Modern History and Politics -- Bitter Legacy: Ideology and Politics in the Arab World by Paul Salem

By Sullivan, Antony T. | The Middle East Journal, Spring 1995 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Modern History and Politics -- Bitter Legacy: Ideology and Politics in the Arab World by Paul Salem


Sullivan, Antony T., The Middle East Journal


Bitter Legacy: Ideology and Politics in the Arab World, by Paul Salem. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1994. xii + 276 pages. Bibl. to p. 288. Index to p. 299. $39.95.

Reviewed by Antony T. Sullivan

In this volume, Paul Salem analyzes the political ideologies that have confronted or succeeded one another throughout the 20th century in Egypt, Iraq, and the Levant. Bitter Legacy is aptly titled. Liberal constitutionalism, Arab nationalism, and contemporary Islamism have all failed to create any consensus concerning the nature of political legitimacy, Salem argues, or to establish any recognized locus of political or social authority. He maintains that, especially in recent decades, ideological utopianism has disfigured society everywhere in the Arab Middle East, and has plunged the region into a crisis from which it has yet to emerge.

Good news, however, there is. Salem believes that Islamist extremism may now have reached its zenith, and suggests that popular disillusionment with all political nostrums may well usher in a post-ideological age characterized by political pragmatism beginning early in the new century. This book constitutes an excellent intellectual and social history of the 20th-century Mashriq, and should be considered required reading by anyone seriously interested in the contemporary Arab world.

Salem draws heavily on the seminal work of the late Edward Shils concerning the nature of culture, ideology, and religion.(1) He posits psychological strain relating to matters of identity and self-understanding, in combination with a need to vent frustration, to explain the Arab world's susceptibility to the blandishments of ideologues. He argues that regionalism and liberal constitutionalism were the ideologies of choice for the merchant and landowning elite of the 1920s and 1930s; pan-Arabism, the ideological option of a new middle class of bureaucrats, technocrats, and senior officials during the 1950s and 1960s; and political Islamism, the preferred ideology for a newly urbanized lower class from the 1970s to the present. In the Arab world, ideology has proven to be specific to both generation and class, Salem maintains, and can best be understood in chronological components of approximately a quarter century. He observes that ideological systems have always proven to be especially attractive to non-Sunni minorities, serving as useful vehicles to enhance their status and power. The author discusses Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid and Muhammad 'Abduh as forerunners or exemplars of liberal constitutionalism; Sati' al-Husri, Antun Sa'adeh, and Michel 'Aflaq as influential theoreticians of radical Arabism, totalitarianism, and political violence; and Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, Hassan al-Banna, and Sayyid Qutb as key advocates of Islamic gnosticism.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Modern History and Politics -- Bitter Legacy: Ideology and Politics in the Arab World by Paul Salem
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?