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The Crisis of Modernization in the Arab World

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The Crisis of Modernization in the Arab World
Active Mind and Passive mind

Alaeldin Al-Araji

This book is a collection of a number of selected chapters, published consecutively in the form of studies or research essays a few years ago. They constitute an integrated series which deals with a single topic, namely the crisis of modernization in the Arab world, approached from the perspective of some of its historical, social, and philosophical dimensions, as well as the ordeals and calamities suffered by the Arab people as a result of the said crisis.

In the first introductory chapter of this book (unpublished), I have daringly attempted to deal explicitly with the issue of the possibility that the Arab nation may face decline, and have attempted accordingly to predict its future in the light of current trends and conditions. Some indicators of the Arab nation’s deterioration or potential progress are illustrated, and the most important issues related to topics raised in this book are reviewed.

The second chapter is devoted to the question of the rise and fall of civilizations, seen from the perspective of the views and theories of a thinker, who was a pioneer in dealing with this subject, namely Ibn Khaldun,as well as those of one of the latest thinkers who studied this phenomenon, namely Arnold Toynbee. The chapter also deals with the bleak destiny of the Arab Islamic civilization, unless it could undergo a transformation, initiated by its own members, which would take it from a stage of stagnation into a stage of dynamism. A point of view is put forward according to which the dichotomy of dynamism versus stagnation is claimed to constitute the main pivotal factor which determines the rise of a civilization, its progress and prosperity, or, on the other hand, its atrophy and decline. A question, however, is raised in this connection: How can the members of the Arabic society achieve such a huge undertaking, transforming themselves from stagnation to dynamism, while they remain restricted by so many shackles?

To answer this question, it was deemed necessary that should, first of all, examine the question of the liberation of the Arab person, so that he (she) may become capable of moving forward, thinking, and innovating, the factors which ultimately lead to progress. However, the first step to liberate man lies in setting free the human mind. Unfortunately, the Arab mind winces under the shackles imposed on it by various authorities, among which the authority of the “Other”, a dominating entity, which is either internal (religious or civil leaderships), or external (colonialism, foreign influence,etc.),and/or the authority exercised by the society itself(the authoritative Societal Mind),with all the impediments encumbering this Mind, inherited from dark periods of history, in the form of backward traditions,values,and beliefs. Most specifically, it is argued in this respect that a shackled mind cannot give birth to a free and creative person, as it can only produce a puppet moved by strings which those authorities manipulate.

This is the issue studied in the third and fourth chapters. Having determined the concept of the mind, and made a distinction between mind and thought, we raise the question of whether there is a distinct Arab mind, as there is a distinct mind for each people or a specific social group or community . In this context, an explanation is given for the various types of imprisonment which incarcerate the Arab mind. This is followed by an analysis of the state of shock suffered by the Arab mind since its confrontation with the West, and its regression to its “glorious” past, seeking refuge in that past, as a primitive form of self-defense .Consequently, the concept of the “Societal Mind” is proposed. This mind constitutes, on the one hand, the society’s collective memory, its history, tradition, core identity and culture, and on the other hand, a heavy shackle which restricts man’s freedom and creative abilities. This is due to the fact that the Societal Mind, in this particular instance, is specifically influenced by the long history of backwardness, which followed the prosperous era of the Arabic Islamic civilization. To analyze this situation, we invoke the theory of the “Active Mind” versus the “Passive Mind”, which describes the manner in which the tyranny of the Societal Mind can be escaped from, and also analyzes and theorizes the constant conflict between the Active Mind and the Passive Mind, both on the individual and the community level, a conflict whose results crucially determine the progress of society, or its retreat.

We consider, therefore, in the final three chapters the crisis of the contemporary Arab mind, through the dualism of progressivism and traditionalism, as this dualism is directly and indirectly related to the Societal Mind and the theory of the Active Mind versus the Passive Mind. To the extent that the Arab person can be liberated from the Societal Mind, in its negative aspects, and from the Passive Mind, by reviving the Active Mind, he (she) will be capable of creativity, which is the key to progress and civilization.

These essays represent the first part of the published collection. In the second part, we will continue the study of the crisis of modernization in the Arab nation. We shall dwell on the issue of Science and Technology, and their effective role in progress, and we will deal with the Theory of War and its relationship with supremacy, particularly in the areas of science and technology. Moreover, the problem of traditional heritage and modernism will be discussed in its close connection with the dominant Societal Mind, and the conflict between the Active Mind and the Passive Mind, in this context. These subjects represent essential links in the series of reasons which have led to the crisis of modernization in the Arab world since the Arabs confronted the contemporary western civilization, until the present time.

Every effort has been made to scrupulously document all the historical facts and perspectives of thinkers and philosophers mentioned, or quoted, in these chapters .I apologize for the lengthy footnotes, sometimes included. This has been inevitable in order to clarify the texts, or comment on them, or when it was felt that certain theories, or ideas, of the author quoted needed further elucidation.

Al-Araji, Tel.Office 201 210 4195, H. 201 585 9668, E

The book is available in “ Dahesh Heritage”, 1775 Broadway, suite 533,New York, NY 10019.Tel.800 799 6375 , 212 265 0600