Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century: From Triumph to Despair

Overview

Like a great dynasty that falls to ruin and is eventually remembered more for its faults than its feats, Arab nationalism is remembered mostly for its humiliating rout in the 1967 Six Day War, for inter-Arab divisions, and for words and actions distinguished by their meagerness. But people tend to forget the majesty that Arab nationalism once was. In this elegantly narrated and richly documented book, Adeed Dawisha brings this majesty to life through a sweeping historical ...

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Overview

Like a great dynasty that falls to ruin and is eventually remembered more for its faults than its feats, Arab nationalism is remembered mostly for its humiliating rout in the 1967 Six Day War, for inter-Arab divisions, and for words and actions distinguished by their meagerness. But people tend to forget the majesty that Arab nationalism once was. In this elegantly narrated and richly documented book, Adeed Dawisha brings this majesty to life through a sweeping historical account of its dramatic rise and fall.

Dawisha argues that Arab nationalism--which, he says, was inspired by nineteenth-century German Romantic nationalism--really took root after World War I and not in the nineteenth century, as many believe, and that it blossomed only in the 1950s and 1960s under the charismatic leadership of Egypt's Gamal 'Abd al-Nasir. He traces the ideology's passage from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire through its triumphant ascendancy in the late 1950s with the unity of Egypt and Syria and with the nationalist revolution of Iraq, to the mortal blow it received in the 1967 Arab defeat by Israel, and its eventual eclipse. Dawisha criticizes the common failure to distinguish between the broader, cultural phenomenon of "Arabism" and the political, secular desire for a united Arab state that defined Arab nationalism. In recent decades competitive ideologies--not least, Islamic militancy--have inexorably supplanted the latter, he contends.

Dawisha, who grew up in Iraq during the heyday of Arab nationalism, infuses his work with rare personal insight and extraordinary historical breadth. In addition to Western sources, he draws on an unprecedented wealth of Arab political memoirs and studies to tell the fascinating story of one of the most colorful and significant periods of the contemporary Arab world. In doing so, he also gives us the means to more fully understand trends in the region today.

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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
A principal organizing theme for Arab history since the last decades of the nineteenth century would be what Time magazine half a century ago archly dubbed the Arab "urge to merge." Dawisha tackles this intimidatingly big subject with success. He has mastered the vast literature on the subject, weeding out the contentious or just plain wrong accounts and integrating the several good studies that get it right. Added to this is his own considerable expertise and an impressive use of Arab memoirs. Dawisha corrects the excessive claims to a pre-1914 Arabism, stresses the importance of the Arab ideologue Sati' Al-Husri, and presents the contending alternatives of an Arabism accepting state sovereignty as opposed to political unity. Moreover, he gives major attention to the heyday of Arabism under Gamal Abdel Nasser (grippingly depicting the mass fervor that Arab nationalist movements evoked at their peak) and traces Arabism's decline from the breakup of the Egyptian-Syrian union in 1961 and even more the disastrous Arab defeat by Israel in 1967.
History: Reviews of New Books
A wonderfully insightful and analytical study of a significant political phase in the Middle East.
— Jonas Kauffeldt
History: Reviews of New Books

A wonderfully insightful and analytical study of a significant political phase in the Middle East.
— Jonas Kauffeldt
Foreign Affairs - L. Carl Brown
Dawisha tackles [an] intimidatingly big subject with success. He has mastered the vast literature on the subject, weeding out the contentious or just plain wrong accounts and integrating the several good studies that get it right. Added to this is his own considerable expertise.
American Historical Review - Israel Gershoni
Dawisha carefully navigates between various, contested historical narratives to create a balanced, authoritative historical work. He relates the many angles of this rich, complex, and multifaceted subject in a readable, lucid, and economic manner that nonspecialists will appreciate. His book is a comprehensive account of the evolution of Arab nationalism and an insightful evaluation of the role it played in shaping the modern Arab Middle East.
Political Science Quarterly - Amaney Jamal
[O]ne of the most comprehensive studies on pan-Arab nationalism to date.
Middle East Journal - Michael Barnett
Adeed Dawisha's highly readable, clear-eyed, and sober historical account of Arab nationalism is an important contribution to our understanding of its rapid rise to fame and equally rapid fall from grace. Combining the seasoned insights of a veteran Middle East scholar, recent scholarship, and the memoirs of Arab leaders and intellectuals, Dawisha has produced a major addition to the study of Arab nationalism and the politics of the region.
History: Reviews of New Books - Jonas Kauffeldt
A wonderfully insightful and analytical study of a significant political phase in the Middle East.
Middle East Policy - Bill S. Mikhail
This book is a major intellectual advance in the study of comparative political ideologies in general, and Arab political thought in particular.
The Observer - Avi Shlaim
Adeed Dawisha has given us a timely, illuminating and highly readable overview of the history of the Arab national movement, from its origins in the 19th century to the present. His book combines an analysis of the ideas of Arab nationalism and their roots in European thought, with a fast-moving political narrative, full of dramatic ups an downs. . . . [He] brings to his task a rare personal insight, as well as mastery of the voluminous Arabic sources on the subject. There is a great deal of new material here which not only brings events alive, but also leads to fresh assessments and a better-informed understanding of the politics of one of the world's most volatile and violent regions.
Studies in Contemporary Islam - Youssef M. Choueiri
This provocative book is likely either to delight or infuriate. It will certainly delight all those who have, all along, considered Arab nationalism to be an irritant and would gleefully read its obituary set in gloating prose. But the fury of the adherents or sympathizers of Arab nationalism will be all the greater as the author lays out his case in a highly controversial and contentious manner.
From the Publisher

"[A] splendid recent obituary of the movement."--Economist

"Dawisha tackles [an] intimidatingly big subject with success. He has mastered the vast literature on the subject, weeding out the contentious or just plain wrong accounts and integrating the several good studies that get it right. Added to this is his own considerable expertise."--L. Carl Brown, Foreign Affairs

"[Dawisha] relates the many angles of this rich, complex, and multifaceted subject in a readable, lucid, and economic manner."--Israel Gershoni, American Historical Review

"Dawisha carefully navigates between various, contested historical narratives to create a balanced, authoritative historical work. He relates the many angles of this rich, complex, and multifaceted subject in a readable, lucid, and economic manner that nonspecialists will appreciate. His book is a comprehensive account of the evolution of Arab nationalism and an insightful evaluation of the role it played in shaping the modern Arab Middle East."--Israel Gershoni, American Historical Review

"[O]ne of the most comprehensive studies on pan-Arab nationalism to date."--Amaney Jamal, Political Science Quarterly

"Adeed Dawisha's highly readable, clear-eyed, and sober historical account of Arab nationalism is an important contribution to our understanding of its rapid rise to fame and equally rapid fall from grace. Combining the seasoned insights of a veteran Middle East scholar, recent scholarship, and the memoirs of Arab leaders and intellectuals, Dawisha has produced a major addition to the study of Arab nationalism and the politics of the region."--Michael Barnett, Middle East Journal

"A wonderfully insightful and analytical study of a significant political phase in the Middle East."--Jonas Kauffeldt, History: Reviews of New Books

"This book is a major intellectual advance in the study of comparative political ideologies in general, and Arab political thought in particular."--Bill S. Mikhail, Middle East Policy

"Adeed Dawisha has given us a timely, illuminating and highly readable overview of the history of the Arab national movement, from its origins in the 19th century to the present. His book combines an analysis of the ideas of Arab nationalism and their roots in European thought, with a fast-moving political narrative, full of dramatic ups an downs. . . . [He] brings to his task a rare personal insight, as well as mastery of the voluminous Arabic sources on the subject. There is a great deal of new material here which not only brings events alive, but also leads to fresh assessments and a better-informed understanding of the politics of one of the world's most volatile and violent regions."--Avi Shlaim, The Observer

"Dawisha has written a fine analysis of the heyday and decline of the ideology of Arab nationalism. . . . With a sound theoretical apparatus and making good use of memoirs by those involved, Dawisha provides an excellent guide to the origins of the movement and the reality behind the rhetoric."--Choice
"This provocative book is likely either to delight or infuriate. It will certainly delight all those who have, all along, considered Arab nationalism to be an irritant and would gleefully read its obituary set in gloating prose. But the fury of the adherents or sympathizers of Arab nationalism will be all the greater as the author lays out his case in a highly controversial and contentious manner."--Youssef M. Choueiri, Studies in Contemporary Islam

Economist
[A] splendid recent obituary of the movement.
Foreign Affairs
Dawisha tackles [an] intimidatingly big subject with success. He has mastered the vast literature on the subject, weeding out the contentious or just plain wrong accounts and integrating the several good studies that get it right. Added to this is his own considerable expertise.
— L. Carl Brown
American Historical Review
Dawisha carefully navigates between various, contested historical narratives to create a balanced, authoritative historical work. He relates the many angles of this rich, complex, and multifaceted subject in a readable, lucid, and economic manner that nonspecialists will appreciate. His book is a comprehensive account of the evolution of Arab nationalism and an insightful evaluation of the role it played in shaping the modern Arab Middle East.
— Israel Gershoni
Political Science Quarterly
[O]ne of the most comprehensive studies on pan-Arab nationalism to date.
— Amaney Jamal
Middle East Journal
Adeed Dawisha's highly readable, clear-eyed, and sober historical account of Arab nationalism is an important contribution to our understanding of its rapid rise to fame and equally rapid fall from grace. Combining the seasoned insights of a veteran Middle East scholar, recent scholarship, and the memoirs of Arab leaders and intellectuals, Dawisha has produced a major addition to the study of Arab nationalism and the politics of the region.
— Michael Barnett
Middle East Policy
This book is a major intellectual advance in the study of comparative political ideologies in general, and Arab political thought in particular.
— Bill S. Mikhail
Choice
Dawisha has written a fine analysis of the heyday and decline of the ideology of Arab nationalism. . . . With a sound theoretical apparatus and making good use of memoirs by those involved, Dawisha provides an excellent guide to the origins of the movement and the reality behind the rhetoric.
Studies in Contemporary Islam
This provocative book is likely either to delight or infuriate. It will certainly delight all those who have, all along, considered Arab nationalism to be an irritant and would gleefully read its obituary set in gloating prose. But the fury of the adherents or sympathizers of Arab nationalism will be all the greater as the author lays out his case in a highly controversial and contentious manner.
— Youssef M. Choueiri
The Observer
Adeed Dawisha has given us a timely, illuminating and highly readable overview of the history of the Arab national movement, from its origins in the 19th century to the present. His book combines an analysis of the ideas of Arab nationalism and their roots in European thought, with a fast-moving political narrative, full of dramatic ups an downs. . . . [He] brings to his task a rare personal insight, as well as mastery of the voluminous Arabic sources on the subject. There is a great deal of new material here which not only brings events alive, but also leads to fresh assessments and a better-informed understanding of the politics of one of the world's most volatile and violent regions.
— Avi Shlaim
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691102733
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 12/2/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.49 (w) x 9.51 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Adeed Dawisha is Professor of Political Science at Miami University, Ohio. He is the author of "Egypt in the Arab World and Syria" and the "Lebanese Crisis" (both Macmillan), and "The Arab Radicals", and is the editor of several books including "Islam in Foreign Policy".
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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Defining Arab Nationalism 1
Ch. 2 Early Stirrings: The Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries 14
Ch. 3 Sati' al-Husri's Theory of Arab Nationalism 49
Ch. 4 Arab Nationalism and Competing Loyalties: From the 1920s to the Arab Revolt in Palestine 75
Ch. 5 The Path to Nationalist Ascent: From the Palestinian Revolt to the Egyptian Revolution 107
Ch. 6 Consolidating Arab Nationalism: The Emergence of "Arab" Egypt 135
Ch. 7 Arab Nationalism on the March, 1955-1957 160
Ch. 8 The Apex of Arab Nationalism: The United Arab Republic and the Iraqi Revolution, January-September 1958 186
Ch. 9 Arab Nationalism's Downward Slide, 1958-1967 214
Ch. 10 1967 and After: The Twilight of Arab Nationalism 252
Ch. 11 The Demise of Arab Nationalism: A Postmortem 282
Bibliography 315
Index 331
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