The Vulnerability of Success

May 2009 9781850658887 392pp
Temporarily out of stock
May 2009 9781850659860 392pp
Temporarily out of stock


Dubai is a remarkable success story. From its origins as a small fishing and pearling community, the emirate has gone from strength to strength, having established itself as the premier trading entrepot of the Arabian Gulf and, in more recent years, having boomed into a massive metropolis of some two or more million people, most of whom are expatriates engaged in an increasingly diversified economy that has become synonymous with startling and innovative architecture. Following a detailed historical background, Davidson’s in-depth study demonstrates how Dubai’s pioneering post-oil development strategies were implemented against a carefully managed backdrop of near complete political stability, despite the lack of democratisation and genuine civil society.He then addresses the problems that may surface as the need for sustained foreign direct investment encourages far-reaching socio-economic reforms, many of which may affect the ideological, religious, and cultural legitimacy of the traditional monarchy. He also analyses Dubai’s awkward relationship with its federal partners in the United Arab Emirates, before highlighting some of the hidden costs of being the region’s most successful free port—namely its attractiveness to international criminal fraternities, the global black money economy and terrorist networks.


‘Dr Davidson nicely lays out this flashy emirate’s
 astonishing ascent from tiny fishing and pearling
 village to global hub.’ — New York Times

‘Davidson traces Dubai’s rise from sleepy Gulf port 
to player on the world scene.’ — Los Angeles Times

‘This is the definitive book on Dubai and is likely to
 become a classic in Gulf studies.’ — Professor Ray 
Hinnebusch, St Andrews University

‘It is no surprise a book that analyses Dubai’s weaknesses, as well as its virtues, provoked nervousness in the emirate. … Davidson’s book should be seen in Dubai as an important contribution. … It charts a fascinating history of an obscure part of the Gulf, explaining the ability of the emirate to pursue economic liberalisation without political reform. … But Davidson sends warning shots that signal the concerns of local citizens. Strains in the ruling bargain have emerged, he argues, as nationals find themselves a small minority in an unrecognisable city. … Perhaps most irritating to the Dubai authorities is Davidson’s depiction of the more seedy side of the city, where he says smuggling, arms trading and prostitution are rife. … There is much in this book that Dubai prefers to ignore.’ — Financial Times

‘This is the best study of Dubai that I have read and an important contribution to the still meager literature on the extraordinary formation that is the United Arab Emirates. Especially interesting is the book’s discussion of the emirates’ founding under British rule and the continuing influence of this imperial history on its politics and society; the imported character of its ‘Arab’ identity; and the regional context that informs everything from security concerns to demography.’ — Faisal Devji, St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford, and author of Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity

‘Davidson offers a detailed historical and topical study of the Dubai phenomenon.’ — Foreign Affairs

‘Davidson gives an excellent overview of Dubai, the UAE in general, and its path to economic development . . . Recommended.’ — Choice

‘Perhaps the best look at this desert mirage is this prescient book published in 2008. Well before the real estate debacle, Davidson raised questions about how long Dubai could remain immune from regional conflict, organized crime, and terrorism, all of which would swiftly affect its allure as a haven for investment and luxury travel.’ — Foreign Policy

‘This monograph is a first-rate piece of scholarship, and provides a wealth of information and analysis about Dubai.’ –– The Historian


Christopher M. Davidson has long-standing research interests in the comparative politics of the Gulf states, and was previously a reader at Durham University and an assistant professor at Zayed University, UAE. His publications include Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success; Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond; After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies; and Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East.

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