The Contemporary Middle East in an Age of Upheaval
Edited by James L. Gelvin


Contents and Abstracts
1 Is There a New Middle East? What Has Changed, and What Hasn't?  Joel Beinin
chapter abstract

This chapter points to the continuities between the "old" Middle East and the new. In terms of petroleum-based crony capitalism, authoritarian patrimonialism or neo-patrimonialism, low human development indexes, and a repressive public culture, political opposition in the form of Islamist movements, little has changed. What has changed is that the subalterns of the Arab region have burst into the historical and political arena in hitherto-unprecedented ways.

2 What Future for the Private Sector in the New Middle East?  Ishac Diwan
chapter abstract

The chapter examines the political economy of state-business relations in the New Middle East. It maps empirically the nature of political connections in the private sector in several Middle Eastern states; examines the impact of the preferential treatment of connected firms on their productivity, employment generation, and growth; and documents mechanisms of privilege, such as reliance on subsidies and credit, trade protection, and state procurement.

3 Education and Human Security: Centering the Politics of Human Dignity  Laurie A. Brand
chapter abstract

This chapter focuses in on one of the disturbing indexes of human security in the New Middle East: the abysmal state of education and educational institutions. Using the examples of Turkey, Algeria, the Palestinian Territories, and Iraq, the chapter discusses the deleterious impact of other aspects of state repression, occupation, and war on education in the region.

4 Myths of Middle-Class Political Behavior in the Islamic Republic  Kevan Harris
chapter abstract

Using data from the Iran Social Survey, this chapter looks at categories that are the mainstay of modernization theory and neo-modernization theory: middle class, youth, the educated. It debunks two assumptions in particular: that the middle class is a coherent social group in both an objective and a subjective sense, and that by collectively participating or refraining from political activity, including through elections or street protests, the middle class is the swing actor in the country's public arena.

5 Poets of the Revolutions: Authoritarians, Uprisings, and Rappers in North Africa, 1990s–Present  Aomar Boum
chapter abstract

Hip-hop has been used as a public forum by a generation of North African youth since the 1990s to highlight their social and economic concerns about human rights, repression, legal corruption, educational failures, and unemployment predicaments. Frustrated by the broken promise of their authoritarian leaders and trapped in preadulthood, North African youth deployed hip-hop and rap to challenge local and traditional social and political authorities. This chapter argues that North African hip-hop provides a historical archive and documentary resource to understand the social, political, and economic dynamics and transformations within the Maghreb through the eyes of alienated youth before and after the Arab Spring.

6 Islamism at a Crossroads? The Diffusion of Political Islam in the Arab World  Peter Mandaville
chapter abstract

This chapter looks at Islamism after the Arab uprisings. Against a backdrop of polarized regional geopolitical rivalry in which orientation toward Islamism is a defining feature, political movements that previously embraced the label "Islamist" seem to be grasping for a new synthesis. The chapter explores the political sociology that underpins these trends, with a particular focus on understanding how and why Islamism continues to attract adherents even as—or perhaps because—its identity seems increasingly ambiguous.

7 Islamists before and after 2011: Assuming, Overlooking, or Overthrowing the Administrative State?  Nathan J. Brown
chapter abstract

In many Arab countries, an identifiable Islamist project had taken shape by the end of the twentieth century that focused on operating within existing states. Where other approaches showed suspicion of or aversion to existing states, dominant and mainstream approaches in countries as diverse as Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, and Kuwait (and to a lesser extent Palestine and Algeria) focused, albeit with some ambivalence, on a political project to steer states and public policy in ways deemed consistent with Islamic teachings. This chapter examines this phenomenon and how the failure of Islamist movements to take advantage of the Arab uprisings may bring about a shift in perspective and goals.

8 Homeland (Dis-)Engagement Processes among the New Syrian Diaspora  Lindsay A. Gifford
chapter abstract

Since the start of the Syrian war, more than half of the Syrian population has been displaced. Those in the diaspora have deployed various strategies to envision, plan, and shape their futures. These range from distancing themselves from previous traumas experienced in their homeland to engaging intensively with the Syrian crisis; working with the regime, the opposition, and other refugees; and making plans to rebuild their country socially, politically, and economically after the war. Based on discussions with members of the Syrian diaspora, as well as studies and media reports, this chapter addresses how those displaced from Syria are envisioning their future.

9 Saudi Arabia: How Much Change?  F. Gregory Gause III
chapter abstract

From a foreign policy characterized by an extreme reluctance to expose itself to risk, Saudi Arabia has shifted its stance in the region by 180 degrees. Saudi Arabia, for example, engaged in a war of choice in Yemen, initiated a crisis with Qatar, and, very briefly in 2017, kidnapped the Lebanese prime minister. And while much of the New Middle East was experiencing revolutions from below, Saudi Arabia's new leadership was promising its own brand of revolution from above, including a transformation of the roles of religion and women in society. This chapter discusses these changes, the reasons for them, and the likelihood of their successful implementation.

10 Erdoğan, Turkish Foreign Policy, and the Middle East  Henri J. Barkey
chapter abstract

As Turkey has transitioned toward a personalized one-man political system under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish foreign and domestic policy preferences have become synonymous with his predilections and requirements. To be sure, there are long-standing interests, some archaic and some vital, that all Turkish governments have pursued. Still, Turkish domestic politics is casting a long shadow on the country's role in the region and beyond, as well as on Turkey's competition with other states, be they in the Gulf, North Africa, or the Levant. This degree of personalization of foreign policy in Turkey is new. This chapter argues that the personalization of policy will translate into policy making that is simultaneously fast moving, changing, and yet prone to mistakes.

11 The Syrian Civil War and the New Middle East  James L. Gelvin
chapter abstract

This chapter traces the trajectory of the Syrian crisis from a nonsectarian uprising to a civil war marked by sectarianism and ultraviolence to a proxy war and, finally, to a failed state that has become the site of conflicts among outside powers. It describes the domestic, regional, and global ramifications of the war, including the refugee crisis, demographic shifts, sectarianization and impoverishment of Syrian society, the destruction of Syrian cities, the rise and fall of ISIS, and the impact of the Syria crisis on the regional and global balance of power. Finally, it describes how and why the Syria government emerged all but victorious—but greatly weakened.

12 State Building, Sectarianization, and Neo-Patrimonialism in Iraq  Harith Hasan
chapter abstract

The devolution of some of the Iraqi state's functions since the 1990s and the collapse of the Iraqi state after the US occupation in 2003 have generated new power struggles. Two parallel dynamics have influenced and largely shaped those struggles: first, a new state-building process that was conceptually and institutionally framed by the consociational paradigm and liberal principles; and, second, the emergence of informal and nonstate actors enabled by religious, sectarian, and tribal or clan solidarities. In a context of a power vacuum, violent conflict, and societal division, attempts to rearticulate new modes of relations between formal and informal became an essential factor in reconfiguring authority emerging in post-Baath (and post-ISIS) Iraq. This chapter identifies some aspects of these reconfigurations by examining the transformations in relations between the state and Shii clerical authority or actors in the past three decades.

13 The Post-Uprising Transformation of International Relations in the Middle East and North Africa  Fred H. Lawson
chapter abstract

This chapter argues that international relations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have changed in three notable ways following the wave of popular uprisings in the region beginning in winter of 2010–2011. First, states throughout MENA have become more truculent in their dealings with one another. Second, the dominant mode of regulating interstate disputes has shifted from an admixture of diplomatic initiatives and economic statecraft to the exercise of military force. Third, the MENA regional security complex—or, the four overlapping regional security complexes that make up the MENA supercomplex—has expanded to incorporate four adjacent conflict zones: (1) Turkey, Iran, and the republics of the South Caucasus; (2) Saudi Arabia, the smaller states of the Global Cooperation Council, Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Somalia; (3) Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, and Kenya; and (4) Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, and Chad.

14 Proxy War and the New Structure of Middle East Regional Politics  Marc Lynch
chapter abstract

This chapter argues that the Arab uprisings revealed and generated changes in the structure of regional international relations in the Middle East. The uprisings, civil wars, and troubled transitions created manifold, irresistible opportunities for competitive interventions by regional powers. The resulting shifts in the operation of power and perceptions of threat have created fundamental structural changes that can be grasped only at the systemic level, not through individual cases. The pattern of failed and weakened states, and the unpredictable behavior of key actors and their seeming inability to correct terrible mistakes, are rooted in these structural changes. The regional order today is shaped by insecurity felt by all regional elites, regardless of their current power or stability; by proliferation of failed states and destabilizing forces; by uncertainty about balance of power; by a persistent crisis of governance; and by a consistently counterproductive interventions and proxy wars.

16 Afterword: The Fourth Dream  Moncef Marzouki
chapter abstract

In this final chapter, Moncef Marzouki, the first post-uprising president of Tunisia, reflects on the tumultuous era in Middle Eastern history that began in the 1950s and continues to this day. Marzouki calls his piece "The Fourth Dream," by which he means Arab democracy that got its tentative start in Tunisia after the failure of three previous "dreams": the nationalist dream that won Tunisia and other states in the region their (circumscribed) independence; the pan-Arab dream of Gamal Abdul Nasser that promised to unite Arabs in single powerful state that would be able to stand up to the bullying of great powers; and the dream of political Islam, which promised to return the Arab nation its authentic self.