The Arab Revolutions that began in 2011 reignited interest in the question of theory and practice, imbuing it with a burning political urgency. In Revolution and Disenchantment Fadi A. Bardawil redescribes for our present how an earlier generation of revolutionaries, the 1960s Arab New Left, addressed this question. Bardawil excavates the long lost archive of the Marxist organization Socialist Lebanon, and its main theorist Waddah Charara, who articulated answers in their political practice to fundamental issues confronting revolutionaries worldwide: intellectuals as vectors of revolutionary theory; political organizations as mediators of theory and praxis; and non-emancipatory attachments as impediments to revolutionary practice. Drawing on historical and ethnographic methods and moving beyond familiar reception narratives of Marxist thought in the postcolony, Bardawil engages in ‘fieldwork in theory’ that analyzes how theory seduces intellectuals, cultivates sensibilities, and authorizes political practice. Throughout, Bardawil underscores the resonances and tensions between Arab intellectual traditions and western critical theory and postcolonial theory, deftly placing intellectuals from those traditions into a much-needed conversation.
“Fadi A. Bardawil's Revolution and Disenchantment is at once a rich redescription and rehistoricization of the rise and fall of the Lebanese New Left, and an exemplary illustration of how to rework the problem of theory in relation to the practices of non-metropolitan political intellectuals. With a timely attunement to the paradoxical conundrums of his present, and an uncommon generosity of spirit, Bardawil challenges us to reconceive the contemporary demand for a dialogue between Arab intellectual traditions and the traditions of Western critical theory.”
David Scott, Columbia University
“Conceptually brilliant, prodigiously researched, and appealingly written, Revolution and Disenchantment tracks the theoretical innovations and political stakes of Arab revolutionary Marxism in the postwar era, contributing to timely debates about the necessity of decolonizing critical theory and the relationship between revolutionary militancy and political disenchantment. Fadi A. Bardawil's innovative archival excavation recovers the theoretical labor of Arab intellectuals, theorists, and militants from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Palestine in the midst of a multiplicity of political upheavals.”
Omnia El Shakry, author of
The Arabic Freud: Psychoanalysis and Islam in Modern Egypt