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  • The Social Question in the Middle East: Past and Present

    Kevan Harris

    Chapter from the book: Breman, J et al. 2019. The Social Question in the Twenty-First Century: A Global View.


    What longer-run dynamics underlie present realities in the Middle East? To chart the historical terrain, this chapter tracks the making and unmaking of social compacts and state formations in the Middle East and North Africa, amid changing political-economic conditions, across five broad chronological periods: the tail end of the Ottoman and Persian empires, the colonial interlude, the era of political independence, the infitah years of economic opening, and the current upheaval of unrest and militarization. Any future stability in the Middle East might come in the region only when states build political and social compacts that not only incorporate wider segments of the population but also significantly reshape their life chances. It is unlikely, though, that emulating the developmental models of the present will create a solid compact for the region’s states. Processes of urbanization and depeasantization that were corollaries of Middle East state formation meant that rural reserves of semi-proletarian labor of the sort that fueled rapid growth in East Asian markets and lured in Western capital are today nowhere to be found.

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    Harris, K. 2019. The Social Question in the Middle East: Past and Present. In: Breman, J et al (eds.), The Social Question in the Twenty-First Century. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.74.l

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    Published on July 30, 2019