- Series: Canto original series
- Paperback: 300 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (May 29, 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521438330
- ISBN-13: 978-0521438339
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,298,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Arab Predicament: Arab Political Thought and Practice since 1967 (Canto original series) 2nd Edition
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"Arguably the most calm, and most often correct, commentator on events occurring in the Persian Gulf during last year's war. Ajami provides clear and articulate insights in this thoughtful work." Armed Forces Journal International
A revised edition of the author's acclaimed 1981 study of major political ideas and trends in the Arab world has been updated in the light of recent turbulent events: the death of Sadat, the Iranian revolution, the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War.
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Ajami's writing style that flows in an entertaining manner adds flavor to the book. This is coupled with a kind of analysis that is in line with Western methodology but that sticks, at the same time, to viewing things from native Eastern eyes.
The only take against Ajami's work is his overgeneralization of the Egyptian Arab model arguing that it is enough for someone to understand Egypt, the mirror of the Arab world, in order to understand the rest of the Arab countries.
While this point is debatable, it does not confirm with the book's main argument that pan-Arabism that reached its climax under late Egyptian President Nasser, was merely a fantasy and an artificial front behind which Arab military dictatorships hid and under whose banner they repressed their peoples. If Arab nationalism was a mere fantasy, why did Ajami take Egypt as the mirror of 21 other nations?
Also, if Egypt was as promising as Ajami believes, how come it never modernized 10 years after the printing of this book and is still considered one of the tyrannical regimes that breed popular frustration and ultimately terror groups.
In any case, other arguments pertaining to the reasons behind failure are accurate. These include Ajami's criticism of progressive secular thought of the so-called Arab revolutionaries that was never able to take off and thus conceded to and depended on the power of regressive traditional powers.
and personal relationship to the complicated and evolving issues of Middle Eastern society. It's like a fascinating dinner conversation with
one of the most brilliant minds in the world who speaks "for real" and who knows what he is talking about..
I found the chapter on Islam especially enlightening, and it appropriately entitled "The rulers' Islam, Islam of the ruled." Many interesting quotes from various sources make this chapter maybe the most important one and surely very relevant for the present.
I do believe Ajami has achieved his objectives that he sets out in his introduction to The Arab Predicament. He explains the fall of Nasserism and Ba'thism, he explores the path Egypt has taken since the Six Day War and why they have taken it, and he explores the conflict between Islamic fundamentalism and modernization, and the problems that the ruling elites and the Arab governments have contributed to this conflict by not giving their people an outlet for political expression. I think the author has deliberately tried to give an unbiased study of the problems of the Arab world, as he uses the thoughts and ideas of varied thinkers and writers, from anti-Western Muhammad Jalal Kishk to the romantic thinking Ba'thist founder Michel Aflaq.
Overall, I think there are very few bad points to The Arab Predicament. I think the study of the topic has created some profound points throughout the book, especially Ajami's explanation for the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism found in the last chapter and its relationship with the inaccessibility of political channels to the people of the Arab world. However, I do think there are a few minor negative points towards the book. First, although I enjoy Ajami's writing style, I am sometimes confused as to whether he is stating an opinion or simply explaining the mindset of another author or writer that he has cited in his text.
In regards to the material covered in the book, the Palestinian issue is mentioned only in passing, as if it is only another outside agent in the Arab world. In some sense this is true, since Ajami already points out the strength of the state in the Middle East (which Palestine does not have). Along with this, it would be helpful if Israel's situation had been more strongly explained and contrasted with the rest of the Arab states, as their presence is a major factor in the Middle East. Also, although the book seems to be written for the specialist reader, it would be helpful to give a little more explanation of most important events, such as the Six Day of 1967 or the October War of 1973. Even if the explanation is not put within one of the chapters, it would be helpful if his Note to the nonspecialist reader gave greater detail to some of the seminal events of the Middle East in the last half century (or at least from 1967).
The Arab Predicament provides great insight into some of the modern problems of the Arab world. Fouad Ajami goes into great depth exploring various issues, and his insight and ability to see the problems of many different viewpoints help him to create a great inquiry of the problems of the Middle East, almost all of which are applicable to today, nearly 10 years after he last revised his book.