Business Politics in the Middle East

April 2013 9781849042352 288pp


Although most Arab countries remain authoritarian, many have undergone a restructuring of state-society relations in which lower- and middle-class interest groups have lost ground while big business has benefited in terms of its integration into policy-making and the opening of economic sectors that used to be state-dominated. Arab businesses have also started taking on aspects of public service provision in health, media and education that used to be the domain of the state; they have also become increasingly active in philanthropy. The ‘Arab Spring,’ which is likely to lead to a more pluralistic political order, makes it all the more important to understand business interests in the Middle East, a segment of society that on the one hand has often been close to the ancien regime, but on the other will play a pivotal role in a future social contract. Among the topics addressed by the authors are the role of business in recent regime change; the political outlook of businessmen; the consequences of economic liberalisation on the composition of business elites in the Middle East; the role of the private sector in orienting government policies; lobbying of government by business interests and the mechanisms by which governments seek to keep businesses dependent on them.

Table of contents


1. Introduction: The Role of MENA Business in Policy-Making and Political Transitions — Steffen Hertog

2. Oligarchy vs. Oligarchy: Business and Politics of Reform in Bahrain and Oman — Marc Valeri

3. Private Sector Actors in the UAE and their Role in the Process of Economic and Political Reform — Khalid Almezaini

4. The Politics of Shi‘i Merchants in Kuwait — Rivka Azoulay

5. Breaking Loose: Reduced Private Sector Dependence on Governments in GCC Economies — Nathan Hodson

6. CSR and Reputation Building in Syria: Contextualizing the “Business Case” — Kjetil Selvik

7. Syria’s Reforms under Bashar al-Asad: An Opportunity for Foreign-Educated Entrepreneurs to Move into Decision-Making? — Tina Zintl

8. The Politics of “Good Governance” in Mubarak’s Egypt: Western Donors and SME Politics under Authoritarian Rule — Diane Zovighian

9. Vectors of Iranian Capitalism: Privatization Politics in the Islamic Republic — Kevan Harris

10. The Hound that did not Bark: Solving the Mystery of Business without Voice in Egypt — Robert Springborg

11. Businesses and the Revolution — Giacomo Luciani





‘This is a superb volume on a critically important topic that often does not receive the careful attention it deserves. The book is impressive in both breadth and depth as it offers incisive analyses on significant issues related to business politics across the Middle East, especially insofar as public and private sector reforms and the 2011 uprisings are concerned. With essays rich in empirical data and with robust analytical frameworks, this is a significant contribution to the literature on the political economy of the Middle East.’ — Mehran Kamrava, Professor and Director of the Center for International and Regional Studies at the Georgetown University’ School of Foreign Service in Qatar

‘After years of apparent political stability, economic growth and liberal reform, the Middle East is in turmoil and many of the business groups that anchored this development have all but vanished from the political scene.  For those who want to understand this dynamic— who are the business leaders, what has been their impact, and what are their prospects now?—this volume provides valuable insight.’ — Lisa Anderson, President of The American University in Cairo


Steffen Hertog is Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the Department of Government, London School of Economics.

Giacomo Luciani is Scientific Director of the Masters in International Energy of the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences-Po and a Princeton University Global Scholar attached to the Woodrow Wilson School and the Department of Near Eastern Studies.

Marc Valeri is Senior Lecturer in Political Economy of the Middle East, and Director of the Centre for Gulf Studies, College Director of Postgraduate Research, University of Exeter. He is the co-editor of Business Politics in the Middle East, with Steffen Hertog and Giacomo Luciani.

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