Reflections on Two Revolutions

by Ahmad Shokr
published in MER265

Interpreting a revolutionary event is a contentious undertaking. Why it began, how it unfolded, to whom its legacy belongs -- these are questions of enduring debate. The mass protests in Egypt that deposed Husni Mubarak and continued for months in 2011-2012 still generate divergent narratives and competing claims. In the struggle over meaning, reality and possibility are continuously measured against one another. Questions abound as to how much the country should change, and how much it actually has. A tension between continuity and change occupies a central place in political discourse and is manifest in the simple use of language.

Editor's Bookshelf

by Joel Beinin
published in MER161

Dipesh Chakrabarty’s well-documented, theoretically informed, innovative history of the jute mill workers of Bengal, Rethinking Working-Class History: Bengal, 1890-1940 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), poses this central question: “Can…third-world countries like India…build democratic, communitarian institutions on the basis of the nonindividualistic, but hierarchical and illiberal, precapitalist bonds that have survived and sometimes resisted -- or even flourished under -- the onslaught of capital?” (p.

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Gulf Juggernaut

by Karen Pfeifer
published in MER263

Adam Hanieh, Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

Egyptian Political Economy

by Roger Owen
published in MER169

Robert Bianchi, Unruly Corporatism: Associational Life in Twentieth-Century Egypt (Oxford, 1989.)

Joel Migdal, Strong Societies and Weak States: State-Society Relations and State Capabilities in the Third World (Princeton, 1988).

These two important new books address some of the central questions concerning state/society relations in a Middle Eastern and, more widely, a Third World context. Both are written from the statist perspective found in most contemporary political science, but manage to ask new questions of relatively familiar material.

Why Does the Occupation Continue?

by Max Ajl
published in MER262

Shir Hever, The Political Economy of Israel’s Occupation (Pluto, 2010).

There is a latter-day tendency to see the 44-year Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories as the organic outward growth of the Zionist idea -- as though the aspiration to hold the entirety of the land, embedded in Labor Zionist doctrine, was in fact a certainty, simply waiting for time to catch up. With the occupation deepened since the 1993 Oslo accord, and the remainder of the Palestinian populace crowded into a scattering of bantustans in the West Bank and one big one in Gaza, one can understand the diffusion of this way of thinking. It appears that the Zionist drive to dominion has neared completion.

The Syrian Regime's Business Backbone

by Bassam Haddad
published in MER262

Nearly one year into the Syrian uprising, with more than 7,500 Syrians dead, the protracted conflict is not very well understood or reported despite a deluge of writings. Most track fast-moving events without pausing for sober analysis of Syrian politics and society. Early on, the dominant argument was that the regime would quickly collapse; later, it has been that the regime is durable. The long view rarely appears. When it does, alas, it most commonly adduces timeless cultural factors, chiefly sectarianism, to explain the apparent stalemate.

Beinin and Lockman, Workers on the Nile

by Robert Vitalis
published in MER168

Joel Beinin and Zachary Lockman, Workers on the Nile: Nationalism, Communism, Islam and the Egyptian Working Class, 1882-1954 (Princeton, 1987).

America's Egypt

Discourse of the Development Industry

by Timothy Mitchell
published in MER169

Open almost any study of Egypt produced by an American or an international development agency and you are likely to find it starting with the same simple image. The question of Egypt’s economic development is almost invariably introduced as a problem of geography versus demography, pictured by describing the narrow valley of the Nile River, surrounded by desert, crowded with rapidly multiplying millions of inhabitants.

A 1980 World Bank report on Egypt provides a typical example. “The geographical and demographic characteristics of Egypt delineate its basic economic problem,” the book begins: