Market Orientalism: Cultural Economy and the Arab Gulf States

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Although Smith maintains that his theory of market Orientalism can be applied to other emerging economies, his focus is the Gulf states--in particular Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. His argument is that Western cultural assumptions about the Gulf, as well as Western standards of normalcy and of what is considered a "good" economy, impact how Gulf economies are discussed, critiqued, invested in, and positioned on a hierarchy of global economies.

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Moreover, such Western standards of normalcy also shape Gulf leaders' efforts to organize their economies. Smith also proposes four main components of market Orientalism: cultural assumptions about the Gulf, the Western fantasy of a regional market, the discourse of Gulf immaturity, and the Gulfs perceived impenetrability.

Benjamin Smith

The first component is derived from Edward Said's Orientalism Smith argues that much of what is said by Westerners about Gulf residents is also applied to their economy. For example, Westerners view people from the Gulf as backwards, therefore their common economic practices--such as renting instead of buying homes--are seen the same.

The fact that renting is a prime method for generating income is taken by Western critics as evidence of why Gulf economies are not successful.


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Smith claims that Westerners construct rentiers as deceitful and distrustful as they profit from work that is not considered real production. The fantasy of a regional market also positions Gulf economies as inferior to Western standard economies. Smith suggests that Western analysts have a conception of a perfect economic world, where each place belongs to a region that is connected economically through a common currency and similar imports or exports.

Since the Gulf does not share a currency, and its states do not cooperate in certain endeavors, they will never live up to Western standards.


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  6. The failure of the Gulf states to establish a common currency is one of several reasons why Western writers consider the Gulf states, and their economies, childish and immature. These Western critics, however, are unable to propose actual benefits of a common currency to the Gulf states themselves. Finally, the Gulf is seen by Western commentators as impenetrable or otherwise too difficult to invest in because of how different it is from other economies: "Exotic," in Said's loaded word; "the Other," in Ryszard Kapuscinski's experience.

    Smith provides examples of guides that have been published to help investors navigate the Gulf and to explain the oddities both in how the economies operate and visiting the Gulf. Luai Ali, an assistant professor at the Doha Institute explores social conflict in Kuwait using voting patterns on economic legislation in the national assembly as an example.

    Financial Orientalism: Capitalism, Culture and Technology | CTheory

    The paper builds an explanatory model to study the strategies of rent distribution through voting within the Kuwaiti National Assembly. Ali presented a reading of the social conflicts in the rentier states that transcends reductionist view that assumes an absence of any class or social conflict in these countries or reduces them to a simple struggle over rent.

    Building on communication theories, Atyq sought to understand the profound impact of the transformation of public communication space in Qatar in the age of digitization and networking and its role in changing communication culture. He indicates the importance of these networks as a public space beyond the structural obstacles produced by urbanization patterns in the Arabian Gulf.


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    The issue includes four book reviews on various aspects of the evolution of political and social systems as well as markets over the past 50 years. This issue also includes reviews two recent books on the political economy of the Gulf states.

    MARKET ORIENTALISM: Cultural Economy and the Arab Gulf States

    This book examines the indicators of the growing influence of the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries over the past two decades, and their impact on shaping the political economy of the Greater Middle East. Please try again.

    Fr AR. Advanced Search. The 28th issue of Omran Explores the Gulf Cities. Doha 03 July, The Rentier State in Kuwait and the Virtual Space in Qatar Luai Ali, an assistant professor at the Doha Institute explores social conflict in Kuwait using voting patterns on economic legislation in the national assembly as an example. Latest Publications.

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