ECONOMIC CONDITIONS: Globalization and Geopolitics in the Middle East: Old Games, New Rules

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ECONOMIC CONDITIONS: Globalization and Geopolitics in the Middle East: Old Games, New Rules, by Anoushiravan Ehteshami. London, UK and New York: Routledge, 2007. 258 pages. xii + 196 pages. Tables. Notes to p. 228. Sel. bibl. to p. 241. Index to p. 258. $135.

Reviewed by Robert E. Looney

The Middle East stands out as the least globalized area in the world. In fact, the majority of Middle Eastern governments, opposition movements, and intellectuals have strongly resisted it. Moreover, in no part of the world is violence more often used in the anti-globalization struggle, most notably by radical Islamic movements. How can the strength of anti-globalization sentiments in this increasingly significant area of the world be explained? Anoushirivan Ehteshami's important study, which is set apart from other recent volumes by his vast knowledge of the region, offers a thoughtful and persuasive answer to this question.

This brief review cannot do justice to the complexity of Ehteshami's arguments, but can convey a brief sense of his major themes. As Ehteshami notes, there is a real fear of globalization in the Middle East. Rather than sharing the East Asian view that globalization presents an opportunity, the Islamic states largely view it as a threat:

... in no other developing region, I would argue, is sovereignty (economic political and cultural) more fervently defended than in the Middle East, which again raises deep suspicions in this part of the world about the corrosive impact of globalization on Muslim societies. At such junctions the forces of globalization encounter their geopolitical counterparts? In the Muslim Middle East, which has a unique and historically distinct cultural make-up compared with many other regions globalization's penetration means that the challenge is felt more profoundly at the state level than elsewhere (p. 3).

Although most countries in the Middle East have, often grudgingly, accepted the principle of economic liberalization and the need for adoption of World Trade Organization ( WTO) standards, there are few willing to accept the enormous consequences that globalization poses for their socio-economic fabric. Ehteshami concludes that Islamic nationalism, even in its most militant form, should be seen as a direct response to the cultural side effects of economic globalization . subordination of the Muslim state to global capitalist forces often triggers a sense of alienation that can only be assuaged through resistance and a renewed allegiance to tradition. …