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Published by: DrHeba Haddad on Oct 26, 2013
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Page 103

its meaning is altered from being one of several words for governing, to stand for a definite field of knowledge,
debate, and practice. It was by no means the influence of a European word alone, however, that accomplished this
change. Particular practices had developed for which siyasa was already an expression. The term had been used in
such nineteenth-century phrases as 'siyasat sihhat al-abdan', a phrase translated into French at the time with the
single word hygiène, and 'arif bi-umur al-siyasa' (literally 'one learned in matters of siyasa'), which in 1864 an Arab
scholar rendered into French as criminaliste; siyasa could also mean simply 'to police'. 24 Similarly the word tadbir,
meaning arrangement, administration, or management, which occurred twice in the passage above defining the
meaning of politics, was used to mean 'treatment (of an illness)'.25 In other words, the appearance of the notion of
'politics', siyasa, was neither simply the adoption of a word from Europe nor a concept creating its own space out of
nothing. Politics was a field of practice, formed out of the supervision of people's health, the policing of urban
neighbourhoods, the reorganisation of streets, and, above all, the schooling of the people, all of which was taken up -
on the whole from the 1860s onward - as the responsibility and nature of government.

These activities required the elaboration of a new concept denoting an entire field of practice, of thought. Using the
long-established word siyasa, however, caused an apparent continuity with the past, so that the knowledge and
practices it referred to appeared not as the introduction of something previously unthought, but simply the
reintroduction of something 'neglected'. In earlier periods, as I suggested in chapter 2, the government of the country
had been practised as the aggregating of certain goods - bodies, crops, monies - required by ruling households for
their treasury and their armed forces. The political process was intermittent, irregular, obliged generally to expand as
the only means of increasing its revenues, and concerned always with aggregates. As Foucault argues, modern
politics was born with the concern not for aggregates but individuals - individuals who could be separately cared for,
schooled, disciplined, and kept clean in an economy of individual order and well-being.

Politics, wrote Tahtawi as he introduced the concept, 'is the pivot on which the organisation of the world turns' (fa-
madar intizam al-alam ala al-siyasa
).26 The organisation of the world, its order and well-being, was now to be
taken up as the political programme. Politics, according to Tahtawi, was divided into five parts. The first two, al-
siyasa al-nabawiyya
(prophetic) and al-siyasa al-mulukiyya (monarchic), conveyed the common and older sense of
siyasa as leadership or rule. In the third and fourth categories, al-siyasa al-amma (public) and al-siyasa al-khassa
(private), the new meaning of political practice appears. 'Public siyasa' is defined as 'the leading of groups (such as
the leadership of princes over countries or

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