(Tunis: Alif--Les Editions de la Mediterranee, 1994)
This collective work on Gramsci in the Arab world was brought together by a leading Italian specialist on North Africa and by the secretary general of the Arab Sociological Association with contributions from Dalal El-Bizri, the Lebanese sociologist, Ali El-Kenz, the Algerian sociologist and from Aziz Krichen, the Tunisian sociologist. It is the first such work. It bears some comparison to the pioneering writing on Gramsci in Latin America by Jose Arico. It was influenced by the Italian conference on "Gramsci in the World."
In the case of the Arab world, according to Labib, the use of Gramsci seems to follow availability of his texts in Arabic. This has favored writers in Beirut, Cairo, and Tunis. The introduction of Gramsci in the Arab world, as elsewhere, seemed to be part and parcel of the breakdown of state- centered development, a trend which became apparent in the 1970s. As elsewhere, so in the Arab world, writers were concerned with the breakdown of civil liberties which followed, or so one can read into the preoccupations with such categories as civil society, the state, and the intellectuals. A number of writers of the Arab world, like many in other countries, have long employed elements of a Gramsci-type analysis without the benefit of direct contact with his writings. An example given was that of Mahdi 'Amil, the famous Lebanese political writer. In addition, the Arab reader has become familiar with Gramsci through the passing comments of writers such as Edward Said and Hisham Sharabi, writers whose works have been translated into Arabic, through the writings of Samir Amin on North and South, and through that of others as well. This is attested to by a number of special issues of journals and academic colloquia which make use of these concepts. In her chapter, El-Bizri takes the concept of civil society to be a historically mutable one, and sketches the componenets of civil society as understood in societies affected by tribal structures, oil rent, Islam, etc. In his essay, Ali El-Kenz comments on the appropriation of Gramsci, offering the impression that, of all the current movements in the Arab world, it is the Egyptian Muslim Brothers whose strategy most closely approximates a war of position. Aziz Krichen applies the theory of intellectuals in his study of the role of state-sponsored education in Tunisia. Michele Brondino [END PAGE 16] gives an overview of recent advances in Gramscian thought in general. Part of his focus is on the the little known linguistic research of Lo Piparo.
The reader interested in critical thought will benefit from reading this brief guide to this piece of Arabic thought more than reading the better part of the well-known works on Islam and modernity in the Arab world, works which nowadays are being produced and then reviewed in the trade journals as if that were all that there is.