By Raphael Patai. Charles Scribners and Sons, New York, The major objectives of social science research involving the topics of "national character" or "personality and culture" are: 1 the prediction of the type of character that a given society is likely to produce, based upon the sum total of its culture and social structure and 2 the demonstration of how character or personality, in turn, impacts upon the very culture and social structure which has shaped it. Further, the book implicitly suggests the relevance of national character research to intelligence analysis. The book is well organized and, for a scholarly study, especially interestingly and elegantly written. The author does a masterful job of integrating his knowledge of the many facets of the culture, such as the language, the arts and literature, and child-rearing practices, and then delineating the ways that these cultural variables influence personality development.
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Jun 13, Charles J rated it it was amazing Looking at other reviews of The Arab Mind, it appears readers divide into two camps. The first group, for whom ideology matters more than reality, hate this book. The second group, largely military, for whom their lives depend on an accurate perception of reality, love this book.
This divergence alone suggests the book is worth reading. The Arab Mind was once an obscure book by an obscure man. Its rise to semi-prominence began in , when during the Iraq War the American military, desperately short of soldiers who knew anything about Arab culture, but desperately needing to insert thousands of soldiers into that culture, began informally distributing the book to officers. To all accounts, the book was extremely useful to those officers.
However, the book also came in for a great deal of criticism, led by agitprop artist Seymour Hersh, because it is not politically correct. It dispassionately analyzes Arab culture, and offers a clear roadmap for interacting with that culture. But it also recognizes that Arab culture is very different from American and Western culture, and in some ways inferior. This dispassionate analysis does not serve the ends of the social justice warrior crowd, so they cry racism.
The irony of all this is that Patai actually is very sympathetic to Arabs. He likes Arabs and Arab culture. He lived for decades in Jerusalem pre-Israel. And, in fact, his conclusions about Arab culture he last updated the book in , shortly before he died, though it was first published in are generally quite optimistic about the future of Arabs and Arab culture. If you actually read his book, you see that Patai is far from anti-Arab. But you have to read the book. The critics never have any specifics—they object to the very idea that Arab culture could be perceived as anything but wonderful in all regards.
No need to read any books or address any arguments! More time to join the latest howling low-information Twitter mob!
He emphasize that this involves generalizations of qualities that contain many variations among individuals. So the criticisms are misplaced.
Patai writing in was merely interested in objectivity; Nydell in propaganda. But the facts they offer the reader are close to identical. Patai and Nydell also address improvidence, predestination, the tendency to substitute words for action, violence of words, control of temper, etc.
Patai also addresses what to Westerners are obscure points like what is apparently a very large and very important cultural difference between Arabs from the north and south of the Arabian peninsula, so-called dual descent, either Qays or Yaman.
Another important point to make when reading and analyzing Patai is that he focuses relatively little on Islam. Nowadays, Islam gets all the ink in the West, for obvious reasons. Yet, with one exception, none of them is part of the ethical system of the Koran; and conversely again with the same exception , none of the ethical teachings of the Koran have developed into a dominant feature in the actual Arab ethics of virtue.
He is not remotely obsessed with Arab sexual behavior, contrary to occasional criticisms, but he does discuss it, as he should. Occasionally the book shows its age, though generally its analysis is timeless. But then, Patai, as I say, was very positive about the Arab future, in a way that has not been borne out in the past three decades. Contrary to his hopes, though, Arab unity has declined greatly, with the fragmentation of nation-states brought by the Arab Spring, and the rise of crypto-Kharijites like ISIS.
One point about the Kindle version—it literally makes the frequent Arabic phrases that Patai uses unreadable. Weird symbols like apples are substituted for Arabic characters. We, and our government officials, soldiers, businesspeople and diplomats, do ourselves no favors by deliberately blinding ourselves to reality, both its ugly and its pretty faces.
Ignoring reality is the luxury of an opulent society. A short-lived luxury, usually, if history is any guide.
The Arab Mind Revisited
Jun 13, Charles J rated it it was amazing Looking at other reviews of The Arab Mind, it appears readers divide into two camps. The first group, for whom ideology matters more than reality, hate this book. The second group, largely military, for whom their lives depend on an accurate perception of reality, love this book. This divergence alone suggests the book is worth reading. The Arab Mind was once an obscure book by an obscure man.
Inside The Arab Mind
The Arab Mind