What is Behind Arab Ideologies' Decline?

Abandoning ideology or at least its intolerant aspects is an urgent necessity, because of the damage it has caused in the structure of our societies. Therefore, ideology should assume a historical responsibility to transcend backdated thought that has on no occasion been in the interest of people.

by Hasan Ismaik
  • Publisher – Al-Arab
  • Release Date – Apr 26, 2021

"When not evolved, beings go extinct." This is how I would like to start my article, looking at the reasons why Arab ideologies have failed to bring about the change our societies seek. These ideologies have raised the slogans of political, economic and social development, but the opposite was the result on the ground, as most of our societies, after decades of swarming propositions on development, were plunged into poverty, extremism, wars and crises that turned their lives into unbearable hell, reason and dialogue were disrupted, minds narrowed and the logic of one opinion that alienated and excluded others prevailed, to the extent that some described as, "If you want to argue with an Arab ideologist, you must first prove the existence of the world"!

All ideologies in the Arab arene, including socialism, nationalism, Islamism and liberalism, had a hand in the resounding fall of the comprehensive development project, after most of these ideologies were given their share of power and enablement, but achieved little in terms of improving conditions and realities of our societies that believed their slogans, only to be revealed later that these political beliefs sold their citizens illusion and stole from them their dreams smashing them in zero-sum wars and conflicts that are completely fruitless.

Even if we assume good intention and nobility in some of the guardians and supporters of these ideologies, lesson lies in the outcomes; our societies have paid a heavy tax as a result of the sterility of the ways of thinking in these propositions, which have only increased intolerance and closure in our region; so that they failed to build individual's personality to be normal in terms of mood and intellectual vision towards the self and the world.

Therefore, the imbalance lies in the structure of the thinking of the ideologized currents which did not have realistic programmes that fulfill the needs of the people in our underdeveloped region, as they were content with promises and slogans that were never put into practice, but turned instead against their principles and slogans when their biggest concern became the acquisition of power and preoccupation with how to preserve it, and the desire to dominate all aspects of society.

In my opinion, one of the real reasons why these ideologies and their dreamy projects, which have drained the energies and bounties of our societies, was globalization; since it has opened the doors to all sides and swept away most of the traditional structures of local communities, the matter which led to a further loss of confidence in minor ideologies and diminish of influence under the painful blows of it, eventually resulting in the collapse of the slogans and programmes of Arab ideologies one after another just like dominoes.

The technological revolution has also transformed human life dramatically by contributing to the ease of circulation of ideas and information, liberating the awareness of individuals in our region and making them reject the utopia of ideology in its various editions. I agree with some intellectuals who questioned the eligibility of many of those who belonged to these ideologies and made them wonder whether we really had men and ideological leaders, or ideologists who are aware of what they're putting to people?

It seems to me that the late Iraqi sociologist Ali al-Wardi has nailed it when he attributed some of the cruelty and intolerance that prevailed in modern Iraqi society — and this applies to many of our societies, including the ideologized or political elite —  that it was a mixture of the culture of the "rural" and the values of Bedouinism far from the concept of the city and its organizations and events produced by modern civilization, which resulted in bloody violence between politicians on the one hand and their society on the other.

This makes us ask the following question: Has ideology really fallen or is it still moving individuals and communities in our region?

Indeed, most ideologies have declined, with the exception of Islamic ideology, which has revived in some of our societies due to objective factors, including the exploitation of religion as a tool to incite people against governments, or as a project of gain by manipulating religion and forcing it into the earthly world in order to seize power. However, despite this apparent recovery nowadays, Islamist ideology is no better than its counterparts that claimed to speak in the name of secularization. Islamists threw our societies into the international bidding market and plunged them into the hell of civil wars, the matter which contributed to the decline of the luster of their ideology which attracted some of our young people who were impressed by the salvation and devotion slogans, especially after hijacking religion and claiming to speak in its name. However, after bloody experiences and practices, which were broadly evident, its glow, constructed on the ruins and destruction of communities, started to recede.

What is to be done?

I see clearly that there is no way for parties in our Arab region, especially those ideological ones, but to review their trajectory and abandon rhetoric slogans that toppled our societies, through the development of realistic, detailed and phased programs that meet people's economic and social needs, with the need to abandon ideological dreams and unrealistic projects. It must also reconsider the question of possessing absolute truth by establishing concepts of intellectual pluralism, tolerance, respect for dissenting opinion and the relativity of truth.

Abandoning ideology or at least its intolerant aspects, is an urgent realistic necessity, because of the damage it has caused in the structure of our societies. Therefore, ideology should assume a historical responsibility to transcend backdated thought that has on no occasion been in the interest of people with their aspiration for dignity and freedom.




Hasan Ismaik