In This Review

Bitter Harvest: Ideology and Politics in the Arab World
Bitter Harvest: Ideology and Politics in the Arab World
By Paul Salem
Syracuse University Press, 1994, 302 pp

At a time when Islamic movements seem to set the tone for much of the political discourse in the Arab world, it is worth being reminded that many other ideologies have competed with political Islam in recent years. This finely crafted work is more than a history of ideas. The author centers the study of ideology in a sociopolitical context, arguing that ideology develops as the result of rapid social change that causes stress as new groups seek political power. He traces the class and generation bases for different phases of ideological development in the modern Arab world and highlights the evolution from the predominance of liberalism in the interwar period, to Arab nationalism after World War II, to the present assertiveness of Islamism. Each phase has lasted about a generation, and he sees a possibility that the age of ideology in the Arab world may be approaching its end. In seeking to explain the content of ideological movements, he examines the role of social class, minorities, youth, and severe crises that affect whole populations. He spends more time on Marxism than seems warranted by its relatively limited success in the Arab world and neglects the regional variants of nationalism that emerged in Algeria and among the Palestinians. But on the whole this is an impressive survey of a complex topic and deserves to be widely read.