This volume seeks to stimulate a broad discussion on studying the Middle East and North Africa using the methods of political economy. Political economy addresses the mutual and historical constitution of states, markets, and classes. Its ambit also includes the legal, political, and cultural forms of the regulation of regimes of capital accumulation; relations among local, national, and global forms of capital, class, and culture; the social structure of reproduction, the construction of forms of knowledge and hegemony; technopolitics; the environment as both a resource and field of contestation; the role of war in the constitution of states and classes; and practices and cultures of domination and resistance. The historical development of social formations dominated by capital is inextricably intertwined with
This chapter argues for a political economic and a cultural definition of capitalism. Capitalism in Egypt and the Levant, as part of the global capitalist system, was marked by institutions approximating private property, free wage labor, capital accumulation, and modern rationality. Using this definition and analyzing the processes that produced globally recognizable institutions as well as local differences, the chapter argues that foundations in tax-farming, industry, and urbanization laid in the early modern period produced specific differential results in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: wage labor and private property in Egypt, and sharecropping in the Levant. Canonized during World War I, both property and labor regimes rested on the objectification and depersonalization of laborer and company as opposed to the more interpersonal dependencies of the early modern period.
This chapter analyzes colonial and postcolonial development in Egypt, Syria, and Tunisia. These three republics had different patterns of colonial intervention, yet shared a relatively similar postcolonial development path. Each carried out marked changes in the institutional framework or ownership of land during the statist/socialist period, and each suffered from degrees of agrarian counterrevolutions during the 1980s or 1990s. All had heavily invested in import-substitution industrialization and opened up to foreign capital. All three cases had a state that heavily regulated production and consumption, and each experienced subsequent levels of state retreat from the economic sphere in favor of the private sector. In charting the rise and fall of developmentalism in each of the three republics, the chapter demonstrates that development is a global process conditioned, but not determined, by external forces, and whose rise and fall casts light on the longue durée of regional underdevelopment.
Oil seems to dictate the terms with which we think about it. Since capitalism depends on it, we assume, supplies of oil have to be continually secured, bringing repeated risks of conflict and war. This energy determinism grants too much power to oil and often says little about oil itself—how it is produced, shipped, and used, and by whom. The first nine propositions outline alternative ways to approach the historical political economy of oil. The tenth asks how we can approach this subject in the face of catastrophic climate change. This is not a question of how history shapes our understanding of oil, but how oil has shaped our understanding of history.
The military, as both a political and an economic actor, has figured prominently in the region's development history. Many of the region's fundamental transformations, including coups, state-building projects, and the assumption of ruinous debt loads, were intertwined with the military and its institutional prerogatives. Emerging as one of few intact institutions in the postcolonial landscape, many scholars initially viewed the military as critical to modernization and industrialization. However, it evolved over time into a predatory bureaucratic institution that contributed more to political repression than industrial production. The military's hold on power is intertwined with the interests of external actors, including foreign defense establishments and the global military-industrial complex, both of which have contributed to maintaining the centrality of the armed forces in the political economies of Middle East states.
The six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar) constitute one of the most important zones of power within the contemporary Middle East. This chapter offers a critical account of the GCC's political economy, presenting an alternative to standard approaches based on Rentier State Theory. The discussion focuses on the nature of capitalist class formation in the Gulf, the significant internationalization of Gulf capital that has occurred over the last two decades, and the structural role played by the presence of a large migrant labor force, lacking access to citizenship or basic political rights. The chapter concludes with a reflection on what a critical political economy approach can offer to our understanding of the Gulf and what this means for the region's broader place in the Middle East.
This chapter advances two related arguments about the history of capitalism in Egypt. First, Egypt is not a site where preexisting "global" processes reenact themselves. Rather, over the course of more than two centuries, shifting configurations of political-economic power across the country have been shaped by dynamics situated at once within and beyond Egypt's borders. Second, capitalists in Egypt have often required more capital than they possessed. To address the shortfall, they have consistently relied upon political transfers of value in addition to profits through production. These means of acquiring capital have bound spaces of power and accumulation inside Egypt to the world around them in complex ways that have often defied the confines of present-day national borders.
Over the past few decades, three themes—the state, oil, and war—have shaped both Iraqi politics and Iraqi studies. These themes emerge from Iraq's modern history and its representation in academia. Academic work on Iraq witnessed a number of shifts that can be traced to the interrelated factors of access to primary source material and the political context of the time. This chapter argues that state, oil, and war are interrelated themes rather than
This chapter revisits debates regarding the profitability of French empire in North Africa. It argues that we should study colonial capitalism, not only as means of redistributing material goods, but also as a key site for shaping moral orders and political subjectivities. Beginning with the establishment of a settler colony in Algeria, the chapter highlights how these events shaped colonial rule in Morocco and Tunisia. After these protectorates were established, Europe demanded new economic, political, and human sacrifices from these territories during World War I. The interwar and postwar periods, however, saw older doctrines of colonial protectionism give way to notions of economic competition and free trade, when the horizon of European integration led some observers to see France's colonies as a burden rather than boon for French capitalism. Skepticism regarding the profitability of empire in part fueled the decolonization of these territories in the 1950s and 1960s.
This chapter analyzes the modern state, market, and class formation in the territories that constitute the Republic of Lebanon. Beginning in the nineteenth century and moving forward to the early twenty-first century, it historicizes the area's political economy, exploring changes and continuities across the late Ottoman, French Mandate, and postcolonial periods. Eschewing culturalist and deterministic analysis, the chapter highlights how political economy sheds light on key junctures in historical and contemporary Lebanon. It challenges the relative silence on Lebanon in the literature on comparative political economy, demonstrating how the case of Lebanon can advance our understanding of the broader regional political economy.
Christian Zionism and the electoral clout of the Zionist lobby can obscure the material and strategic components of the US-Israeli relationship. Israel's mode of capital accumulation has shifted from social democratic state-led development to individualistic neoliberal capitalism. Nonetheless, the symbiotic relationship with the United States has endured. After the June 1967 War, the relationship deepened into a many-faceted alliance. Beginning in the 1980s, the personnel, technology, finance, and production of the two countries' hi-tech and military/security industrial sectors became closely intertwined. The Global War on Terror enhanced intelligence, military, and domestic policing collaboration. The United States has stood with Israel against Palestinian rights and maintains warm relations with Arab autocratic regimes because, despite their sometimes significant costs, these relationships have been essential to sustaining a pro-American order in the Middle East.
This chapter considers the factors that shaped the political economy of the Palestinian occupied territories over fifty years, from 1967 to 2017. It examines the development of the overall economic indicators and looks into the various economic sectors while keeping track of the main political developments within the context of colonialism. It considers the developments in fiscal, monetary, labor, trade, and sectoral structural issues and their implications regarding employment generation, poverty, and the sources for economic growth. The chapter is divided into two main periods; the first starts with Israel's occupation in 1967 to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, while the second extends from 1994 to 2017.