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To label Adam Hanieh’s Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States an afterstudy
of the 2008 financial crisis is a grossly unfair assessment. While the
book does explore the implications of the Gulf states’ financial slump, it also
provides a nuanced analysis of their class structures and relation to the global
capital system. The exponential growth of the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC) states is the book’s main subject; however, Hanieh dexterously avoids
the common errors involved in the region’s economic analysis and thus adds
to the corpus of literature pertaining to both the GCC and the wider global
The class structures and wealth prevailing in the GCC are often seen as
an outcome of the states being oil rich. Hanieh problematizes this narrative
by positing that this wealth and structuring is not “accidental” and that while
oil is undeniably important, it is not the sole reason for the region’s situation.
He urges the reader to look beyond the hydrocarbon wealth, because “much
like its desert cousin, the mirage – what visitors actually see in the oil-fueled
boom is not the full picture” (p. 2).
Hanieh’s choice of viewing the GCC holistically, instead of addressing
specific nation-states, is significant. The “internationalization” of the local
economy and class structure results in the dissolution of class boundaries
among the states and paves the way for capitalism. But at the same time, however,
capitalism needs to be valorized in a coherent and material time and
space. This valorization has taken the special form of the regional GCC and
becomes the study’s focal point. This regionalization has displaced “power
upwards to the regional scale, weakening the ability of the individual member
states to control the movement of goods and capital within the intra-GCC
space” (p. 104).
The author also problematizes the “rentier-state” theory through a Marxian
framework. He urges the reader not to consider the state, and particularly
the states of the Gulf nations, as a “thing” or an automatic reflection of the
capitalist class, but rather as “a particular expression of class formation” (p.
12). This also implies that the state has greatly facilitated the development of
the GCC’s prevailing “hot-house” economy (p. 15).
The study’s regional nature culminates in the analysis of “Khaliji” capital.
In the Gulf states, the internationalization of capital manifests itself in a
regional form as the “circuits of capital are themselves elaborated at the ...