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The Green Book is the Libyan leader Muammar al Qadhafi’s codification of his philosophy on how to resolve political, economic, and social problems in society. It is set out in three parts: The Solution of the Problem of Democracy: The Authority of the People (1975), The Solution of the Economic Problem: Socialism (1977), and The Social Basis of the Third Universal Theory (1978).
The driving force behind The Green Book was Qadhafi’s resolve to nurture and consolidate the revolution set in motion by his ascent to power in 1969. By the time it attained independence on December 24, 1951, Libya was a poor and underdeveloped country. The discovery of oil in 1955 generated significant wealth but no corresponding benefits to the impoverished majority of Libyans because the monarchic government’s unchecked corruption, fiscal malfeasance, and nepotistic inclinations encouraged brazen exploitation by some Western powers and their proxies. It was against this backdrop of corrupt administration and international exploitation and popular disillusionment and discontent that Qadhafi emerged. Armed with a vision to unify the Arab world (in the mold of his hero, Egypt’s Abdel Gamel Nasser) and the grudges of anticolonialism, Qadhafi led a small group of his fellow military officers known as the Unionist Free Officers and toppled King Idris in a bloodless coup on September 1, 1969, marking the end of the monarchy.
On his ascent to power, Qadhafi embarked on changing Libya from a conservative postcolonial state to a modern progressive one. He launched a “cultural revolution” in 1973 to inspire a major transformation of society through changes in roles, attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors. In The Green Book he explicated the philosophy of the revolution as a national guide to the complete eradication of the old order and its replacement with a new order governed by the ideals of liberty, unity, and socialism.
The main thrust of Qadhafi’s philosophy is the removal of all vestiges of foreign influence and ideologies and the establishment of a new society based on the basic principles of Islam and homegrown socialism. He condemns parliamentary democracies and their components in preference to socialism and progressive Islam, rejects capitalism and communism as false ideologies, and develops his “third universal theory” in which he envisions the dismantling of the traditional apparatus of government and the establishment of a form of direct democracy through institutionalized use of popular congresses and committees at the local, regional, and national levels to guarantee mass participation in the nation’s decision-making process. This form of government has been in place since March 2, 1977, when Qadhafi declared Libya a jamahiriya (government of the masses), although critics see a stiflingly rigid structure that provides no mechanism for a democratic change of government. At any rate, Qadhafi believes that adherence to the basic fundamentals of Islam in line with the third universal theory will enable Libyans to lead Muslims everywhere toward economic development and political change. However, Qadhafi’s unorthodox approach to Islam and his elevation of The Green Book as a guide to the emancipation of the human race has brought him into conflict with Muslims in Libya and beyond. Although The Green Book professes universality in its scope and purpose, the peculiar circumstances of the Libyan people and the Islamic Arab heritage underlie its general framework.
- Ayoub, Mahmoud. 1987. Islam and the Third Universal Theory: The Religious Thought of Mu’ammar al Qadhdhafi. London: Kegan Paul International.
- Greavette, Gordon. 2005. Great Aspirations: The Fall and Rise of Muammar Qaddafi. http://www.cdacdai.ca/symposia/2005/Greavette,.pdf.
- Hajja, Samir R. 1980. The Jamahiriya Experiment in Libya: Qadhafi and Rousseau. Journal of Modern African Studies 18 (2): 181–200.
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