23 September 2015
Gleaming glass skyscrapers, state-of-the-art technology, and wealthy merchant families have replaced the Gulf’s muddy towns and villages populated by traders and pearl fishers that once lacked electricity, running water or modern communications. The region’s modern day projection of a visionary cutting- edge, 21st century urban environment masks however the fact that some things have not changed.
Gulf states continue to be ruled by the same families, generation after generation. The families have become what an Emirati regime critic, Yousif Khalifa al-Yousif, termed “an institution of entitlement.” Alongside autocrats, the region also remains home to holy warriors and modern-day pirates. The principle of governance that what is good for business is good for the village-turned-nation still guides rulers who rank among the region’s foremost businessmen.
If, however, the region’s physical transformation speaks to an almost unitary vision of modernity, its politics tell a very different story, one of deep-seated social conservatism despite concessions in some states to cultural attributes of expatriate communities, resistance to political change, and a clinging to the status quo at whatever price.
… James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Würzburg and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, and a forthcoming book with the same title.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 25/09/2015