Oureed Signs “The Temptation of Populism” in Marrakech

On Saturday, the media and poetry website “kechpresse” managed by journalist and poet Mostafa Ghallam, organized a signing event for the latest release by Moroccan thinker and academic Hassan Oureed, titled “The Temptation of Populism in the Arab World: The New Voluntary Servitude.” The event took place at the historic Chater Library in Marrakech.

The event featured an extensive discussion on the phenomenon of populism in Moroccan political society and its impacts on culture and public receptivity. The conversation also covered the challenges posed by populism to the developmental model and its specific patterns.

In this context, Oureed shared exceptional viewpoints on crucial topics such as governance, education, scientific research and universities, post-Arab Spring governmental experiences, the issues facing Moroccan intellectualism, anticipated political expectations amidst international and regional political fluctuations, the weakening of cultural systems in society, and the wandering and deviation of innovative developmental thinking and visions.

According to the opening remarks by writer and journalist Mostafa Ghallam, the event served as an opportunity to delve into major issues currently affecting the Arab world, which can be described as the populist ailment or simply “populism.” This is more of a trend than a phenomenon, resonating through various international experiences such as Italy’s Forza party, Donald Trump’s tenure in the U.S., Jair Bolsonaro’s period in Brazil, and similar movements in India, Sweden, and Hungary.

Hassan Oureed Signs The Temptation of Populism in Marrakech

Populism, as Ghallam explains, is fundamentally a practice and a style rather than a coherent narrative that can be fully traced. It is better described as a “hybrid narrative” that crafts utopian dreams, appeals to primal instincts, and revives nationalistic fantasies. This idea aligns with the description borrowed from Indian thinker Kasmad: “a thin narrative that undermines thick narratives.”

Ghallam read Oureed’s new work from the perspective of it being a historical document or an analytical intellectual and academic tool. He emphasized that it cannot be approached from a single or simplistic angle. Instead, a fair reader must reflect its scientific strength and its open vision across all facets of discourse and interpretation, especially in the troubled and uncertainty-filled secondary contexts characterized by doubt, fear, and hopelessness.

Ghallam emphasized that the theme of “The Temptation of Populism,” as a historical document, is acutely aware of the dynamics of time and its cultural, economic, and political possibilities. Hassan Oureed, from start to finish, aimed to establish and articulate this theory as an unprecedented sociological and conceptual approach. It stands as one of the most precise specialized texts in political research and critical analysis. Oureed’s work delves into the theoretical understanding of political processes, merging our reading with a fluidity akin to flowing water and the vibrancy of life. This is evident in the detailed exploration of knowledge development based on experience, the interpretation of results, and the creative academic intuition.

Hassan Oureed Signs The Temptation of Populism in Marrakech

Ghallam highlighted that, as Hassan Oureed asserts, the book serves as an early warning signal, sensing the potential for severe aftershocks and the infiltration of toxic political discourses that threaten the narratives of human society.

Ghallam believes that Oureed argues in his discussion of the book that populism is a practice and a system of operation, as indicated by the Latin term “Modus Operandi.” This concept represents a multifaceted crisis and a state of political confusion that thrives when social schisms widen and economic conditions deteriorate, thereby creating a “world of existential gloom.” This notion is borrowed from Ivan Krastev, the American researcher of Bulgarian origin. However, the danger accompanying the rise of populist rhetoric lies in the amplification of identity, race, and historical narratives.

To give populism a scientific framework, Hassan Oureed suggests in his introduction to the book that we pay attention to a microscopic detail in the analysis: conducting a clinical examination of a diseased body, which he describes as a state of “political drought,” as proposed by Algerian sociologist Nasser Djabi. Oureed argues that populism should be considered an essence, not a symptom, and not a minor arc in a journey that can be closed, but rather a long and extended arc that necessitates the establishment of critical follow-up competencies. The starting point, according to Oureed, is to reflect on the present state of the Arab world, inspired by former U.S. President Barack Obama’s assertion that the Arab world is closed off and resistant to change. However, it is also a fierce arena of international competition and a living body with dynamic internal movements.

Hassan Oureed Signs The Temptation of Populism in Marrakech

It might also be worth acknowledging that we are dealing with a world with a unique political chemistry, where populations do not choose their rulers. In this context, Oureed conducts a parallel analysis, pointing out that the West has not supported the democratic demand in the Arab world in the same way that the United States supported Western Europe and East Asian countries after World War II through the Marshall Plan. The West believes that it should not invest in something that might lead to dramatic outcomes, yet it remains closely tied to this world through its interests, including ensuring the security of Israel and the flow of oil and gas.

Oureed argues that a thorough analysis of the internal dynamics hindering transformation is necessary. These include the military establishment, as seen in Egypt, Algeria, and Sudan; sectarian divides, as in Lebanon and Iraq; and the dramatic shift in Saudi Arabia from traditionalism to modernization. Some countries appear unviable, while others are failing and threatened in their very existence.

Hassan Oureed champions the view that populism is merely a variant of authoritarianism, one that glorifies self, language, and race while despising the other, expanding the realm of Thanatos (death drive) at the expense of Eros (life drive), as described in Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis. Populism ultimately leads to authoritarianism under a leader who undermines institutions, excludes elites, and dismantles democracy. The Tunisian experience exemplifies this, serving as a laboratory for observation and reflection. The pivotal moment in 2011 in Tunisia was full of promise, but the process was aborted, transitioning from a semi-democracy to populism and then to authoritarianism. As Nasif Bayat describes it, it was a “revolution without revolutionaries,” or as academic Marwan Muasher put it: “The 1967 moment was a revolution of elites without masses, and the 2011 moment was a revolution of masses without elites.” There is a need for a third moment.

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