ACRPS Publications Tackle National Security, Philosophy

20 April, 2015

Three new Arabic language titles published by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in April, 2015 tackle a host of pressing issues for the Arab academy. The first title, Algerian Security Policy: Determinants, Domains and Challenges, by Mansour Lakhdari, is an exposition of how a decade-long pitched battle with armed Islamist militants shaped Algerian security policy. A further two new books published take up discussion of contemporary issues in philosophy: Contemporary Phenomenology Transformations: Merleau-Ponty’s Polemic with Husserl and Heidegger, by Mohammed Ben Sibaa and Modern Social Imaginaries by Charles Taylor, the latest translation from the ACRPS’s “Turjuman” series, a collection of key contemporary works by international writers translated into Arabic.

Copies of all of these titles can be bought at the ACRPS' Electronic Bookstore.

Algeria’s Security Policies

Published by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS) in April 2015, Algerian Security Policy: Determinants, Domains and Challenges by Mansour Lakhdari (ISBN: 9786144450246, 320 pp.) is an examination of how the turmoil caused by a drawn out battle with terrorism shaped the North African country’s approach to security. It is also an examination of the concepts of security and the domains which are covered by these concepts, as well as a study of the impacts of the fall of the Soviet Union on the understanding of national security and strategic security.

The book’s main focus is the contemporary definition of security, shaped as it is by a number of factors that until recently would have been considered irrelevant: security today is more a matter of “human security” rather than the security of states. The benchmarks through which security is defined, in other words, are related to individuals and not the state. In addressing this reality, Lakhdari’s study begins with the premise that the Algerian state’s security policies remain relatively weak, especially when compared to broader, and stronger, foreign strategies. Another assumption is that these policies are concerned primarily with the protection of the regime, a fact which has ultimately hindered their ability to protect national security.

The first of the book’s three chapters, “Determinants of Algerian Security Policy”, explores the factors which define a nation-state’s national interests and which are not necessarily contained within that nation-state’s borders. These factors go beyond the state’s legal jurisdiction to include the broader geopolitical, geo-economic and geostrategic spheres in which that nation-state operates.

The second chapter of the book, “The Realms in which Algerian Security Policy is Effective”, explores the most significant spheres in which Algerian Security Policy operates. The author notes that the specificity of the Algerian case means that the societal, political and economic aspects of security are no less important than the defense of the nation’s borders and the fighting terrorism. Lakhdari thus identifies the three major spheres in which these policies are active as: the protection of the state’s borders; the fight against terrorism as a national, regional and global threat; and the upholding of social peace and of social cohesion.

The final chapter of the book, “The Challenges Facing Algerian Security Policies” explores the developments concomitant to the Arab Spring revolutions which began in late 2010. The inability of observers to fully grasp the factors driving these revolutions led to the domino-style toppling of regimes across the region, and the birth of new security challenges attendant to civil war-type conflicts which ravaged Syria and, more pertinently, Libya. The latter, on Algeria’s doorstep, will no doubt become a pressing and immediate concern for Algerian security policy. 

Transformations in Phenomenology

Mohammed Ben Sibaa’s Contemporary Phenomenology Transformations: Merleau-Ponty’s Polemic with Husserl and Heidegger seeks to define contemporary phenomenology and elucidate its transformations through the work of French philosopher Merleau-Ponty. Offering a critique of traditional principles of phenomenology, and redefining them in an interpretive manner, the author explores topics such as existence, consciousness, perception, freedom, the body, art, language, speech in relation to thought and more – thereby establishing a new basis in this field.

The first chapter on “Transformations in Contemporary Phenomenology from the Priority of Consciousness to Interrogation of Being” is devoted to the evolution of the concept of phenomenology until its emergence as an independent doctrine with Husserl, and its transformation, with Heidegger, to the study of existence. The second chapter “Consciousness Incarnate: From the Knowing Self to the Knowing Body” clarifies the new conceptualization given by Merleau-Ponty to phenomenology and its new function – as seen in the main categories upon which it was established, namely “sensory perception” and “the idea of the body”. Chapter three, “Being-in-the World: From the Meaning of Existence to the Existence of Meaning” is given to the study of the new task set for phenomenology by Merleau-Ponty: to disclose and return to the real world, with a focus on the most important dimensions of existence: incarnate existence, existence for others and existence with things, without neglecting the matter of great importance for Merleau-Ponty in his late philosophy, that of language. The fourth chapter "Prospects for the New Phenomenology: From Reform of Phenomenology to Reform of Western Rationality", examines Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology’s scope for broad interpretation and deconstruction, through a return to some categories of modernity and transcending some categories of  contemporary phenomenology, so as  to engage in a dialogue with the human sciences. The book’s concluding section summarizes the study’s findings and anticipated forecasts.

Social Imaginaries

As part of its “Turjuman” series of translations of contemporary international scholarship into the Arabic language, recently published by the ACRPS was Charles Taylor’s Modern Social Imaginaries, translated by al-Harith Nabhan (254 pages). The book constitutes an extensive presentation of Charles Taylor's vital contribution to the discussion of the formation of identity, the sources of the self, modernity in its diverse forms, and religion and secularism, but viewed through the prism of "the social imaginary" – the ways in which a population conceives of its collective social presence.

Taylor revisits the modern Western historical narrative, tracking the evolution of the modern western social imaginary and the moral system that both grounds and instills life into it, based on the mutual benefit of stake-holders enjoying an equal footing within that system. The "modern Western social imaginary" is distinguished by three basic cultural forms, namely: the economy, the public domain and autonomy. Taylor addresses these at length, providing a comprehensive framework for a clear understanding of the structure of modern Western life and the different forms of modernity that have taken shape.

This book explores the premise that we can shed some light on issues concerning both early and contemporary modernity, by reaching a clearer understanding of the self, as an essential formative component of modernity. Western modernity, from this point of view, cannot be separated from a particular type of social imaginary, pointing to a necessity of understanding the differences between the various modernities of our time in terms of the divergent social imaginaries concerned. Based on Benedict Anderson’s book Imagined Communities, published in Arabic by the ACRPS in 2014, the author sketches an overall picture of the imagined social forms that have been associated with the advancement of Western modernity, leaving aside types of alternative modernities in the hope that arriving at a closer definition of Western specificity may yield greater clarity regarding the important commonalities among the different contemporary approaches to modernization.

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