MULLAH, MERCHANTS, AND MILITANTS: The Economic Collapse of the Arab World

Stephen J. Glain, Author . St. Martin's/Dunne $25.95 (350p) ISBN 978-0-312-32911-2

Glain's study is largely anecdotal, and while it provides a good deal of color about the Middle East, it often fails to advance a real thesis about the factors, realities and consequences of the region's economic decline. Glain gives the reader the sense that there's a great cast of characters who play their roles according to their own scripts, but his account is short on serious commentary about how these figures fit into the larger narrative. However, the stories do often provide a unique look into the Arab world. Boston Globe reporter Glain, previously Middle East correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, covers Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq and Egypt, all with close journalistic attention. He accurately conveys the longstanding tensions between Jordan's affluent "East Bankers" and its large, commercially oriented but disenfranchised Palestinian population. Glain cleverly explains Iraq as a "beach ball" because it is such a major market in the region that "it cannot be submerged." He explains how wasta, or "the primacy of relationships over legality," affects the general political and economic landscape by encouraging backwardness and corruption. As an impressive corpus of anecdotes and a testament to Glain's exciting and wide-ranging career as a journalist, this book is a success. As a breakthrough work about the economic decline of the Arab world, it misses the mark. (June 18)

Reviewed on: 06/14/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
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Paperback - 347 pages - 978-0-312-32912-9
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