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Globalization and Its Discontents in the MENA Region


Globalization was rightly seen by all as contributing to inequality within countries; in much of the developing world, it was interpreted as a new manifestation of neo-imperialism. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), this view was particularly widespread, reflecting perceived colonial legacies as much or even more than contemporary economic consequences. In fact, globalization was driving more rapid economic growth in MENA than in the old colonial powers — growth that compared favorably to that in other emerging regions, with the notable exception of the very high-performing East Asia. Nevertheless, neoliberalism and the Washington Consensus became derogatory terms in MENA, conflated with globalization and employed to discredit it. The Arab uprisings in 2011 were commonly attributed to the effects of globalization, even though they came more than two years after globalization had gone into dramatic reverse; world trade had fallen almost 13 percent in 2009, devastating economic growth almost everywhere. So a case can be made that it was not rapid globalization, but its sudden and dramatic slowing, that has been the cause of Arab and MENA discontent. ...