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Political Islam and the New Global Economy - Joel Beinin

Political Islam and the New Global Economy - Joel Beinin



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Published by Political Islamism
The author surveys the political economy of Islamist social movements in Egypt and Turkey.
The author surveys the political economy of Islamist social movements in Egypt and Turkey.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Political Islamism on Jan 19, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Please noteAuthor is the copyright holderPaper is not to be quoted without express permission of the authorPolitical Islam and the New Global Economy:The Political Economy of Islamist Social Movementsin Egypt and Turkey
Joel BeininDepartment of HistoryStanford UniversityStanford, CA 94305-2024beinin@stanford.eduprepared for the conference onFrench and US Approaches to Understanding IslamFrance-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary StudiesSeptember 12-14, 2004© Joel Beinin
I. Introduction: Statement of the Argument
Since September 11, 2001 much ink has been spilled analyzing “Islamicfundamentalism” or ostensibly more authoritatively, but not necessarily more precisely,“Wahhabism” and their threat to US national security and Western civilization. Thearmed radicals of al-Qa`ida and similar groups, while they have received the lion’s shareof public attention, are only one relatively small component of a broad movement of Islamic activism that has emerged since the mid-1970s. “Islamists” or “Islamic activists”or proponents of “political Islam” – I use these terms interchangeably – are Muslims whodo not necessarily accept received understandings of the Islamic tradition as the ultimatedeterminants of contemporary Muslim identity and practice. Rather, they self-consciouslyseek to refashion that tradition in response to the challenges – however defined – facedby their community and to mobilize Muslim sentiment and identity in support of theirvision of a proper Islamic society.
Even if that vision is presented as a return to an idealpast, it addresses modern political, economic, and cultural problems. The term“fundamentalism” is inadequate to describe this phenomenon because it suggests aProtestant literalist reading of the Bible which has no analog in Islam and because itimplies a backward-looking rather than a modern social movement.It was a conceit of modernization theory that Islam was waning in the Middle Eastand that modernity patterned on the Euro-American model was the inevitable trajectoryof the region.
Islam has always been present in the array of cultural elements available todefine local identities. In the twentieth century it was mobilized for a wide range of contradictory political purposes: in Iran, the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-11 and theIslamic Revolution of 1979; In Palestine, the nationalist revolt of 1936-39 and abstentionfrom PLO-led nationalist activity by the Mujamma` al-Islami in the Gaza Strip in the1980s; in Algeria, participation in the FLN-led struggle for independence in 1954-62 andopposition to FLN rule in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1956 Egyptian President Gamal `Abdal-Nasir spoke from the pulpit of al-Azhar mosque to urge his people to fight against the
tripartite aggression of Britain, France, and Israel. In 1962 Saudi Arabia, supported by theUnited States, established the Muslim World League, seeking to raise the banner of Islamin opposition to Arab nationalism and Arab socialism epitomized by `Abd al-Nasir.Much of what has been written about political Islam consists of studies of itsideas.
Of course, we do want to know what Islamists think and consider seriously thedistinctions among them, unlike those who launched a war on Iraq without consideringthe radically different worldviews of al-Qa`ida and secularist Ba`thism. However, suchapproaches may overestimate the historical continuity of Islamic ideas and practices andtend to explain contemporary Islamist activism as an expression of a religious essenceabstracted from time, place, and social context.A second current of thought emphasizes psycho-social factors in the formation of political Islam. To the extent that this approach identifies specific grievances thatmotivate Islamists and enhance their capacity to build a popular base by establishinginstitutions to ameliorate such grievances, this approach is valuable. However, someanalysis in this mode tends to regard Islamism as a form of “false consciousness” – anideology that inappropriately displaces secular political action.
Secular nationalists andprogressives, who regard the followers of political Islam among the popular classes asproperly “their” people, are particularly inclined to these views. A variation on this themeis that Saudi oil money surreptitiously propagated a radical version of Islam whileinfiltrating and restructuring national economies.
Some proponents of this viewpoint seethe cadres of violent elements of Islamist movements as marginal elements of societywho reject modernity and suffer from alienation or Durkheimian anomie.
In contrast, I argue that changes in the global and regional political economy arelinked, although sometimes in unexpected ways, to the reimagination of politicalcommunity, culture, and identity expressed in the resurgence of political Islam since theearly 1970s. Political Islam is not only a family of “antisystemic movements,” in theterminology of Arrighi, Hopkins, and Wallerstein.
It consists of a family of diverse and

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