Robert J. Crawford
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a very interesting book by a leading Arab intellectual. Safouan is a prominent psychoanalyst, born in Egypt and emigrated to France, where he became a therapist and writer. In this book, Safouan argues that Arabs are bound by their language and rhetorical style, which uses the religious vocabulary of the Koran. This leads to a kind of intellectual dead end, he argues, as it limits their range of thought. In this view, because they are unable to conceive of a more secular world as determined by the personal and political vocabulary available to them, those that control the language - autocrats and mullahs - control the evolution of society. To overcome this, he asserts, the Arab countries must develop an entirely new vocabulary, one autonomous from the sacred. The argument closely follows French intellectual currents (Levi-Strauss, Lacan, etc.), i.e. that written language is an instrument of power, binding them to an ideology and world view: he wants to free the Arab peoples from it by furnishing western classic literature and modern ideas in translation as well as encouraging the the development of local argot.
This fundamental idea explains part of the Islamic dilemma. However, as Islamic culture evolves, Moslems will have to discover their own solutions, of which a new vocabulary would form one element, though perhaps more as a reflection of change than a catalyst. In my opinion, Safouan's argument is too intellectual, too literary.
REcommended as a valuable point of view.