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The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  89 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
This important book explains how Arabs are closed in a circle defined by tribal, religious, and cultural traditions. David Pryce-Jones examines the tribal forces which, he believes, drive the Arabs in their dealings with each other and with the West. In the postwar world, he argues, the Arabs reverted to age-old tribal and kinship structures, a closed circle from which the ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published January 25th 2002 by Ivan R. Dee Publisher (first published February 1989)
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Jul 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
If you want the historical facts w/o all the modern hype and hysteria associated with the Arab people present in the west today, read Pryce-Jones's book. It is not only a great presentation of the history and culture of the Arab people, it is also told by someone who lived among them for many years. Be prepared to sit, read, think and then evaluate all you thought you knew about Arab people.
Dec 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
A heavy read but an important and credible analysis of the honor/shame character of Arab culture. A strong apologetic for liberal, Western culture, despite its excesses.

I need to ponder this book a while, but it rings true to the apparent revenge logic operating in modern terrorism. The book elicits compassion for the misery of Arab culture; however, the author didn't attempt to point up positive aspects of Arab culture. Without disagreeing with his negative assessments of Arab culture compared
Roger Singh
Nov 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Very imformative book on Middle East affairs. Recommend
Mar 11, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in Arab culture
Shelves: non-fiction
Very interesting background to Arab culture, explains much of what is going on currently in Arab countries.
Aug 17, 2011 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-east
Anthropological look of the behavior of Middle East nations
Scott Pierce
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I think it would be a difficult call whether Pryce-Jones or Bernard Lewis does a better job of explaining the Arabs - read them both!!

Thesis is that institutions do not exist in the Middle East to allow for pluralism. As a result, tribal codes of shame-honor dominate. The Turks who founded the Ottoman Empire were a nomadic warrior people from Asia who adopted Islam.

"Through firsthand experience, this colonel and his kind had in fact grasped that the colonial powers had either to absorb and inges
Ken Bickley
First, a disclaimer. Pryce-Jones is senior editor at William F. Buckley's "National Review", and a cousin of Helena Bonham-Carter as well as of Baron de Rothschild. We have little or nothing in common, either politically or economically (especially the latter!). Nevertheless, this book is quite interesting. The author says, "The Arab world has no institutions evolved by common consent for common purposes ... no mechanism exists whereby people may participate in what is being decided in their nam ...more
Oct 12, 2014 added it
Shelves: bias-concerns
Note - so far just on the intro - but I don't like the blurb on this book - says "that they haven't been able to break out of" that's biased and perhaps Pryce-Jones is; I don't know. I haven't read very far. However, His introduction he makes a distinction - he is making the point that westerners don't understand because we think like westerners, arabs have a different perspective, a different world view and it is wrong to analyze it, make value judgements about it from a wesstern view. it is di ...more
Oct 18, 2015 rated it liked it
While the author clearly points out the shame-honor perspectives of the Arab world, it is often dated to 1989. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then and that is why I thought that the 2009 update would be just that - a full update throughout the book. It sadly is not. The preface to the 2009 edition touches on some of the updated events, it does not go far enough to satisfy my understanding of today's Arab world. However, if you are looking for a deep historical account of how we c ...more
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
David Pryce-Jones writes from an outsiders perspective on Arab and Islamic society. A controversial book because of some statements and assertions, it nevertheless proves valuable in separating the double threads of "looking at Islamic society in order to pass Western judgements, and at the West in order to pass Islamic judgements." As an outsider myself, I appreciate the perspective on the multiple paradigms of analysis: individual vs tribe, shame vs honor, money and influence. Truly valuable r ...more
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An extremely scholarly and incisive look into the world of the Arabs. The author is brilliant and he comes to some conclusions that are hard to even wrap my head around because, as a Westerner, this world is so different from the one we are familiar with.
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Great recommend by my US Foreign Policy Professor in 1999-2000 finally bought in 2007 and read making notes 2009; good historical timelines for someone wanting to learn history.
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
meh - it was ok
Michael Hinsley
Jun 14, 2009 rated it liked it
Reading, re-reading. Too journalistic. Needed more thought.
Mar 24, 2008 rated it liked it
A little dated, bu otherwise an excellent look into Arab culture.
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