The contributors to this important collection parse the variety of crony-capitalist arrangements in the Middle East. They cover Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, and the Palestinian territories. The book proposes that the structural liberalization programs forced by international financial institutions and private creditors on the autocracies of the region in the 1980s and 1990s produced a grand bargain between political and business elites. Well-connected firms accepted limited market reforms in exchange for special benefits that boosted their profits. The authors contend that today’s autocrats have an inveterate suspicion of their own private sectors and fear that greater market reforms would shift power to assertive business elites. This hypothesis seems to fit the observed facts in the region, but there’s no evidence that the compromise was an explicit state strategy. Moreover, it is not clear why incumbent autocrats should fear their private sectors given how easily business interests were swept aside in the populist era of the 1950s and 1960s.
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