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National and Transnational Political Economies

Session I-18, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Thursday, December 1 at 3:00 pm

Panel Description
  • Chinese energy demand is at the core of China-Gulf relations. Saudi Arabia was China’s top supplier of crude oil in 2021, accounting for 17% of Chinese oil imports. Qatar, a top natural gas supplier to China, secured multiple long-term natural gas deals with Chinese companies in December 2021. China remains a central market for Omani, Iraqi, Emirati, and Kuwaiti exports of oil. The chronic lack of economic diversification in the Gulf, where the oil and gas sector continues to account for a majority of public sector revenue, creates an indirect fiscal dependency upon major energy consumers such as China. This indirect dependency, however, is not evenly distributed across the region. China purchased approximately 83% of Oman’s total oil shipments in the first half of 2021, but most Gulf countries rely on a more diversified mix of energy-related trading partners. The United Arab Emirates – the third-largest Middle Eastern crude oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and Iraq – has shipped more oil to Japan than any other country in recent years. This paper addresses the following question: How does China’s evolving demand for the Gulf region’s oil and gas resources impact the political and diplomatic dimensions of bilateral relations. Focusing on Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Iraq, this paper argues that dynamic and uneven Chinese demand for hydrocarbon commodities produces varying and distinct political implications for Gulf Arab countries. The paper begins by mapping Chinese imports of Gulf oil and gas commodities during 2020 and 2021, then analyzes the political considerations underlying each energy-based partnership, and concludes by reflecting on how the global energy transition and renewable energy trends rest along the paper’s findings. The political economy focus of this work entails an approach that is inherently interdisciplinary, combining insights from economics and international relations. The paper draws heavily on quantitative sources – primarily trade-related data from international institutions, government agencies, and statistics centers. The author intends to gather additional qualitative data through oral, semi-structured interviews with energy experts. This paper adds a new scholarly dimension to three related fields: i) China-Gulf relations, ii) international political economy of Gulf Arab states and iii) the global energy transition. Future researchers can use this paper presentation and the associated publication to better understand the multifaceted nature of Chinese engagement across the broader Middle East.
  • When popular uprisings and social unrest lead to regime-change, the political behavior of the military is key to the transitional process. Civil-military relations literature suggests that the institutionalization and professionalization of the military are primary factors in explaining the military’s propensity to intervene. However, little attention has been paid to the role of economic interests and how it shapes military leaders’ decision-making. This paper casts new light on the discussion of the military’s role in shaping outcomes of regime-change by exploring this through an economic lens. Hence this paper attempts to answer the key question: How does the military’s economic interests affect its political behavior? To do so, this paper compares the cases of Egypt and Turkey, two prominent examples of military intervention into politics and of military predominance over civilian affairs. Preliminary findings suggest that the military’s economic interests played a defining role in the decision-making process and prospects for democratization in both countries. Finally, this paper offers a framework for analysis from which to explore other cases in the Middle East and beyond.
  • Modern Islamic economics is the result of a series of processes that were set in motion by the colonization of the MENA societies, South and Southeast Asia, especially the creation of the modern nation state, the substitution of Islamic law by Western-inspired laws and codes, and by subsequent calls of Muslim reformers and ideologues in the first half of the 20th century (such as Sayyid ‘Ala Mawdudi and Seyyed Qutb) to create an Islamic state and society. While Muslim reformers did not invoke the term “Islamic economics”, they instead discussed various socioeconomic predicaments in the context of colonial policies and Islamic theology. The very term Islamic economics or al-Iqtiṣād al-Islāmī, however, was coined in the subsequent decades by South Asian economists and popularized by Sayyid ‘Ala Mawdudi in his famous Economic Problem of Man and its Islamic Solutions (1947). By building upon the revivalists’ legacy and existing epistemological and methodological frameworks, modern Muslim economists, such as Seyyed Naqvi, Alam Choudhury, and Muhammad Akram, defined the field of Islamic economics and finance either as a third-way economic system or as part of social sciences. By analyzing the concept of iqtiṣād, its genealogy, and its different epistemological value from the modern term “economics,” in this paper I try to provide an answer to the questions “how did modern Islamic economics develop as a discipline and what forces contributed to its naissance”. I argue that modern Islamic economics treats economic activities not as moral endeavors and part of the overall Sharī‘a’s moral law, as indicated in numerous classical works (e.g. al-Shaybani, Ibn Abi Al Dunya, al-Muhasibi, al-Ghazali, etc.), but primarily as legal-technical engagements entrenched in the modern division of knowledge. In order to reexamine the scope and meaning of the concept of iqtiṣād, in this paper I question the genealogy of modern Islamic economics and its disciplinary developments, as well its amalgamation into the global economic system. By resorting to primary sources in Arabic and secondary literature, I propose approaching economic thought in Islamic tradition and the very concept of iqtiṣād from a polyvalent and interdisciplinary perspectives, which – unlike neoliberal economics – treat economic activities as part of a cosmological constellation, and as such, a response born out of the decolonial struggle in order to achieve higher ends.
  • In his thorough study of rural markets in northern Morocco conducted in the 1960s and 1970s, Jean-François Troin (1975) identified a commercial boundary separating exchange in the north from that in the south that ran from the midpoint between Casablanca and Rabat, south of the Zaër and Zaïan confederations, and east along the foot of the High Atlas behind Midelt. In contrast, studies of economic and social change in 19th century Morocco have focused on the differential between the burgeoning Atlantic ports and the older commercial centers of the interior. Jean-Louis Miège argued that the energy of European-driven exchange – le grand commerce – caused the ports to rival and even usurp the traditional patterns of exchange through the inland cities of Fez and Marrakech. Daniel Schroeter (1988) tempered this view by demonstrating that the port of Essaouira, the focal point of European economic activity in the sultanate, followed the rhythms of trans-Saharan caravans, regional harvests, and the religious festivals-cum-commercial fairs of Jewish and Muslim saints. By examining commercialization, patterns of exchange, and price differences in olive oil between northern and southern Morocco, I argue that the separation between northern and southern economic spheres applies to the decades before the protectorates, with important consequences for the olive growing populations of the north and the south. Drawing upon archival sources from the Biblithèque Royale and the Archives du Maroc in Rabat, I seek to demonstrate that southern Morocco's olive oil production was shaped by the export trade out of Essaouira. This encouraged elite consolidation of olive holdings and production for the export market, which in turn eroded the cohesion of tribes living in the Dir foothills of the High Atlas. In contrast, olive production in northern Morocco remained to a greater extent in the hands of smallholders who through the constellation of rural markets met the demand for oil of the northern cities and tribes of the neighboring plains, with very little of the produce going to export. We must consider how the port/interior axis of economic and social change is modified by the axis of northern and southern economic spheres in Morocco to better understand the change taking place in the late 19th century.
  • Apart from limited efforts in 1937 and 1946, modifications to Iran’s longstanding “arbabi-ra’yati” land tenure and agricultural production system rarely featured in Iranian economic policymaking during the first half of the 20th century. However, this long-standing state neglect would undergo a profound reorientation upon the election of Mohammad Mossadegh’s National Front government in 1951, whose unprecedented intervention into the field of agrarian power relations set the stage for a broader embrace of rural development in Iran over subsequent decades. National Front policy in the agricultural sphere culminated with 1952 legislation establishing democratically elected village councils for the first time in Iranian history, and 1953 legislation to both directly increase the “farmer’s share” of production, as well as redistribute surplus landlord profit into Development Agencies (bongah-ye omran) at district (bakhsh) and county (shahrestan) levels. The paper outlines how the Front’s embrace of such rural reform legislation stemmed partly from immediate budgetary pressure after their nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1951, and subsequent international boycott of Iranian oil exports. With the state deprived of this primary source of revenue and foreign exchange, National Front leadership determined that an immediate boost to cash crop production was essential to stabilize a now oil-less economy. Budgetary insecurity alone does not explain this new concern with the countryside, however, with the paper highlighting how the Front also sought to undercut political challenges from the Shah’s proto-land reform efforts of 1949, the left-wing Tudeh Party’s ideological pivot to the peasantry, and the Iranian military establishment’s pernicious embeddedness in the provinces. Employing the record of Majlis debate, press coverage, and memoirs of National Front officials such as Mossadegh’s Minister of Agriculture, Khalil Taleghani, the paper thus argues that the National Front was simultaneously invested in building economic self-sufficiency through their agricultural policies, as well as in engendering a new civic culture and sense of democratic possibility in Iranian society. As a coda, the paper offers a brief evaluation of Mossadegh’s reform program based on recently uncovered archival material from the U.S. Federal Reserve System, whose iconoclastic analysis produced during the period offers compelling evidence of the Iranian ability to maintain an oil-less economy through rural development (in tandem with inflationary monetary policy).
  • During the first century of the Safavid empire (1501-1722), Gilan remained semi-autonomous and maintained its tradition of local rule. This northern region of Iran was governed by two local dynasties, the Kiyayis and the Eshaqiyyeh, long before the Safavids came to power. These local dynasties remained in power until 1592, when Shah Abbas I (r. 1571-1629) conquered Gilan and established firmer control over the territories of both the Kiyayis and the Eshaqiyyeh. Gilani rulers up to that point had paid intermittent tribute to the Safavid monarchs, but they had also maintained their own system of local governance, including a taxation system that enabled the local elite to create lavish courts. As a silk-producing region, Gilan held a special place in the economic interest of the Safavid empire, which made its incorporation into the Safavid administration essential to their project. Gilan’s tradition of local chronicles has left us with valuable sources that shed light on the particular and dynamic elements of local governance in Gilan, including some insight into its taxation system. Gilan’s taxes were based on both local customs and Shari’a. After the Safavid conquest, however, the local customary taxes came under scrutiny and were set for abolishment. While Gilan’s tax system was designed to bring revenues into the treasury of Gilan’s ruling elite, the Safavid policies were designed to abolish the local tax systems in favour of the centre to maximize their extraction capability. The Safavid politics of tax reform in Gilan was designed specifically to abolish some of the long standing local customary taxes in an effort to weaken the local elite’s position vis a vis the centre. This of course created tensions between the Safavids and the local aristocratic elite of Gilan for some decades, until the Safavids gradually put an end to the local opposition and completely incorporated Gilan into the Safavid administrative system.