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Why Are the Arabs Not Free?: The Politics of Writing (Critical Quarterly Book Series) [Paperback]

Moustapha Safouan
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: £12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

4 Jun 2007 140516171X 978-1405161718 1
Moustapha Safouan, in this courageous and honest book, confronts head–on the problem of Arab despotism, examining it from the point of view of political philosophy, religious argument and linguistic history. A ground–breaking book written by the eminent Lacanian psychoanalyst Moustapha Safouan. Rejects explanations of Arab despotism which appeal either to imperialism or to notions of Arab culture in favour of an analysis which focuses on the relations between writing and power. Investigates the divorce between the classical Arabic which is the medium of education and the diverse vernacular Arabics which are the languages of the streets. A tour de force of political philosophy, religious argument and linguistic history.

Product details

  • Paperback: 124 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (4 Jun 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140516171X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405161718
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.7 x 0.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,834,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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From the Back Cover

Moustapha Safouan, in this courageous and honest book, confronts head–on the problem of Arab despotism, examining it from the point of view of political philosophy, religious argument and linguistic history. Safouan’s impassioned argument to his fellow Arabs is that if they wish to realise the potential of their great culture, they must follow the linguistic lead of the European Reformation and develop their currently despised vernaculars as written languages.

About the Author

Moustapha Safouan is an 85 year old Egyptian psychoanalyst living in Paris. His father was one of the founders of the Egyptian Communist party. As a young man in post–war Paris he was one of Jacques Lacan′s first students. He has published widely in psychoanalysis. This book has been translated from Arabic and the English text has ben completely re–worked by Colin MacCabe to make it as accesible to Western readers as possible. Colin MacCabe considers it the most important book that he has edited in over thirty years as an editor for Macmillan/Palgrave, British Film Institute and Blackwells.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By rob crawford TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This is a very interesting book by a leading Arab intellectual. Safouan is a prominent psychoanalyst, born in Egypt and emigrated to France, where he became a therapist and writer. In this book, Safouan argues that Arabs are bound by their language and rhetorical style, which uses the religious vocabulary of the Koran. This leads to a kind of intellectual dead end, he argues, as it limits their range of thought. In this view, because they are unable to conceive of a more secular world as determined by the personal and political vocabulary available to them, those that control the language - autocrats and mullahs - control the evolution of society. To overcome this, he asserts, the Arab countries must develop an entirely new vocabulary, one autonomous from the sacred. The argument closely follows French intellectual currents (Levi-Strauss, Lacan, etc.), i.e. that written language is an instrument of power, binding them to an ideology and world view: he wants to free the Arab peoples from it by furnishing western classic literature and modern ideas in translation as well as encouraging the the development of local argot.

This fundamental idea explains part of the Islamic dilemma. However, as Islamic culture evolves, Moslems will have to discover their own solutions, of which a new vocabulary would form one element, though perhaps more as a reflection of change than a catalyst. In my opinion, Safouan's argument is too intellectual, too literary.

REcommended as a valuable point of view.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4.0 out of 5 stars Language as ideological "screen" for self-censorship 22 Sep 2008
By Robert J. Crawford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a very interesting book by a leading Arab intellectual. Safouan is a prominent psychoanalyst, born in Egypt and emigrated to France, where he became a therapist and writer. In this book, Safouan argues that Arabs are bound by their language and rhetorical style, which uses the religious vocabulary of the Koran. This leads to a kind of intellectual dead end, he argues, as it limits their range of thought. In this view, because they are unable to conceive of a more secular world as determined by the personal and political vocabulary available to them, those that control the language - autocrats and mullahs - control the evolution of society. To overcome this, he asserts, the Arab countries must develop an entirely new vocabulary, one autonomous from the sacred. The argument closely follows French intellectual currents (Levi-Strauss, Lacan, etc.), i.e. that written language is an instrument of power, binding them to an ideology and world view: he wants to free the Arab peoples from it by furnishing western classic literature and modern ideas in translation as well as encouraging the the development of local argot.

This fundamental idea explains part of the Islamic dilemma. However, as Islamic culture evolves, Moslems will have to discover their own solutions, of which a new vocabulary would form one element, though perhaps more as a reflection of change than a catalyst. In my opinion, Safouan's argument is too intellectual, too literary.

REcommended as a valuable point of view.
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