Society is Knowledge, and Knowledge is Power

Antun Saadeh





National consciousness is the greatest social phenomenon of our time - a phenomenon with which this age is colored to such a high degree of civilization. While the emergence of the personality of the individual was a great event in the advancement of the human psyche and the development of human association, the emergence of group personality was the greatest, most far-reaching, most truthful and delicate, and most complex event in the evolution of mankind. Group personality is a social-economic-psychological complex requiring the individual to add to the awareness of his own personality, an awareness of the personality of his group and his nation, that is to f eel, in addition to his own needs, the needs of his society, to complement his understanding of his own self with an understanding of the psychology of his social community, to link his own interests with those of his people and to feel with every member of his society, care for him and seek his welfare as he seeks his own welfare.

For every group that rises to the level of national consciousness so that it has become aware of the personality of the group, it becomes essential for the individual members of that group to understand the social facts, their circumstances and the nature of the resulting relations.

It is these relations which determine the degree of vitality of the group and its capacity to survive and advance. If these relations remain obscure, they would create many difficulties causing misunderstanding and activating the forces of antagonism in society so that it becomes self-obstructive, loses much of the effectiveness of its vital unity and grows less alert to its interests and to the external dangers surrounding it.

A study along this line which explains the human social actuality in its moods, circumstances and nature is essential for any society which wants to survive. Such a study brings about a correct understanding of the realities of social life and its courses. Any nation lacking scientific social studies will inevitably fall into ideological anarchy and intellectual confusion.

However, not all social studies are useful. There are academic or scholastic studies constituting a collection of general material or elementary information which does not help to determine a standpoint or to understand the nature of a particular social actuality. A proper sociologist or social expert is not one who has studied academic social science subjects specifically organized in a particular university and has passed an examination in his studies thereby obtaining a graduate or doctorate degree or the like.

Since Ibn Khaldun wrote the Prolegomena of his famous history and laid the foundation for social science, no other work in - this branch of learning has appeared in Arabic, so that the nations of the Arab World have remained socially stagnant, with the situation made worse by the confused attitude of their thinkers to the affairs of their nations. True, Nicola Haddad, the Syrian social writer, wrote a moderate-sized work entitled "Social Science", but it is of the academic type which can lead its reader astray. Nevertheless, it is, to my knowledge, the first attempt at opening the way to modern social science. The deficiency of the Arabic social books has led to relative limitations in scientific social terminology. In this book, I have adopted new terms which I hope I have well chosen to indicate the specific meaning, such as the Arabic equivalents for “social actuality", "social community", "morals" and “moralism" or "morality".

"GENESIS OF NATIONS" is a purely scientific social work in which I have avoided, as far as possible, interpretations, theoretical conclusions and all branches of philosophy, basing the facts on reliable sources, and making every effort to learn the most recent technical facts which illuminate the inside of social manifestations and prevent the passing of arbitrary judgments thereof.

I finished writing Book One while in prison, between early February and early May 1936. I wrote the first three chapters before entering prison.

It was my intention to review this book and be able to spend more time with the aim of rendering it more complete in form and of elaborating further on certain points, but the successive terms of imprisonment and the difficult political circumstances in which I found myself following my first imprisonment made it impossible for me to return to this scientific subject. Since the national renaissance is deeply in need of this scientific base, I decided to deliver the sole manuscript for printing in its original version, as it was when I left prison.

As for Book Two of this work, I studied most of its material and prepared the necessary remarks and notes, but all of these documents were confiscated during the second wave of arrests in the summer of 1936. I shall try to retrieve them from the court because they are personal papers which have no connection with the case, and then find an opportunity to write Book Two.

Yet, Book One is in itself a comprehensive work, comprising the general aspect of the genesis of nations in all its manifestations and basic f actors, and although the publication of Book One does not obviate the need for Book Two, it does fill the need for the general subject of the genesis of nations.

Book One deals with the definition of the nation, the manner in which it rises, its place in the course of human development and its relation to the manifestations of human association, while Book Two takes up the subject of the genesis of the Syrian Nation, its place in the course of human development and its relation to the other nations and to the general trend.

It is hoped that this work will serve the purpose for which it has been written by explaining such facts about human association as will dispel any obscurities in the understanding of nations and nationalities.

Antoun Saadeh

25 September 1937