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Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950$
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Marwa Elshakry

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226001302

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226001449.001.0001

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Evolutionary Socialism

Evolutionary Socialism

(p.219) Six Evolutionary Socialism
Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950

Marwa Elshakry

University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores the rise of a new evolutionary discourse in Arabic during the early twentieth century: evolutionary socialism. Looking at the rise of Arab evolutionists who rejected the individualist, utilitarian and laissez-faire view of social evolution that was promoted earlier, it examines the new emphasis on collectivism, altruism and mutual aid. Examining the works of such early figures as Shibli Shumayyil and Farah Antun and later ones like Salama Musa, it considers how Darwin helped shape the sensibilities of many early Arab socialists long before Marx. Against the background of ever-growing anti-colonial nationalist foment, it looks at how the implications of Bolshevism often helped radicalise these figures, despite their continued emphasis on reform over revolution. The focus was still on social evolution and progress, and eugenics entered the discussion for the first time, yet the overall discourse remained gradualist, reformist and technocratic (as it had for previous thinkers). But the appeal of evolutionary socialism was bound up with the standing of the effendiya. The growing decline of this class marked the beginning of Darwin’s retreat from Arab intellectual life.

Keywords:   Socialism, Bolshevism, Fabian Society, Collectivism, Individualism, Cooperation, Altruism, Mutual aid, Eugenics

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