Profs Offer Critical Perspective on Policy in the Middle East

Profs Talk Middle East
Jennifer Y. Chang

Jonathan Nitzan, Professor of Political Economy at York University, talked about the ruling class and the future of capitalism at the Global Middle East panel during Harvard Arab weekend.

The Harvard Arab Alumni Association presented a panel of speakers to discuss the “Global Economy” in the Middle East last Friday as part of the 4th Annual Harvard Arab Weekend.

The event was intended to “offer critical perspectives” on globalization and how it inhibits the political, social, and economic development of nations in the Middle East, according to Nimer Sultany, a student at Harvard Law School and one of the event organizers.

The event’s three panelists, after being introduced by Kennedy School Professor Dani Rodrik ’79, expressed some reservation about the potentially detrimental effects of globalization in the Middle East.

The panel was composed of Economics Professor Stephen A. Marglin ’59; Laura Nader, a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley; and Jonathan Nitzan, a professor of political economy at York University in Toronto.

The first to speak, Marglin, said that while he is not a regional expert, he took part in the panel to discuss how markets undermine community in all areas of the world. He said that achieving a better Middle East would require balancing the strength of community relationships with economic interests. He warned leaders to consider social effects when making choices about technology and industry.

Nitzan questioned the future of capitalism and explained that politics are inevitably linked to economics. According to Nitzan, the stability of a nation is largely based on its confidence in its economy.  “All rulers have fortune tellers and astrologers, even today,” he said, “We call them economists.”

Nader, speaking more specifically to the region, said she sees problems in globalization in the Middle East.

“It’s like No Child Left Behind,” she said, “It ruined us; it’s going to ruin the Middle East too.”  She went on to emphasize that what is appropriate in some areas of the world may not be in others, and that judgment should be used when deciding whether or not to embrace globalization.

The discussion concluded with questions from members of the audience, which consisted primarily of Harvard students, but also included people from other areas and universities, including students from as far away as Columbia University and Fairleigh Dickinson University in N.J.