Contemporary Arab intellectuals (Islamists, pan-Arab nationalists, leftists and liberals): divergent and convergent discourses.

Dr. Khaled Hroub

University of Cambridge

Many writers in the post-colonial developing world, including Arab writers, identify themselves with the notion of ‘socio-organic’ and ‘neo-Gramscian’ intellectuals. Adhering to Gramsci’s perception of the ‘organic intellectual’, these writers conceive of themselves as defenders of the class and/or people they belong to, aspiring to be the vanguard for the interests and causes of their community. In many cases this organic and committed adherence is overstretched to the extent of bringing the intellectual into areas of false awareness and rhetoric. Their blind defense of a society, its culture, tradition and even shortcomings in the face of real or imagined threats becomes an overriding practice that nullifies self-criticism and rigorous enquiry. Such a socio-organic perception of the intellectual is common to nationalist, Islamist, leftist, independent and, more or less, to liberal Arab writers. If these intellectuals diverge and perhaps attack each other within the circles of their ‘inside’ battles, they mostly converge and join forces when debating ‘outside’ battles, such as regional and global changes and challenges. It is intriguing and equally informing to examine when and how these intellectuals differ or meet given their different frames of reference and points of ideological departures. This contribution attempts to look into that analyzing the role and position of Arab intellectuals, spread over an ideological wide-ranging spectrum, and hopefully measured against the notion of ‘critical intellectual’.