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Contemporary Politics in the Middle East [Paperback]

Beverley Milton-Edwards

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Book Description

June 27 2011 074565231X 978-0745652313 3
The third edition of this dynamic book has been fully revised and updated to provide a comprehensive introduction to contemporary politics in the Middle East. Purposefully employing a clear thematic structure and including a wide range of case studies, data, visuals and further reading guidance the book explores and analyses the major issues which define the politics of this region of the globe.

Milton-Edwards begins by introducing and explaining key concepts and debates and goes on to outline the impact of colonialism and its legacy, the rise of Arab nationalism and anti-colonial politics. She then examines major political issues affecting the region, such as American foreign policy, political Islam, war and conflict, political economy, democratization, ethnicity and the role of women. The book concludes by highlighting the politics of the region in the twenty-first century and the future challenges it faces. This is a perfect introduction for undergraduates, covering key political, economic and social debates and providing updates and guidance for further reading.


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Review

"The genius of this book is that it integrates together the different themes which run through Middle Eastern politics. The coherence of the approach which the author has adopted is indicated by the manner in which she has updated the work in this second edition. Despite the substantial changes which the East has undergone since 9/11 and the 2003 Gulf War, the original line of analysis retains all its force. It remains a key reference for all those who are seeking to understand the region's politics, whether undergraduates, postgraduates or lay readers."
Tim Niblock, Exeter University

"I welcome the new edition of this comprehensive guide to the politics of such an important region of the world. It combines sensible generalizations with useful case studies of particularly important subjects. It is a must for all those who want to understand the complex politics of the modern Middle East."
Roger Owen, Harvard University

"Beverley Milton-Edwards has produced an excellent book, which is both wide-ranging in its coverage and punchy in its arguments. As such, its functions are dual. It works well as a text book, introducing the general reader to key themes in the contemporary region, from oil politics to ethnicity, to women and nationalism. But it also works as a running commentary on key debates, such as the rile of colonialism and the relationship between Islam and democracy. In short, this is a book with attitude."
Philip Robins, St Antony's College, Oxford

From the Back Cover

The third edition of this dynamic book has been fully revised and updated to provide a comprehensive introduction to contemporary politics in the Middle East. Purposefully employing a clear thematic structure and including a wide range of case studies, data, visuals and further reading guidance the book explores and analyses the major issues which define the politics of this region of the globe.

Milton-Edwards begins by introducing and explaining key concepts and debates and goes on to outline the impact of colonialism and its legacy, the rise of Arab nationalism and anti-colonial politics. She then examines major political issues affecting the region, such as American foreign policy, political Islam, war and conflict, political economy, democratization, ethnicity and the role of women. The book concludes by highlighting the politics of the region in the twenty-first century and the future challenges it faces. This is a perfect introduction for undergraduates, covering key political, economic and social debates and providing updates and guidance for further reading.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 1.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacks depth or originality June 12 2014
By Lora Khoury - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Good read for a beginner or high school student. Lacks depth and analysis, but if you are looking for quality description of the prevailing contemporary wisdom and status quo consensus this is your book
6 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Mediocre Work Updated Remains Mediocre July 29 2008
By Jazz It Up Baby - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This second edition of a textbook incorporates changes that have occurred in the Middle East since Milton-Edwards, a reader at Queens University in Belfast, wrote its first edition in 1999. Alas, a mediocre work updated remains mediocre, as Michael Rubin of the Middle East Quarterly wisely reminds us.

Beginning with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Milton-Edwards arranges her study according to a set of themes. Her first chapter examines colonial rule, which "disrupted, fractured, and shattered" a way of life that had developed over four centuries of Ottoman rule. Certainly, the establishment of the British and French mandates changed the region, but did stability really mark 400 years of Ottoman rule in the Middle East? She dates the "capitalist adventure" in the region to the arrival of European merchants in the nineteenth century--but their trade with Egypt and the Levant predates that by centuries, as any cotton merchant in Alexandria could attest.

Her antipathy to the colonial era leads to scapegoating. It is one thing to criticize the French and the British for not supporting Arab or Kurdish independence, but it is quite another to blame them for abortive Armenian statehood. In this, the Soviet Union was far more culpable.

Perhaps some of this laziness is the result of her obsession with Edward Said's Orientalism, which prizes opinion over fact and the amplification of external grievance over internal accountability. While she addresses the debate over Orientalism, she only paraphrases Princeton historian Bernard Lewis's counterarguments, and even then, inaccurately.

Sloppiness is pervasive in the textbook, whether in describing the length of Ottoman rule (far more than 400 years), showing ignorance of the concept of "Iraq," which predates establishment of that nation-state's borders, or ignorance of the fact that Mandatory Palestine initially included the territory that became Jordan.

Other inaccuracies undercut her analysis. She assumes--falsely--that Palestinian Arab identity was consistent over time when it is very much a product of the 1920s and 1930s. She treats too uncritically Israeli historian Benny Morris's revisionism, which is currently in fashion among post-modern historians more concerned with politics than historical fact.

Subsequent chapters address nationalism, political economy, war, politics, women, democratization, and "Pax Americana." Here, too, her bias is pervasive. Milton-Edwards condemns forced economic liberalization as a failure but does not address the crippling effect of corruption. Is Egypt's economy really the fault of outside powers, or might President Hosni Mubarak have had something to do with it? Arab-centrism undercuts other analyses. Has the Arab-Israeli conflict really dominated the political life of the entire Middle East for decades?

Students assigned Contemporary Politics in the Middle East may become conversant in the latest academic theories, but they will not gain insight into the history or politics of the region. Perhaps if Milton-Edwards spent more time fact-checking than explaining the Orientalist villainy of Walt Disney's Aladdin, her textbook would be improved.
2 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary Politics in the Middle East Aug. 8 2008
By Michael Rubin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This second edition of a textbook incorporates changes that have occurred in the Middle East since Milton-Edwards, a reader at Queens University in Belfast, wrote its first edition in 1999. Alas, a mediocre work updated remains mediocre.

Beginning with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Milton-Edwards arranges her study according to a set of themes. Her first chapter examines colonial rule, which "disrupted, fractured, and shattered" a way of life that had developed over four centuries of Ottoman rule. Certainly, the establishment of the British and French mandates changed the region, but did stability really mark 400 years of Ottoman rule in the Middle East? She dates the "capitalist adventure" in the region to the arrival of European merchants in the nineteenth century--but their trade with Egypt and the Levant predates that by centuries, as any cotton merchant in Alexandria could attest.

Her antipathy to the colonial era leads to scapegoating. It is one thing to criticize the French and the British for not supporting Arab or Kurdish independence, but it is quite another to blame them for abortive Armenian statehood. In this, the Soviet Union was far more culpable.

Perhaps some of this laziness is the result of her obsession with Edward Said's Orientalism, which prizes opinion over fact and the amplification of external grievance over internal accountability. While she addresses the debate over Orientalism, she only paraphrases Princeton historian Bernard Lewis' counterarguments, and even then, inaccurately.

Sloppiness is pervasive, whether in describing the length of Ottoman rule (far more than 400 years), ignorance of the concept of "Iraq," which predates establishment of that nation-state's borders, or ignorance of the fact that Mandatory Palestine initially included the territory that became Jordan.

Other inaccuracies undercut her analysis. She assumes--falsely--that Palestinian Arab identity was consistent over time, when it is very much a product of the 1920s and 1930s. She treats too uncritically Israeli historian Benny Morris' revisionism, which is currently in fashion among post-modern historians more concerned with politics than historical fact.

Subsequent chapters address nationalism, political economy, war, politics, women, democratization, and "Pax Americana." Here, too, her bias is pervasive. Milton-Edwards condemns forced economic liberalization as a failure but does not address the crippling effect of corruption. Is Egypt's economy really the fault of outside powers, or might President Hosni Mubarak have had something to do with it? Arab-centrism undercuts other analyses. Has the Arab-Israeli conflict really dominated the political life of the entire Middle East for decades?

Students assigned Contemporary Politics in the Middle East may become conversant in the latest academic theories, but they will not gain insight into the history or politics of the region. Perhaps if Milton-Edwards spent more time fact-checking than explaining the Orientalist villainy of Walt Disney's Aladdin, her textbook would be improved.

Michael Rubin
Middle East Quarterly
Summer 2008

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