The Call From Algeria: Third Worldism, Revolution, and the Turn to Islam

In This Review

The Call From Algeria: Third Worldism, Revolution, and the Turn to Islam

By Robert Malley
University Of California Press, 1996
323 pp. $48.00
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Intellectuals and some politicians in both the North and South once spoke as if the masses of the Third World would rise up and use the state to produce an egalitarian political order more compassionate than capitalism and less oppressive than communism. This belief in "Third Worldism" was given its fullest expression in countries like Algeria, which, after winning its independence in a bloody war, formed a vaguely socialist government and led the campaign for a more equitable division of the world's wealth. Today cynicism and indifference have replaced much of that optimism, and in Algeria the moralistic, populist agenda has been co-opted by radical Islamists. Malley's remarkable book looks carefully at the construction of this system of beliefs to see how it evolved and was adopted in diverse settings, such as among Algerian and French intellectuals. The author is exceptionally well read, creative in seeing connections and influences, and gifted with a graceful, if world-weary, writing style. However, as many questions are raised as resolved: Were the writers of Third Worldist tracts really all true believers? Does ideology really play such a big part in political life, or is it often a facade for position and power? And is radical Islam so well placed to inherit the mantle of Third Worldism, or are ordinary people learning to distrust religious and secular utopians?