This is intellectual history at its best, a study of ideas and thinkers and the impact they had on their societies. Here one will find a clear discussion of the roots of Arab nationalism, Islamic reform, and the turn toward Islamic radicalism. Hourani deftly deals with the themes of modernization, the influence of the West, and the search for authenticity. The book has survived the passage of time remarkably well and is still an essential source for understanding the major political currents that have swept the Arab world in this century. More recently, Fouad Ajami's The Arab Predicament: Arab Political Thought and Practice Since , written after the war, foresaw the erosion of Nasserism and the importance of Islam as a political rallying point.
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This is not a general history of modern Arabic thought. It is a study of that stream of political and social thought which began when, in the first half of the nineteenth century, educated men in the Arabic-speaking countries became aware of the ideas and institutions of modern Europe, and, in the second, started to feel its power.
In order to revive the forces of their own society, what should they and what could they take from the west? Once they began to borrow, in what sense would they remain Arabs and Muslims? I have tried to show how such questions became articulate and some of the answers given to them. I have not tried to include everything, but to select what best seemed to illustrate my theme: I have dealt more fully with early than with later formulations, more with what was written in Cairo and Beirut, the centres of Arabic thought, than elsewhere.
I have laid my main emphasis on the writings of a small number of thinkers who seemed to me more worth studying than the others, and tried to give enough details of their lives and the world in which they lived to make clear why they posed their problems in the way they did.
After the distinction between 'east' and 'west' no longer has the same validity as before, and the problem of 'westernization' ceases to lie at the centre of thought; a new stream of thought begins to flow, which I have done no more than indicate from a distance in my epilogue. I should like to express my deep gratitude to institutions and persons who have helped me.
My greatest debt is to the President and Fellows of Magdalen College, Oxford, who elected me to a research fellowship and so made it possible for me to start the process of thought and study which has led, after much delay, to this book.
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No cover image. Read preview. Synopsis Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age is the most comprehensive study of the modernizing trend of political and social thought in the Arab Middle East. Albert Hourani studies the way in which ideas about politics and society changed during the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries, in response to the expanding influence of Europe.
His main attention is given to the movement of ideas in Egypt and Lebanon. He shows how two streams of thought, the one aiming to restate the social principles of Islam, and the other to justify the separation of religion from politics, flowed into each other to create the Egyptian and Arab nationalisms of the present century. The last chapter of the book surveys the main tendencies of thought in the post-war years.
Since its publication in , this book has been regarded as a modern classic of interpretation. It was reissued by the Cambridge University Press in and has subsequently sold over copies. Excerpt This is not a general history of modern Arabic thought. Read preview Overview. The Middle East Journal, Vol.
Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939
Arabic thought in the liberal age, 1798-1939