Gustave Edmund von Grunebaum defined culture as an effort to find a coherent set of answers to the existential situations that confront humans. In other words, recurrent confrontation with basic and radical issues, which could be answered by a set of codes which together make up a cohesive and viable whole.
The Moroccan thinker Mohamed Abid Al Jabiry defines an intellectual as a social critic whose major concern is to define and analyze to be able to overcome obstacles that stand in the way of bringing about a better social system, which is supposed to be a more humane and rational social system.
Is the cultural discourse in the Arab world dispossessed? Is it shabby? That says everything about nothing, or says nothing about everything. This discourse talks about everything except the things that should be talked about. There is confusion in the cultural scene as the intellectual’s role has been eliminated, and has been taken over by politicians. The politician has become an intellectual and slaughtered culture and corrupted
The uprisings that have rocked the Arab world have brought to the fore the issue of the intellectual’s role in political, social and cultural change which imposes itself on the region and its peoples. The general outcome shows the weakness of the role played by Arab intellectuals and their very modest effect, compared to the youth and other social segments — youth who use digital media, are not politicised, are free of ideological inclinations, have limited cultural knowledge, and are considered a marginal and hopeless generation.
The question is: how can Arab intellectuals overcome this historical dilemma confronting them amid the transformations under way in the post-Arab revolutions era? The other questions are: what is our definition of an intellectual? What are the influential roles he/she has to play, is it Heideggerian or Nietzschean? Is he required to play a role in re-dismantling and re-constructing, according to the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, or to ask questions that are not thought about or impossible to think about in the Arab world?