Oxford University Press, 2020

Book description

The popular uprisings in 2011 that overthrew Arab dictators were also a rebuke to crony capitalism, diverted against both rulers and their allied businessmen who monopolize all economic opportunities. While the Middle East has witnessed a growing nexus between business and politics in the wake of liberalization, little is discussed about the nature of business cronies, the sectors in which they operate, the mechanisms used to favour them, and the possible impact of such crony relations on the region’s development. Combining inputs from leading scholars in the field, Crony Capitalism in the Middle East: Business and Politics from Liberalization to the Arab Spring presents a wealth of empirical evidence on the form and function of this aspect of the region.

Crony Capitalism in the Middle East is unique in both its empirical focus and comparative scale. Analysis in individual chapters is empirically grounded and based on fine-grained data on the business activities of politically connected actors furnishing, for the first time, information on the presence, numerical strength, and activities of politically connected entrepreneurs. It also substantially enhances our understanding of the mechanisms used to privilege connected businesses, and their possible impact on undermining the growth of firms in the region. It offers a major advance on our prior knowledge of Middle Eastern political economy, and constitutes a distinct contribution to the global literature on crony capitalism and the politics of development. The book will be an essential resource for students, researchers, and policymakers alike.

Critical reception

“…important collection”—John Waterbury, Foreign Affairs

“Crony capitalism—a system in which private business enriches itself through its connections to the state—can be said to have been raised to an art form in the Middle East. By combining firm-level databases in conjunction with qualitative information, this volume breaks important new ground. It maps out networks of cronyism, traces out their effects on policy domains ranging from bank credit to government procurement, and details the consequences for economic productivity and prosperity. This book is indispensable for anyone interested in the economics or politics of Middle Eastern societies.”—Dani Rodrik, Harvard University and author of The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy

“The Arab Spring shook the world. Where did it come from? This book provides a seminal and deep analysis of the networks of patronage and corruption that laid the seeds of discontent and revolt. A profound study of the politics of development.”—James Robinson, University of Chicago and author of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

“Crony Capitalism is an important and timely book. For the first time the people of the Middle East have the evidence—produced by people from the region—that explains why their economies have failed to deliver jobs and prosperity.”—Paul Collier, University of Oxford and author of The Future of Capitalism


Routledge, 4th edition, 2014

Critical reception

“This volume is refreshing, timely, and essential.” —Middle East Quarterly

A Political Economy of the Middle East makes a valuable intellectual contribution to the field of Middle East Studies and allied disciplines and focuses the connections between economics, politics, and the social, which are obscured in standard media analysis. I would highly recommend this book for courses on the Middle East history, economics, and politics and as the standard reference book for students and scholars on the political economies of the region.” —Digest of Middle East Studies

“The volume remains by far the best single work on the political economy of development in the contemporary Middle East. Highly recommended.” —Choice


Routledge, 3rd edition, 2013

Critical reception

“This is an excellent, well-written book…a rich tapestry that does justice to the complex subject at hand. Their sociopolitical analyses of the political regimes, the military and the state, and class interests are perceptive and thought-provoking. …This is a book that I would strongly recommend—not only to all those concerned with the Middle East but also to many of those concerned with development issues in these complex times.
Finance and Development

“Each generation produces a limited crop of important books on the Middle East. A Political Economy of the Middle East…is one of these books. In a thorough and methodical manner, Richards and Waterbury address the hard development issues, including the role of natural resources, population, agriculture, the growth and frequent dominance of the public sector, and the military as an actor in politics as well as the economy. …In sum, A Political Economy of the Middle East is truly a significant book. It is strongly recommended to anyone who desires a better understanding of the socio-economic forces that drive the region.”
Middle East Insight

“Seldom has a book been more timely. This volume for years to come will be one of the standard sources for those interested in the Middle East and North Africa.”
The Annals of the American Academy


Westview Press, 2013, 2018

Melani Cammett and Ishac Diwan explore the impact of the Arab Spring and subsequent events in the region. The Political Economy of the Arab Uprisings analyzes the ways in which salient socioeconomic and political factors are interacting to shape the construction of new political institutions and economic reform programs. The authors introduce students to events with vivid depictions of regional variations in the uprisings, pointing to a variety of factors that differentiate the countries of the region and help to explain their distinct trajectories thus far.


International Economic Association Series, edited by Joseph Stigltiz, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016

The book examines the structure and prospects of the Middle East economies after the 2011 Uprisings, focusing on issues of economic growth, inequality, the impact of oil, and the unfolding political transitions. On the growth question, the book looks into the extent of structural transformation of the economy, the political economy reasons for the lack of structural change, and the external conditions in the EU and in the GCC that underpin the lack of structural change. On inequality, the book offers new measures of equality of opportunity in human development and in the job market, and it also reviews the complex political economy of subsidy removal. Regarding natural resources, the volume provides three innovations: connecting the notion of ‘oil curse’ to the global phenomena of asset bubbles; evidence that resource curse effects do not rise monotonically with the size of the resource rent, but rather, according to an inverted U shape; and an extension of the concept of rent to the other non-oil rents that are also predominant in the region. Finally, the volume places the political transition in the region in a global perspective using various methods – theoretical, comparative, and empirical, and it explores the relationship between democracy in its variety of forms and economic development.


WSPC, 2014

For the millions of citizens in the Arab World who came together in 2010–2011 to discover their common yearning for dignity and liberty, the real revolutions only began after the wave of protests. Understanding the Political Economy of the Arab Uprisings reassess the interests, potential and constraints of various socio-political players and their importance in the building of a constructive environment for democratic progress in the Middle East. Initiated by the Cairo-based Economic Research Forum and edited by Ishac Diwan, this invaluable volume features contributions by Middle East academics across the world. They examine the reasons behind the uprisings, how democratic transitions transpire, the role of Arab capitalism in the crises, and how the experiences of other countries such as Indonesia, Turkey and Iran, can forecast where these uprisings may lead the Middle East in the years to come.


World Bank Publications, 1999

Ishac Diwan and Radwan Shaban (eds.). Development Under Adversity: The Palestinian Economy in Transition. (Washington, DC: World Bank, 1999).

Foreword by Joseph Stiglitz:

Development Under Adversity is the outcome of a collaborative effort by a Palestinian think tank-the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute. The process of writing the book was as important as any specific finding. At every stage there has been consultation and dialogue within Palestinian society, including a series of MAS-sponsored seminars and background papers contributed by experts and policy-makers. The World Bank has benefited from being able to assist in this Palestinian-led process of self-discovery and civic participation. The book not only embodies the conclusions of these wide-ranging discussions, but also attempts to reflect the uncertainties and debates. We see this as the beginning of an ongoing process that focuses on the vital economic development issues facing the Palestinian economy.”—Joseph Stiglitz, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, World Bank.


World Bank Publications, 1995

Ishrat Husain and Ishac Diwan (eds.). Dealing with the Debt Crisis. (Washington, DC: World Bank, 1995).