Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Arab political thought on Arab nationalism and unity: the 1980s and the dialectic of old and new paradigms

Sawani, Youssef Mohamed (1996) Arab political thought on Arab nationalism and unity: the 1980s and the dialectic of old and new paradigms. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86381) (KAR id:86381)


The Arab World has known an Arab nationalist movement since the nineteenth century with its aims being focused firstly on establishing the existence of an Arab nation and secondly that this nation should be politically united in one pan-Arab nation-state. However, whereas many nationalist movements achieved their goal of establishing a nation-state, the Arab world as a whole was one of frustration for the Arab nationalists.

Since the 1967 defeat in the war with Israel and particularly after the deradicalization of Arab politics after the death of Nasser and the rise of Arab petrodollar power, the hold of Arab nationalism on Arab politics has been waning. The event of the Iranian revolution of 1979 had the effect of increasing the power of Islamic fundamentalism in the Arab world. Consequently Pan-Islamism, which pan-Arabism had been able to quieten after the Second World War, returned to compete with Arab nationalism. Since then and especially in the 1980s many would attest to the premise that Arab nationalism was no longer the hegemonic ideology in the Arab world and that raison d'etat was dictating the course of Arab politics. Intellectuals began to question the validity of the pan-Arab ideal.

The 1980s are marked by a revived assessment of Arab nationalism. There is what may be seen as a new breed of Arab

nationalist thought in the writings on Arabism. The idea is no longer viewed in theological tones. Intellectuals and social scientists are examining the Arabist idea not as an ideal but as useful if realistically approached. The research presents and analyzes Arab thought through the contributions of intellectuals in the 1980s. The investigation establishes the continuation of intellectual efforts by Arab nationalists to articulate the pan- Arab idea. The analysis clearly demonstrates and detects the change in the nature of Arab thought as far as Arab nationalism and Arab unity are concerned and as compared to the kind of thought that was considered dead after 1967. Arab nationalist thought and Arab nationalism are being reconstructed and rejuvenated to accommodate the developments in Arab society and politics since 1967. The debates which Arab thought experienced in the 1980s provide evidence that such development was taking place.

The discussion and analysis shows that even though Arab nationalism lost its hegemony over Arab politics, Arab thought has produced an entirely fresh contribution to the ideas of Arab nationalism and Arab unity. The study attempts to qualify previous studies and may play a role in qualifying the death verdict issued upon Arab nationalism. Therefore the study focuses on the debates as far as issues like the Arab nation, Arab unity, Arab state, democracy, and minorities are concerned. The analysis of the debates and contributions, which are largely unknown in the West, determine that a rejuvenation of Arab nationalism is taking place. Arab thought on Arab nationalism and Arab unity is undergoing a dialectic between its old and the newly emerging paradigms.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86381
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: nationalism; Arab world; Islam; fundamentalism
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:55 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 09:50 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.