The Middle East in Transition: Studies in Contemporary History

By Walter Z. Laqueur | Go to book overview

THE MIDDLE CLASS IN THE ARAB WORLD

by MORROE BERGER

INDUSTRIALIZATION of Western societies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was intimately bound up with the rise of the middle classes and with their prosperity. Inevitably, we ask whether the Middle East (and other technologically under-developed areas) can give birth to the same kind of dynamic middle class, the catalyst that stirs up a placid economy.

When we speak of a middle class in terms of its economic role, we are referring to two related but distinct elements within it: an entrepreneurial class that accumulates, organizes, and allocates capital, and a technical-administrative bureaucracy that manages industrial enterprises. In an earlier era of Western industrial society, these two tasks were more likely to be fulfilled by the same persons than they are now. Especially in the last fifty years or so, the West has experienced two well-documented processes: first, the separation between entrepreneurship and management, and second, the relative decline of the individual entrepreneur and the concentration of the entrepreneurial function in management boards (in private or state enterprises).

If individual entrepreneurship in the West is becoming a rare commodity, can the Middle East develop it in abundance? It will be our thesis that the Arab world is not likely to become highly industrialized (if at all) through the efforts of a local entrepreneurial class of individuals acting in their private capacities, but that the society is likely to be more successful in nurturing a 'salariat' to manage industries set up by whatever combination of local or foreign and public or private capital proves to be feasible. In the course of

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