Tunisia and Egypt: Primary Concern and Ideology

A young Egyptian woman demonstrating in Cairo

Whenever we see something like what is happening now in Tunisia and Egypt — and what was brutally stifled in Iran two years ago — it is heartening to recall Frye’s observations on the liberation movements in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  There are no guarantees when it comes to the triumph of primary concern over ideology, but there is always hope.

In conversation with David Cayley:

Cayley: Partly what I’m trying to understand are the political or real world implications of your thought.

Frye: The political implications are, again, in the direction of what I’ve called primary concern.  What has thrilled me about the movements in Eastern Europe is that they are not ideological movements.  They are movements for fundamental human rights to live and eat and to own property.  The authorities there, insofar as they are opposing these demands, are no longer saying, “We are conducting a certain course in the interest of a higher socialist identity.”  They are saying, with George Orwell, “The object of power is power, and we’re going to hang on to it as long as we’ve got the guns to shoot you with.”  The protest is made in the direction of something which breaks out of the ideological framework altogether. (CW 24, 1029-30)

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