On the level of practical politics, Sharabi deserves high praise for his candid diagnosis of Arab society; he calls it "for the most part, a culturally and politically desolate and oppressive place". This is the sort of forthright and courageous analysis the Middle East needs, especially from the inside. Too, his call for change in the Arabic-speaking countries is all to the good. Who would dispute his appeal for "limiting violence, humanizing social relations, liberalizing political life?" Or an emphasis on the need to attain human and political rights? Or a denunciation of the barbarities committed in the name of fundamentalist Islam?
The trouble is, it takes 150 pages for Sharabi to reach these fairly banal conclusions. Worse, he gets there via a convoluted, quasi-Marxist theory of "petty bourgeois hegemony" and the "neopatriarchal discourse." Along the way, he drops the names of every trendy theorist from Roland Barthes to Jörgen Habermas, with the usual bow to Marxist and Weberian icons. Sharabi hopes his book will stimulate Arabs to take action to improve their lot; but its obscure argument and superficial goals make the achievement of this goal highly dubious. Worse, he offers no practical ideas on how to get from here to there. Much better and more effective would have been to leave out the wordy theoretical sections and replace them with some constructive ideas how the worthy goals he sets out are to be achieved.