Rentiers and Autocrats, Monarchs and Democrats, State and Society: The Middle East Between Gliablization, Human 'Agency,' and Europe
The key concerns in work on the politics of the Middle East in the past decade have been economic and political liberalization/democratization (or the absence thereof) and security, both domestic and international, along with a continued focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict. There has been an increasing recognition that these issues are strongly interrelated. Europe cannot avoid concerns over economic and political stability in the region affecting its own interests. Together with economic reasons for engagement with the region, this has brought about a desire to see economic and political reform take place. The Euro-Mediter-ranean Partnership Initiative (EMPI) is one result of this. The background against which these policies, concerns and hopes are evolving is ‘globalization’, both of the discourse of ‘democracy’ and in the growing hold of liberal market economics internationally. Recent research on the politics and political economy of the region, and on EMPI, however, shows that a combination of political-economic and related political-cultural factors, along with the Arab-Israeli conflict, continue to hamper political and economic reform in the Middle East, and that European policy as currently conceived is unlikely to affect this greatly. Yet such recent work also shows that aspects of globalization are changing the environment in which Middle Eastern regimes are having to function, while at the same time offering civil society new tools. Middle Eastern societies do, to varying extents, possess the necessary ‘spaces’ and traditions for human ‘agency’ to escape the constraints of domestic and international ‘structures’ and evolve new political cultures-including democratic ones. Existing judicial or legislative institutions may acquire volition of their own and reinforce this process. There is nothing in ‘Islam’ that necessarily obstructs such possibilities. And supposedly ’obsolete‘ monarchies might yet be among the most successful types of regime in coping with such change.
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