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February 9th, 2010 at 8:07 am

The malaise in the Arab World — an interview with Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab

KassabThis past weekend, Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab, author of Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective, talked about the malaise in the post-1967 Arab world on ABC radio.

Kassab argues that geopolitical events coupled with the failure of the post-colonial Arab state have led to the malaise that pervades the Arab world. The Arab state, characterized by nationalism, repression, and censorship contributed to political disfranchisement and social disintegration in the Arab world and the collapse of the middle class as a viable force in Arab society. While there were glimmers of hope in 2005 with popular movements in Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria, unhappiness still seems to be dominant in Arab society.

On the program, Kassab suggests that the Arab world needs a new internal dialogue and narrative that reexamines its past while avoiding only seeing itself in relation to the West. She believes that this is a process that several Arab intellectuals have been engaged in but they need to be listened to more carefully.

The program paired Kassab with Vali Nasr, of the Fletcher School at Tufts, who argues that the Muslim world needs to engage more fully with the global economy to improve. Citing the examples of Turkey and Dubai, Nasr believes that the growth of a middle class can lead to a more balanced and open society.

For more on Kassab’s Contemporary Arab Thought, you can read an excerpt from the book or listen to a talk by the author.

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