Chapter 1: Getting to Grips with Globalization: Differentiation and Integration in the Arab Middle East
Nothing from the West brings light to the heart. Tunisian proverb, playing on the Arabic words for west, sunset and stranger. Much of the discussion of globalization at a general or theoretical level appears to take almost as an article of faith that the increasing interaction of economies and societies around the world is affecting ‘economic, technological, political, social, cultural and behavioural processes and practices that increasingly transcend jurisdictional and territorial barriers’.1 In some respects, however, globalization is a problematic entry point for a discussion of the Arab Middle East. The connection between the virtually unstoppable global communication of images, ideas and information, on the one hand, and the transformation of values, aspirations and expectations on the other is complex, and the role of globalization in the changes which are taking place in the Arab Middle East is easily overstated. While certain empirical and intuitive conclusions can be drawn, estimating the impact of contemporary developments, including globalization, on the underlying trends and structural issues within the Arab Middle East over the coming decade is more art than science. Developments fostering change such as demographic shifts and improvements in health and education, as well as events such as the end of the Cold War, are arguably more important factors reshaping Arab society than globalization. Even where Arab society and world society do engage with each other, in ways that transcend and sometimes challenge the authority of sovereign states, those processes are mostly occurring in frameworks in which states are of considerable...
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