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The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs
 
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The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs [Format Kindle]

David Pryce-Jones

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Présentation de l'éditeur

As the violence of the Middle East has come to America, many Westerners are stunned and confounded by this new form of mayhem that appears to be a feature of Arab societies. This important book explains how Arabs are closed in a circle defined by tribal, religious, and cultural traditions. David Pryce-Jones examines the forces which “drive the Arabs in their dealings with each other and with the West.” In the postwar world, he argues, the Arabs reverted to age-old tribal and kinship structures, from which they have been unable to escape. In tribal society, loyalty is extended to close kin and other members of the tribe. The successful nation-state—the model that Westerners understand—generates broader loyalties, but the tribal world has no institutions that have evolved by common consent for the general good. Those who seek power achieve it by plotting secretly and ruthlessly eliminating their rivals. In the Arab world, violence is systemic. "This is a healthy corrective, a thought-provoking study. And Mr. Pryce-Jones has done his research, bringing a wealth of reading to his task; the book is extensively documented, with a good section of reference notes."—David K. Shipler, New York Times Book Review. "Acute insights into how the Middle East works, or fails to work. This is definitely a book to be read, if also one to be thought about carefully and rather critically."—David Morgan, Times Literary Supplement.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 7254 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 480 pages
  • Editeur : Ivan R. Dee (25 avril 2009)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B002EVP4V8
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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Amazon.com: 4.2 étoiles sur 5  43 commentaires
210 internautes sur 223 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Closed Circle, indeed. 5 août 2000
Par sid1gen - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
This book is a very distressing work. The author starts with a thesis and never lets go, analyzing almost every aspect of his chosen subject --the Arabs-- from social, political, sexual, literary, artistic, and other perspectives, reaching the conclusion that people are what they are, and that our attempts at rationalizing the behavior of societies that are totally alien to our own must end in absolute disapointment if not outright exasperation. The cultural weight of centuries rests on the Arabs and Pryce-Jones uncovers layer after layer of myth, folklore, history, lies, and the western folly of seeing Western problems and solutions mirrored in Arab realities, projecting onto a different people sets of values and accepted norms of behavior that are just not part of their lives. For the first time I have read an author that tells me something I suspected from my admittedly limited dealings with Arabs in 12 years: they understand power, but democracy escapes them as an absurdity. Any sort of sexual liberation that goes beyond the cosmetic (and even that is pushing it) is not bound to happen any time soon in the Arab world. Without it, any sort of "democracy" they may have will never be more than a mirage, a photocopy of the original. Their family lives are deeply dictatorial, and so is their social life. They will abase themselves in front of those seen as superiors, and they will humiliate those seen as inferiors. Any other treatment is alien. This is what makes this book disturbing: I have read other books on the subject and I see the coverage of news from that area of the world, and now I realize how deeply wrong those assessments are. Pryce-Jones understands politics in the Arab world as power-plays and power-grabs. He is right. The sooner we realize that, the easier it will be to deal with this reality. There are errors. The worst one is that the author insists on putting Arabs, Turks, and Persians in the same bag. They may, overall, share a common religion, even considering the Shi'a- Sunni rift, and the many other divisions inside the Muslim world (Alawites and Druzes being just a part of this deeply divided group), but they are not the same people. The book is subtitled "An interpretation of the Arabs": it should have been exactly that and leave Turks and Persians alone or, if the author really wanted to include these other peoples, the subtitle should have been changed. Also, the actor Omar Sharif is described as "not an Arab, but a Coptic Christian." Well, there are plenty of Arabs who are also Christians. Sharif is an Egyptian. That makes him an Arab. End of the argument. Still, these points are not enough to demerit a very courageous work that dares to present the views of the author as they are. These views, I feel, are very much true.
86 internautes sur 89 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 accurate 19 janvier 2001
Par Ahamd Hosni - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
This book is a great book that will anger most of the arab readers. They will call it biases, bigotted & racist. However as an egyptian who lives in egypt, I believe that the author made it very clear & accurate; in a typical british style it's sharply critical & t-the-point. What the author said was nothing new to me; I was always wondering what makes the arabs so different after all these years with contacts with other cultures & all that money that some enjoy. I came to the same conclusions that the author came two. It's damn right! His appraoch is simple & clear, though not very scientific; and it lacks the comparative approach.
125 internautes sur 132 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Whither the Promised Freedom? 5 décembre 2001
Par Big Dave - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
Pryce-Jones explores the question why there are no modern Arab liberal democracies.
He finds the answer in Arab social and political culture, specifically:
1. TRIBALISM. Pryce-Jones argues that Arab culture doesn't encourage Arabs to identify themselves as members of a state, but as members of a family or tribe. Arab political life therefore consists of a multitude of warring factions, none of whom seeks the good of the nation as a whole. As Karl Popper might describe it, they ask only the personal question "Who should rule?" (and answer: "I should!") and never ask the more fundamental institutional question "How should power be organized?"
2. THE SHAME / HONOR SYSTEM. Arabs place great weight on perceptions of their honor. This consideration therefore often trumps all others and results in behavior that looks, to western eyes, like insanity.
An example is the Aswan dam. Nasser announces that he will build the dam and that it will be a great thing, thereby committing his honor to its construction and success. Therefore, when his own experts tell him that the dam is a bad idea (it will disrupt agriculture, increase the spread of some diseases, etc.), he suppresses the information and does not back down. When the Eisenhower administration revokes the promised funding for the dam (because it's a bad idea), Nasser's honor has committed him so fully to the dam that he reverses his foreign policy 180 degrees and cuddles up to the Soviet Union to get it done. And when the dam, as predicted, turns out to be a curse rather than a blessing, Nasser goes on shouting its virtues.
3. THE POWER-CHALLENGE DIALECTIC. You're either in power in the Arab world, in which case you're paranoid and watching your subordinates and allies as closely as your enemies, or you're no, in which case you lurk in the shadows, plot and scheme until your hand is ready and you make your move to challenge the power holder. There is no notion of shared power, no notion of purely institutional power.
THEREFORE...
The result is that calls for democracy, like calls for socialism, Palestinian independence and even repentance and return to the true tenets of Islam, are bogus. They mask what would otherwise be naked grabs for power by an individual or a tribal group. The Arabs are constantly and consistently betrayed by their leaders.
Note that this is NOT a book about Islam. Pryce-Jones explicitly argues that this Arab culture pre-dates Islam and that Islam itself is often used as a tool or a pretext in power challenges (as in Wahhabism, for instance).
56 internautes sur 61 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs 18 novembre 2001
Par Mr. Commissar - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
Mr. Pryce-Jones presents some uncomfortable facts about the Muslim Middle East that should be understood by anyone who cares to begin to understand what's going on in the modern world populated by the likes of Osama bin Laden. One of the most powerful passages in his book is not opinion or conclusion, but rather a tragic listing of the murdered Arab leaders from 1948 onwards. This list is truly frightening. For Americans, it would be as if every president since Harry Truman had been assassinated during office and his successor the man responsible for the murder.
Say what you want about cultural relativism and its reponsibility to respect the way of life of others, this fact (together with the other well-researched data that Mr. Pryce-Jones presents) paints a troubling picture of tribal society, feckless international intervention and, ultimately a fertile ground for the disaffected who are fed militant Islam at every turn.
Take heed.
44 internautes sur 47 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 None Better on the Arabs 13 janvier 2004
Par Timothy Ritter - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
Although it makes one pessimistic about prospects for the Arabs, THE CLOSED CIRCLE gives answers to a lot of the questions that people have about that part of the world, question such as: Why the lack of heavy industry? Why the disdain for higher learning? Why the obsessive hatred of Israel? Why the hopelessly inept militaries? and Why the grandiose bluster they use in place of effective militaries?
Pryce-Jones wondered, too, for a lifetime, then took three years to produce this "interpretation", which is more comprehensive and lucid than any of the other works I've seen on the subject. His thesis is fairly simple: the Arabs, more than any other society, are bound by a code of shame and honor, which prevents them from advancing in nearly every field of human endeavor. The only dynamism in their sclerotic society is what Pryce-Jones calls "power challenging", the process by which one despot knocks another off his pedestal and assumes it himself, though even this can hardly be called dynamic, since one is just like another. They all operate according to these rules of power challenging, which may more simply be called the law of the jungle.
The shame/honor and power challenging theses explain a wide range of phenomena that can be baffling to an outsider. On one of the lowest levels, the village, Pryce-Jones gives the example of a local leader who decides to install an irrigation pump to improve agriculture. When a consultant warns of technical problems, the leader avoids the shame of appearing ignorant by pushing ahead with his plan, heedless of the warning. The pump overirrigates, leading to salinification, which ruins the village agriculture. But instead of being blamed by the village for the ruin, the local leader is honored for getting his way.
On a larger scale, why is it that Saudi Arabia, whose total revenues from oil some time ago passed the trillion dollar mark, needs the USA to defend it, needs American and European technicians to operate its oilfields, and needs imported labor from South Asia for any non-technical work? Simple: "Technical tasks, and of course laboring in all forms, demeaningly connote low status, and therefore shame." Thus, the Saudi squadrons of AWACS and other warplanes, and tanks, and sophisticated naval equipment, etc., are virtually useless to them, because while the purchase of such stuff brings honor, the maintenance and operation of it is low class and shameful. A fighter jet is little more than a trophy to show off to ones friends-and enemies. Rather than use a jet to defend themselves, "Al Saud prefer the technique of using money defensively...and to convert possible challengers into clients...the Saudis extend their money-favor nexus over the whole Middle East, enmeshing into it the entire spectrum of Arab power holders and challengers. The daily task of the Saudi ruler consists in assessing friends and opponents and then buying or holding them off, estimating and apportioning subsidies, bribes, subventions, the whole gamut of open or concealed transfers of money."
Pryce-Jones goes methodically through each Arab society, even one, Turkey, that is not technically Arab, and finds the same pattern in each: leaders that grab their power through violence, and hold onto it through violence and money. Even the much-heralded "Man of Peace", Anwar Sadat, began his career as a Nazi sympathizer, writing glowingly of Hitler in 1953 that the German had "become immortal in Germany" and that was "reason enough for pride". Sadat's subsequent protean career as a power holder took him through "pro-Nazi, pro-Soviet, socialist, capitalist, Jew-hater, and peacemaker" phases, the one constant being his always-cunning response to power challengers. After finally being murdered by a determined group of challengers, Sadat was commemorated by a handful of American presidents in his last permutation, that of peacemaker. His power holding legacy is carried on by Mubarak with Sadat's methods of repression and ample amounts of money, gotten not from oil, but from US foreign aid-payoffs for peace.
Pryce-Jones' thesis is not that all Arabs are murderous and power hungry. It does seem to be that one can't rise beyond a certain level in Arab society without being so. All of the leaders are authoritarian. None of the polities are open and democratic. Anyone who has traveled anywhere in the Middle East or Maghreb has met gentle and hard-working Arabs. Many Arabs would admire a leader such as Martin Luther King. But it would never occur to the leaders of the Arabs to take anything but a venal or violent approach to a problem. It's impossible to conceive, for instance, of Yasser Arafat leading a non-violent protest march through Israeli checkpoints on a day when Gaza was sealed off. Even if he were convinced that such an act would get him what he wanted politically, he would be unable to carry it out because of the enormous shame he would feel at being shown in such an ostensibly powerless position. What is shown in CLOSED CIRCLE is that it is impossible to take power or hold power in Arab society without employing the despotic methods of Gaddhafi or Sadat or Sadam or Faud or Arafat.
It's a pity that a book of this stature should be out of print in hardback. Something this vital ought to be available with one of the print-on-demand publishers.
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For instance, it is an orthodoxy in Islamic theology that everything happening in the world, in each particular and in each occasion, is decreed at that very moment by God. &quote;
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Honor is what makes life worthwhile: shame is a living death, not to be endured, requiring that it be avenged. &quote;
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Lying and cheating in the Arab world is not really a moral matter but a method of safeguarding honor and status, avoiding shame, &quote;
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