My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Gelvin’s The Modern Middle East: A History has been incredibly helpful to me in understanding how the modern world has shaped the Middle East. Modern concepts of progress, state power, and economics have all made a big impact, coming together in what has been called the “interventionist-redistributionist” model that prescribes a government that actively manages the economy and an extensive welfare state. Gelvin believes that the major factor in the Arab uprisings has been their governments’ revisions of this model through opening up markets and reducing welfare expenditures. These reforms reflect the influence of neoliberalism, in vogue since the reforms of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and others.
The book is formatted as a Q&A, covering both the region in general and the specific countries where the uprisings have occurred. Gelvin is a talented writer with a good sense of humor, and the book is quite informative. He will probably need to come out with future editions of it as things change in the region.