Nov
25

Sustainable Qatar

New OPEN ACCESS book

Sustainable Qatar: Social, Political and Environmental Perspectives

Abstract: This open access book provides a topical overview of the key sustainability issues in Qatar, focusing on environmental sustainability from a socio-political perspective. The transition to a sustainable Qatar requires engagement with diverse areas of social-political, human, and environmental development. On the environmental aspects, the contributors address climate change, food security, water reuse and desalination, energy, and biodiversity. The socio-political section examines state strategy and regulation, the place of environmental law and geopolitics and sustainability innovators and catalysts. The human section considers economics, sustainability education, the knowledge economy, and waste management. In doing so, the book demarcates the ways in which the country encounters and grapples with significant challenges and delves into the range of options for future pathways to sustainability in Qatar. Relevant to policymakers and scholars in energy and environment, urban and developmental studies, as well as the arenas of politics, climate change and policy, this book is a landmark collection on environmental policy in the Gulf and beyond.


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Oct
16

Social Dictatorships

What do some non-democratic governments have stronger social protection systems than others? That is the main questions attempted in the book "Social Dictatorships: The Political Economy of the Welfare State in the Middle East and North Africa" (2020) by Ferdinand Eibl (published by Oxford University Press). This book is largely an elaboration of a 2016 doctoral work at the University of Oxford.

Why does the book matter? The author makes a case that little has been done in terms of comparative analyses in the Global South: "...comparative politics has little to offer to explain the divergence of welfare efforts across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This has to do with a triple neglect. First of all, welfare states have historically emerged in advanced industrialized nations as the culmination of a century-long struggle for social protection. Distributing resources amounting to considerable shares of GDP, welfare states have become a fundamental part of modern capitalism in industrialized societies. As a result, comparative politics literature has seen a proliferation of studies explaining the, in global comparison rather than subtle, differences between Western welfare states, whilst neglecting developing countries." (p. 1-2).

What are the driving forces for greater social protection systems (explained in more detail, but include): "Regime-building elites needs to have an incentive to provide extensive welfare to a broad cross-cutting section of the population. In addition, elites must have the ability to provide welfare, provided a sufficiently strong incentive. Both are necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for a regime to provide extensive social welfare." (p. 6). In other words, "social policies are shaped by the incentives of political elites" (p. 273) and their capacity to act on those incentives.

Argument summary: "Building on the established insight that authoritarian regimes differ from each other as much as they differ from democracies, this study has developed a theoretical model that helps us explain when we should expect the emergence of what I have called social dictatorships or authoritarian welfare states. While acknowledging this important role of political institutions in the everyday politics of authoritarian regimes, the book argues that long-term divergences in social policy trajectories are shaped in the crucible of societal conflict that most often precedes formalized political institutions. In that sense, it stands in a long tradition of macro-sociological research that has emphasized the significance of foundational conflict between societal actors." (p. 279)

Engaging alternatives theories: "... the division of the region into conservative regimes with low welfare provision and populist-progressive regimes with high welfare provision does not work, simply because the numbers do not bear out. While all of the region's labour-abundant monarchies fall on the side of minimal welfare providers, the region's republics divide almost evenly into low- and high-spenders. A large part of this confusion comes from a massive Egypt bias that pervades the study of the Middle East... A second, equally pervasive myth is that welfare provision was gradually rolled back with the advent of neo-liberal political reforms since the late 1970s... My analysis points to two main misconceptions at the origin of this narrative. First, most examples adduced in favour of this reading have been taken from countries that were never high-spenders in the first place, such as Egypt and Syria. As a result, low levels of welfare provision are attributed to neoliberal reforms whereas their main root - coalitional origins and a challenging geostrategic environment - remains obscured. Second, the narrative stems from a lack of consideration for comparative data... While I do not deny the many ills that neoliberalism has inflicted on Middle Eastern countries, I concur with Martinez in emphasizing the 'uneven pathways' of neoliberal transformation in the region." (p. 283) 

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Jun
23

New Publication: Gulf Cooperation Council Countries and the Global Land Grab

Cochrane, L. and Amery, H. (2017) Gulf Cooperation Council Countries and the Global Land Grab. Arab World Geographer 20(1): 17-41.

Abstract: A rapid increase in large-scale land acquisitions associated with the food-commodity price spike in 2008 resulted in a flurry of journalistic, non-governmental organization, and academic publications. One of the primary narratives that emerged was that oil-rich Gulf states were driving a "land grab" from resource-poor countries. However, little was known about who was making deals and where. This article assesses the extent to which the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are, in fact, primary players. We first compare the total number of deals and land areas involved, finding that individual GCC member states have been relatively minor players compared to the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Singapore, and Malaysia—each of whom, moreover, finalized more deals than all the GCC countries put together. We next compare the geographic distribution of acquisitions, comparing the trends for GCC member states with those of the major investing countries, and assess which countries have acquired land from the most financially constrained nations. We conclude with a critical discussion that reflects on the narrative of oil-rich Gulf states as a driving force behind the global land grab and the potential reasons for its prominence.


Full version available via author. Send me an email if you would like a copy.

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953 Hits
Oct
13

Post-doc: State and Disintegration in the Middle East

The CEU Center for Religious Studies and the Institute for Advanced Study at CEU announce the launch of "Striking from the Margins: Religion, State and Disintegration in the Middle East," a two-year research project commencing in September 2016 with a major grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The research program will host host two post-doctoral fellows and two doctoral scholars in its present, initial 2-year phase. The team will be based at CEU using our human and institutional resources, and embedded in an international consortium of partner institutions in Amman, Beirut, London, New York and Paris.

The Project: The project Striking from the Margins: Religion, State, and Disintegration in the Middle East seeks a nuanced and dynamic understanding of the transformations of religion in relation to those of state and social structures, most specifically in Syria and Iraq over the past three decades. It aims to work towards conceptual and analytical vocabularies which would seem adequate to the situation, eschewing facile recourse to culturalist and post-colonialist explanations and lending keen attention to social dynamics, political economy, conjunctural developments and the global setting of comparable developments elsewhere. The project is concerned centrally with processes and mechanisms whereby once marginal sets of social, cultural, political and geographical margins, including religious margins, have been moving to the political centre. This is occurring under conditions which have witnessed the atrophy of state functions and the rise of neo-patrimonial communalist, including sectarian and tribal, formations. In analytical terms, the project deliberately intends to question assumptions about religious or sectarian 'revivals,' 'returns of the repressed,' and kindered analytical terms and categories. Religion had never been absent, but recent decades have seen that the religious field in the Middle East, as elsewhere, reconfigured and redefined, very visibly and within the lifetime of one generation, in such a way as to appear as an alternative historical and social model to existing social, cultural and political practices.

The main thematicareas of the project involve:

  • The reframing of religion and the devolution of religious authority to new actors.
  • The atrophy and devolution of state functions, including some security functions, to informal patrimonial and private actors.
  • Structural marginalization and socio-economic, cultural and geographical segmentation.
  • Transnational jihadist networks and the fulfilment of the margins
  • The theme of gender practices relations, and their transformations in present circumstances of jihadism and neo-traditionalism, is a transversal one that cuts across all the others listed, and deliberate attention will be paid to it.
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