The Economics of Conflict
AbstractHistorically, poverty in the Muslim Middle East was a rallying call for socialist and nationalist forces until their demise under single-party authoritarian regimes in the post-colonial period. Anti-colonial voices were led by young army officers who used the language of nationalism, socialism, and political and economic empowerment. These groups were mainly composed of middle class and lower class urban workers and peasants.
In contrast, since its inception in the 1960s, Islamic militancy has been a movement that has found its membership among the elite of Arab society. Some of the brightest and more educated young Muslim men have led the mainstream and militant Islamist movement from its birth until the 1980s. Although urban middle class activists joined the Islamist movement, initially the movement was not driven and shaped by socioeconomic factors. There is empirical evidence showing that ideology and Islamic legitimacy were the variables behind the rise and evolution of the militant Islamic movement. This paper will explore the socio-economic factors that contribute to the rise of Islamic militancy as we are currently seeing it manifested through such groups such as Isis. One of the dividing points within Muslim societies today continues to be the widening socioeconomic divide between a very tiny elite and impoverished populations in urban neighborhoods in the Arab world coupled with a youth bulge. The paper hopes to not only provide primary data and information on this topic, but to proffer a framework of analysis that examines both the demand and supply side of such social movements in the context of the Middle East. The demand-side variables will focus on the socio-economic crisis that is taking place in many Middle Eastern cities while the supply-side variables will emphasis the social networks and resources available for movements to mobilize.