The summer 2022 issue of Middle East Report, “Currencies of Power,” examines the contemporary global economy to highlight how the tightening noose of global capital is suffocating the region’s working classes. MERIP has always been dedicated to issues of justice in the Middle East and North Africa—in Palestine, for gay and trans people and for victims of US imperialism and its dependent dictatorial regimes. But when it began in 1971 MERIP was also committed to a materialist political economy perspective and Marxist frames of analysis. Articles covered regional relations with the Soviet bloc and the (often largely symbolic) socialist features of the postcolonial Arab governments.
In order to uncover the paper trails of the powerful, one has to first learn how to track down, read and decipher obscure planning documents that are often available in the public sphere.
The UAE’s growing number of free zones are providing secretive havens for offshore companies to avoid taxes, regulation and accountability at home. Shell companies and money laundering abound. But it is still possible for determined researchers to discover who controls and ultimately benefits from this expanding system.
Fatima Babiker Mahmoud, a prominent intellectual and a lecturer in political economy at the University of Khartoum, presents here much new material for a cogent analysis of the political and economic role of the bourgeoisie in Sudan’s development from 1898 to the present. In her view, the origins, affiliations and strategies of the highest echelons of the Sudanese capitalist class show its clear links to British colonial capital and continued ties with international capital. As a result, Sudan’s bourgeoisie, a dependent and “comprador” class, has failed to contribute to the country’s development, and even has acted as an obstacle to it.
Isam al-Khafaji, Tormented Births: Passages to Modernity in Europe and the Middle East (London: I. B. Tauris, 2005).
Any book-length comparison of the historical trajectories of Western Europe and the region “extending from Iran in the east to Egypt in the west, and from Turkey in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south” is ambitious by definition. In the outstanding Tormented Births, “written and researched over two decades in exile” from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Isam al-Khafaji has attempted more than comparison. He has attempted a new narrative for both European and Mashriq histories. The goal is nothing less than to “show the non-uniqueness of the third world path to modernity, which means by implication the non-uniqueness of the point of reference: Europe’s path to modernity.”
Huri Islamoglu-Inan, ed., The Ottoman Empire and the World Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, and Paris: Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, 1987).
Şevket Pamuk, The Ottoman Empire and European Capitalism, 1820-1913: Trade, Investment and Production (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).
These books, one a collection of 17 articles and the other a monograph, offer a significant new interpretation of Middle Eastern history and, more broadly, contribute to the discussion of the origins of capitalism in the Third World.
For years, economic analysts of all political persuasions have been commenting on the protracted economic crisis which began with the global recession of 1974-75 and continues to be the defining feature of world capitalism today. Most have restricted themselves to those manifestations of the crisis which have been particularly acute at various moments: the oil price shocks of the 1970s, Third World debt, African famine and the inability of the market to ensure adequate food supply, the US balance of payments deficit, and so forth. By contrast, Joyce Kolko’s Restructuring the World Economy (New York: Pantheon, 1988) links these and other issues in a comprehensive analysis of the crisis.
Bryan S. Turner, Capitalism and Class in the Middle East: Theories of Social Change and Economic Development (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1984).
Fatima Babiker Mahmoud, The Sudanese Bourgeoisie, (London: Zed Press and Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 1984).
E. A. Brett, International Money and Capitalist Crisis: The Anatomy of Global Disintegration (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983).
Çağlar Keyder, The Definition of a Peripheral Economy: Turkey, 1923-1929 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).
Gavin Kitching, Class and Economic Change in Kenya (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980.
The theory of imperialism is in profound disarray. Many have recognized that dependency theory is inadequate to the task of analyzing the international capitalist economy,  while the touchstone of all Marxist analysis of imperialism—Lenin’s Imperialism: Highest Stage of Capitalism—has been questioned as the authentic expression of the Marxist theory of international production and distribution.  No fully developed alternative has gained currency in the English-speaking Marxist community.
Bill Warren, Imperialism: Pioneer of Capitalism (London: Verso, 1980).