- Research Handbooks on Globalisation and the Law series
Edited by Ugo Mattei and John D. Haskell
Chapter 18: Mapping the political economy of neoliberalism in the Arab world
Since the onset of the 2011 Arab uprisings, there has been a revived interest in thinking through the changing nature of the region’s political economy. Numerous analysts have pointed to the deep-seated economic shifts that began in the 1980s under the rubric of neoliberal Structural Adjustment Packages (SAPs) supported by international financial institutions (IFIs). Locked into these programmes, Arab governments moved through the 1990s and 2000s to reorient economies along market-driven principles. The policies adopted differed little from those found elsewhere around the globe – the prioritization of private sector growth, fiscal austerity, opening up to foreign capital inflows, privatization and the deregulation of markets (including labour). The effects of these policies on the Middle East’s social structures have clearly loomed large during the varied paths of the uprisings across the region – reflected in the ubiquitous slogan of aish, hurriyah, ‘adalah ijtima’iyah (bread, freedom, social justice) and the content of political demands raised by Arab labour and social movements over recent years. This chapter presents a survey of Arab neoliberalism and its impact on processes of class and state formation. It is argued that neoliberal reform has transformed long-standing patterns of accumulation in the region, leading to the development of new ownership structures and re-working the institutional configuration of the state. These changes have accentuated the polarization of wealth and power at both the national and regional scales.
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