quotes a Moroccan intellectual who termed the post-Suez-Crisis Arabian era as "the long winter of the Arabs." This has created, in Pryce-Jones' view, "instead of construction, destruction; instead of creativity, wastefulness; instead of a body politic, atrocities." The problem boils down, in the author's mind, to the fact that instead of adopting Western social and political norms, Arab states have reverted to basic tribal and kinship structures with their attendant group values--foremost among which are strict codes of shame, honor, and power-challenging--that are inimical to the norms of Western order. The heavy tinge of Eurocentrism, the unrelieved negativity that sees the Arab masses remaining uninvolved in influencing their own fate, and a lack of insights into possibilities for the future taint this otherwise reflective and studious portrait.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1989
ISBN: 06-016047-0
Publisher: HarperCollins
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