"Rich new material. . . . combines a great deal of original material with a comparative sweep which is rare in Middle Eastern studies. It also deals fairly and squarely with some of the most important questions relating to the contemporary Middle Eastern economy."--Roger Owen, Harvard University
"An important and long-awaited book. It will make a major impact on and contribution to the fields of Middle Eastern studies and comparative politics. . . . illuminates a key determinant of political change throughout the Arab world that has remained obscure in even the most comprehensive existing studies of the region's political economy: the banking system."-- Fred Lawson, Mills College
Calling bankers the "midwives of political change," Clement M. Henry explores the relationships between market power and political power in five Muslim countries burdened by heavy external debts.
Commercial banks occupy a strategic position in patrimonial politics: while they normally serve state patronage machines, they may unravel fragile political regimes when forced by international creditors to reform their credit practices. Under certain conditions finance capitol may acquire structural power and offer a material base for political pluralism.
Henry examines the impact of financial reform and shows how authoritarian regimes have responded, looking especially at the lost opportunities for democratization in Algeria, Egypt, and Tunisia and the more promising efforts in Morocco and Turkey. The biggest surprise to Western readers, he says, may be that Islamic banks still seem to be a key to democratization in much of the region.
The author draws extensively on financial statements of individual banks and on historical materials and interviews with financial and political elites. Because of its comparative treatment of the Crescent's 19th-century debt crises--associated with various forms of Western domination--the book will be of interest to colonial historians as well as to political economists, sociologists, and bankers and other business people.
Clement M. Henry, professor of government and Middle East studies at the University of Texas at Austin, directed the Business School at the American University of Beirut from 1981 to 1984. He is the coeditor of Oil in the New World Order (UPF, 1995) and, under the name Clement Henry Moore, is the author of Images of Development: Egyptian Engineers in Search of Industry (2nd edition, American University in Cairo Press, 1994) and editor of Maghreb et Maitrise Technologique (Tunis: CERP, 1995).