THE CIVIC ORDER IN THE MIDDLE EAST
James L. Gelvin
FROM THE PERSPECTIVE of twentieth-century political economy, the notion of a Middle East provides an analytical vantage point that is useful but incomplete. It is useful because it highlights the characteristics shared by a number of contiguous states in Southwest Asia and North Africa, although, admittedly, those characteristics are not necessarily exclusive to the region, and the borders demarcating the region are not necessarily consistent (e.g., see Chapter 3). It is incomplete because the trajectory of the political economy of any set of contiguous states is constrained by the broader global and extra-regional political economic systems in which it is situated. Political economic histories must, therefore, take account of those systems, as well as their effects on constituent subsystems. The purpose of this chapter is to reconstruct the political economic history of the Middle East in the twentieth century, keeping these caveats in mind.
In the aftermath of the economic crisis spawned by the Great Depression and industrial growth spawned by World War II, increasing numbers of Middle Easterners moved to cities, sold their labor, and became integrated into the political process. Although postwar governments in the region were hardly democratic, they did have to respond to the aspirations and needs of newly urbanized and politicized populations to survive. Some—not all—Middle Eastern states responded by adopting an increasingly popular-nationalist rhetoric that appealed to those populations. More important, all states throughout the region responded to popular demands and expectations by