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Islamic Winter - North-African Exodus. An explanation of the political economy of Mediterranean long-run dynamics



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Arab Spring - Islamic Winter -
North-African Exodus. An explanation
of the political economy of
Mediterranean long-run dynamics
Hardy Hanappi
University of Technology of Vienna, Economics (Institute 105-3)
5 April 2016
Online at
MPRA Paper No. 70515, posted 6 April 2016 15:21 UTC
Arab Spring - Islamic Winter - North-African Exodus
An explanation of the political economy of Mediterranean long-run dynamics
Hardy Hanappi
Economics (Institute 105-3) University of Technology of Vienna
This paper sets out to explain the links between the upheavals in Arab states in spring 2011
and the current wave of immigration in Europe. As it turns out, an understanding of these
dynamics involves not only the tightly interwoven net of economic and political motives and
actions, it also is necessary to understand the working of ideological warfare (including
religions) in a new age of information and communication technology. Thus there is the
intermediate step of an Islamic Winter between the Arab Spring and the North-African
This chapter sets out to explain the recent dramatic events in the Mediterranean and
European area in a broader context. To understand what currently manifests itself as the
emergence of a political and military entity called Islamic State, why masses of refugees from
the Middle-East and North Africa are heading to EU member states, how the future states on
the Southern coast of the Mediterranean can be built to enable a peaceful cooperation with
Europa, for all these burning questions a closer look at the long-run economic and political
development since the end of World War 2 is necessary. To provide such a modest synopsis it
is useful to start with the sequence of the three most recent ‘surprises’: The Arab Spring, the
Islamic Winter, and the North African (and Arab) Exodus. From each of these lighthouse events
a way towards the understanding of its roots back in history is presented. The Arab Spring
evidently exploded an arrangement of state powers that had worked quite some time after
WW2 and which thus has to be examined first. The so-called Islamic Winter subsequently
showed the fact that the ideological force of religious believes had been dramatically
underestimated by Western social scientists. The roots of ideological manipulation in the
respective areas thus have to be studied in greater detail. Finally, the great emigration, what
I call North-African exodus, clearly has historical roots in the divergence between economic
and political developments North and South of the Mediterranean. This should not have been
a ‘surprise’, but rather is an unavoidable late consequence of the Arab Spring modified by the
ideological distortions of the Islamic Winter. The war in Syria is only the most outstanding
example of a dangerous mixture of geo-politically determined military potential and
ideological manipulation. Though this sequence of recent events that made it to Western mass
media becomes clearer in retrospect, it has not been used to develop a feasible vision for a
future economically and politically stable settling of power structures. A first attempt in this
respect is provided in the conclusion.
Arab Spring
During the first months of 2011 European mass media spread the information that revolts in
several Arab countries on the Southern shores of the Mediterranean were taking place. The
totality of this phenomenon quickly was dubbed ‘Arab Spring’. For the majority of European
citizens this news came as a surprise
. One was used to learn from time to time that one of
these regimes underwent a political or military turmoil eventually leading to a new power
group on top of the state. But these events seemed to be country-specific and no general
pattern except the alternating search for support from one of the global super powers (USA,
SU, later Russia) could be found.
But in spring 2011 the adjective ‘Arab’ signaled that there was a new quality. There was a
hidden reference to the whole geographic area historically dominated by Arabs, and implicitly
also to the cultural background that always was perceived as being ‘different’ – somehow
strange - from the European one. For the more educated general public in Europe this
perception of the Arab area then was supplemented by a more fine-grained picture of
particular countries. Governance in these countries either was classified as outright feudal
(e.g. Saudi Arabia, Morocco) or as being dominated by a military leader, often having gained
power by a coup of parts of the national army (e.g. Colonel Gaddafi). Suddenly there was
something else to be considered as a common element across all Arab countries: A revolting
civil society consisting pre-dominantly of young and better educated people. At first sight
and from a Western perspective - this upheaval in the Arab world could easily be interpreted
as a kind of belated bourgeois revolution. And this somewhat naïve view resulted in an overall
positive attitude of Europeans with respect to the Arab Spring. It was naïve because it ignored
some hard facts that enabled these upheavals in the first place. As a matter of fact, the
simultaneity of the riots already points to some common reasons that explain the synchronous
appearance of seemingly spontaneous revolts.
First, there were some technical devices (i.e. smartphones, internet, even TV sets) that had
become an elementary channel, transmitter and organizer of group actions in the last two
. In 2011 feudal or pseudo-feudal control of a society had rapidly become an
extremely difficult task. Stricter coercive power of police forces and ever more draconic
punishment methods could compensate for the loss of terrain of state power due to these
technological trends but only for a limited time. These reactions in Arab governments before
2011 even fueled, motivated and radicalized the emerging insurgent groups. The ICT
The African countries on the Mediterranean littoral had were seen as being better off than other African
countries, having already reached European standards of 1913, and were still growing (see [Maddison, 2007,
Compare [Hänska-Ahy, 2014] for a description of the role of social media in the Arab Spring.
revolution and its deep impact on communication behavior certainly is a global phenomenon,
the actual change brought about for social dynamics of the human species is still not well
understood. The very specific influence of technical devices on the events during the Arab
Spring can hardly be exaggerated.
Second, the generational change that had occurred in the masses of the populations in these
countries a change in age structure, in education structure, in cultural habits is closely
related to the new technological possibilities. The transmission of knowledge and of lifestyles
started to work even for lower income social strata, not to speak of those who could benefit
from the revenues derived from crude oil exports. As a side effect it could be observed that
the contradictions between large cities and the open country were amplified by the
centripetal forces of technology and their influence on the movement of the young to these
cities. Moreover, those Arab students that had studied abroad and returned mainly to the
larger cities, where their (at least middle-income) families lived, were getting more and more.
In 2011 the large cities in the Arab world became the hot-spots of the insurgency, and there
is no doubt that it was this common generational characteristic that contributed to
Third, the global political economy played a decisive synchronizing role. It consisted of three
main, partly interdependent, components: (1) the global economic crisis; (2) the fading
support of Arab governments by Europe; (3) the shift of president Obama’s military focus
1. The global economic crisis that led to a shake-up of the world economy took off in
September 2008. Its roots, of course, were already there when Lehman Brothers
collapsed on September 15. This event only was the kick-off for an avalanche of
consequences in financial markets, which made the incompatibility of the prevailing
mode of exploitation and innovation with its global institutional setup visible. While
transmission mechanisms in credit markets work extremely fast, the transfer of the
reshuffling of contract conditions to the sphere of decisions concerning material
production processes the so-called ‘real economy’ – takes more time. In general, the
big breakdown in GDP in OECD countries occurred in 2009. The greater the distance to
this epicenter of the economic earthquake the longer the more time elapsed, e.g. the
current decrease of the Chinese growth rate eight years after 2008 - signals its
relative independence of OECD developments. For Arab countries the global crisis had
a lag of three years until it became one of the reasons for the Arab Spring, compare
diagram 1. The arrival of the disastrous development in Europe can be precisely dated:
In 2009 unemployment explodes and GDP as well as imports from non-EU countries
fall sharply. This quickly reduces export possibilities (mainly crude oil exports of Arab
countries) substantially. While EU imports then grow again at a rate comparable to the
pre-crisis level, export growth of Arab countries only reaches half of the high rates
The marked decrease in the average number of children per woman in most Arab countries (2-3 children instead
of 5-7) was a result as well as a further stimulator for changing life styles.
Compare also [Hanappi, 2015, pp. 141-174].
experienced in the past. Finally, growth of consumption per head in Arab countries has
to follow the same disappointing pattern of exports. This synchronizing effect of the
global crisis is further amplified by the obvious wealth and income inequality that
becomes ever more dramatic as the upper class is much better equipped to fight crisis
Diagram 1: Transmission of the global crisis
Sources: United Nations Economic Database, AMICO database Eurostat
2. Though European heads of state in 2009 were aware that the global crisis will shake-
up their economies, they reacted rather slowly. It took quite some time until the most
active European institution, the European Central Bank, intervened to overcome the
worst of several misleading reactions (often summarized as ‘austerity policy’), which
were guided by special national interests of single EU members. In this turmoil a
central continental mechanism of the stable European development gets out of sight:
South and South-East of Europe the ensemble of nation states that had been installed
by the victorious Allies in the aftermath of the war had been a remarkably unchanged
pillar for European evolution
. The internal political stability of this ensemble was
necessary because the steep fall of welfare levels between the northern and the
southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea could only be secured with the help of more
or less military regimes in the south. To make sure that the leaders in Arab countries
are motivated to do their job, European governments had supported them by specific
trade agreements (often including weapons for crude oil) and usually further
increasing wealth inequality. With the crisis the tensions between the partners on both
The map of countries in the Middle East was set up by the previous colonial powers according to the famous
Sykes-Picot plan and survived till 2015, when Syria, Iraq, and Libya broke apart; compare [Fromkin, 1990].
2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014
Growth over previous year
Transmission of the Global Crisis
Imports EU15
Unemployment EU15
Exports Arab Countries
Cons. Per Head Arab Countries
sides of the Mediterranean increased rapidly. Governments and private firms in
Europe had to save money and reduced trade support for regimes, which they could
not justify from a democratic perspective anyway. Infuriated leaders (e.g. Gaddafi) and
ruling cliques in the South overestimated their international standing as well as their
local military dominance. What at this stage remained invisible for Europeans is the
fact that eliminating strong military rule in North Africa and the Middle East will
unleash economic, ethnic, and religious dynamics that are hard to predict, not to talk
about control. The commonly observed disentanglement of leaders of Arab countries
from their benevolent cooperators in Europe certainly encouraged all new political
groups organizing the Arab Spring.
3. In autumn 2008 the new president of the USA decided to reduce military intervention
of US troops in the Middle East rather fast and to turn his attention to the Pacific Basin.
Governance of Iraq was left to local US-friendly rulers and for Afghanistan a similar
complete withdrawal of US military was envisaged. Obviously domestic US policy also
played an important role for this change of Middle East policy. The enduring traumatic
experience of the defeat in Vietnam as well as the shallow feeling that George Bush’s
exaggerated and triumphant appraisal of the defeat of Iraq left for many US citizens,
motivated Obama more than purely geo-political considerations. The change of US
policy was broadly recognized in the Arab world. On the one hand it meant that the
link to Israel, the closest ally of the US in the region, was loosened, which by many Arab
leaders was seen as a positive sign. On the other hand, their own military support from
‘the West’ would suffer too with the exception of Saudi Arabia, which quickly
emphasized its role as the strong Islamic force that guarantees pro-Western stability
in the region. US military support for the Saudi Kingdom remained high, no Arab Spring
would have had the slightest chance there. But for several other Arab states the
frustrating experiences the USA had had in the Middle East, which finally transpired
into Obama’s decision to ‘bring the boys home’ from the region, showed to potential
rebel groups that outside intervention would not be a danger. As the events in Libya
later showed, British and French air fighters would even intervene to support the
rebels against the old regime. Of course, these actions too were hardly motivated by
enthusiasm for a bourgeois revolution in the Arab world, but rather aimed to
demonstrate the might of the respective air force.
In hindsight the short period of the Arab Spring can be said to have been surprisingly
successful. Stable undemocratic leading cliques have been driven out of government,
suddenly there seemed to be room for a new political start. But as a general rule to be learned
from the subsequent events it turned out that getting rid of bad regime is a completely
different task than to install a better regime.
Islamic Winter
In 1969 California experienced the so-called ‘Summer of Love’ that the generation of hippies
proclaimed as the logical consequence of the Cultural Revolution, which the rebellious
beatniks of 1968 had started all over the world
. It lasted just one summer till it was slowly
transformed into mainstream, economically used fashion gags. The Arab Spring did not even
get a chance to transform itself into any kind of peaceful ‘summer’; too many vested interests
were involved, too many weapons were already present in the region. And above all,
consistent blueprints how to govern a country given the existing population were rare, not to
speak about the necessary coalitions needed to implement such solutions.
The most remarkable phenomenon certainly was the inverse relationship between ideological
confusion and openness to extreme religious believe systems. The less a revolting group had
the capacity to interpret what was going on, the easier it was for extremist religious leaders
to fill the vacuum that emerged by not understanding the dynamics with the ideological
dogma they offered. In particular, the extreme form of political Islam in these groups could
operate on an ideological battlefield that that was cleaned from any pre-existing remainders
of thoughts of the French ‘rationality and enlightenment’ or British ‘down to earth economics’.
The justified resentment concerning previous colonial powers had swept away all the more
precious parts of Western philosophy; for these groups the imperialist countries of the 19th
century were just intruders, whose ideology was necessarily completely ‘wrong’ and therefore
had to be overcome by a return to the ‘true’ believe system: original Islam. The hate against
European colonial powers was further amplified and extended by the obviously imperialist
behavior of the USA in the Middle East. To ride their monstrous cars and to lead a life of
abundance the Americans had to steal the oil of Arab countries, if necessary by leading full-
fledged wars and bomb attacks this was the simple-minded, though very effective
explanation brought forward.
Another reason why the Islamic Winter could get hold of the Arab rebellion so quickly was the
fact that the global network of Islamic leaders always had been tightly knit and was fully intact
when the rebellion started. This not only concerned the Muslim Brotherhood but also the
groups surrounding the feudal leaders in Arab countries. Like the Catholic Church, which
provided an important ideological pillar for the European feudal class in the Middle Ages,
Islamic religious leaders were a necessary supplement to the reign of Arab kings. And even if
a non-feudal military war-lord had seized power he immediately tried to get support from a
faction of ‘true’ Islamist leaders. The minor role played by religion in the two World Wars of
the 20th century has blinded many historians with respect to the persistence and longevity of
religious networks. Even if the worldly counterpart has been chased away, the more secretly
operating ideological leaders often manage to keep their communities alive
. Two thousand
years of Christianity surviving slave-holder societies, feudalism, Stalinism, Fascism and
eventually capitalism - are a convincing example. This throws a spotlight on the importance of
shared interpretation schemes needed by individuals in a more and more sophisticated
interplay of actions in a globalizing world. Religions therefore were thought to become ever
more flexible in the long-run to be able to survive; but in the short-run this is not always the
See [Rowbotham, 2002] for a vivid description.
An outstanding example is the Catholic Church, which was able to maintain an active network during 70 years
of Stalinism and even played a pivotal role in ending the Stalinist regime in Poland.
case. In the case of an acute struggle for political dominance more disciplined, rigorous and
dogmatic groups often are able to act more effectively than more tolerant and democratically
organized adversaries. In these cases, radicalism with respect to actions as well as with
respect to the interpretation of a religious dogma can ascend to become the prevailing
If then the military equipment of the previous rulers falls into the hands of the diverse radical
groups that start to occupy the political vacuum that emerged with the Arab Spring, then local
civil wars can hardly be prevented. And this is exactly what happened and what was dubbed
Islamic Winter. It was Islamic, since after all the common ideological root substituting Arab
nationalism across all Arab countries was this religion, the different interpretations of the
different militias all referred to the same source. And it reminded on the winter season, since
it immediately could freeze all the blossoming new democratic aspirations that the
proponents of the Arab Spring had hoped for.
Another consequence of this development was that the following social and political dynamics
in the different countries followed the very different starting conditions that the disastrously
unfolding Islamic Winter had to start with. The unifying elements that synchronized the Arab
Spring across the Arab World were lost. From that point on, the history of each country has to
be understood in a more country-specific way. Long looming tribal and ethnic conflicts
intermingle with networks of religious communities and are overlaid by larger regional
rivalries, e.g. between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. With the Islamic Winter the
Arab world fell apart again. To discuss the country-specific dynamics during these years is
extremely interesting and probably can explain the respective current conditions rather well
but it would go far beyond the scope of this chapter to dare this venture. Here only a general
conclusion can be drawn: With the breakdown of the political framework installed by the
Western Allies in the Arab world after 1945 a vacuum of power emerged, which on the level
of direct coercive power was filled by rivaling militias using as combat ideology different
interpretations of the Koran. Pro-Western and anti-religious populations were concentrated
in bigger cities only, but they were less organized and less militant.
One of the biggest social disasters certainly happened in Iraq after the victory of the USA. The
simple-minded believe of US strategists that the unleashing of free market forces together
with some training for local police forces would be sufficient to produce a new state with a
stable market economy turned out to be a complete illusion. What was produced was a
veritable nightmare: The military equipment of Saddam Hussein, as far as it was not
destroyed, as well as many of his surviving former officers, were the core elements from which
the IS was formed. In a sense it was just the same process as in many other places - as
described above. What was different was (1) the particularly huge military arsenal, (2) the
better trained personnel that could handle it, and (3) the vast, scarcely defended geographical
area on which it could expand. With these assets it was no surprise that some radical religious
leaders immediately became ideological front man of the new state. In its early stage IS was
rather skilled in getting - usually secret - support from several other local players. Its
connection to the international terrorism of al-Qaeda, despite some differences
, finally made
clear that the situation in the Middle East is going to be very different to the one in North
Africa. IS is a state with an army and internationally operating terrorist groups, it takes part in
the war in Syria and in the meantime has a well-developed media and propaganda machinery.
It was able to install persistent militant cells in several other countries, notably controlling a
large territory in Libya. The endogenous development of the Islamic Winter thus has produced
an epicenter of Islamic Radicalism in the Middle East. It is from this area, from the many
battlefields of the war in Syria and the surrounding countries, from which the large stream of
refugees is coming to Europe. The obvious route that these refugees were taking was the
Balkan route.
This stream of refugees can be distinguished from those North-Africans who try to cross the
Mediterranean Sea to arrive in Italy, France, Spain, or Portugal. The distinction is only
geography-based, these refugees are also trying to escape from death, though civil war in their
home country might be less violent and death by starvation might play a bigger role.
To recapitulate: The endogenous dynamics of military force (inherited from weapons trade
and military support from the US, European states and Russia) combined with a radical
religious ideology have transformed the Islamic Winter into a new power constellation. At the
center a newly emerged Islamic State proclaims that it will conquer the world.
Two main drivers for the exodus of a large number of people from the North of Africa as well
as from the Middle East can be identified. One evidently is war, the other one consists of living
conditions that are drastically less favorable than those expected in the goal country of
immigration. At the margin both motives coincide, war is just an extreme case of the second
motive. To understand the overall evolution from the Arab Spring via the Islamic Winter to the
Great Exodus it evidently is necessary to combine economic theory, political science and even
some information science to grasp the role of religion and ideology.
There are two famous citations that may serve as icons bridging the gaps between the
concepts ‘war’, ‘politics’, and ‘economics’:
‘War is just the continuation of politics with different means.’ (as Clausewitz writes
‘Politics is just compressed economics.’ (as Lenin mentions somewhere)
While al-Qaeda proclaimed a war at the heartlands of its ‘far enemy (USA, Europe) and led
its attacks as terrorist assaults, IS specialized in a war against the ‘near enemy’ and state-
building. As a consequence, Baghdadi, the head of IS, declared himself as caliph, as a direct
follower of Mohammed, to be more attractive for local populations, which in turn caused a
split with al-Qaeda leader Zawahiri in Pakistan. Like several other Islamic groups, Zawahiri
could not accept this self-proclaimed Islamic leadership of Baghdadi, see [Perthes, 2015, pp.
91-120]. As the US journal ‘Foreign Affairs’ reports in April 2016 a merger between a al-Qaeda
and IS will take place as soon as the personal animosities between the two leaders disappear.
In both cases sensitivity borders when economics becomes politics, when politics becomes
war play an implicit, but crucial role. These breakpoints are not really points in time but
comparatively short time periods, when the set of political entities and their respective set of
actions abruptly changes
. For the sake of convenience call the step from economics to politics
the 1st transition phase, and the step from politics to war the 2nd transition phase. Under this
methodological perspective the Islamic Winter has been a very specific influence that framed
the two qualitative jumps; (1) from economic incompatibilities of post-WW 2 regimes via the
Arab Spring to ‘politics’, and (2) from the emerging political turmoil to civil war.
The transition from rising contradictions in the sphere of economics to political dynamics has
been investigated extensively, in fact it is at the root of why politics is called politics. Economic
relations were compressed, were getting dense, in the polis of the ancient cities. It is the polis,
where communication channels between groups of entities could get efficient enough to
allow for the emergence of larger political entities, schools of philosophy and social classes.
Combining the actions on the battlefield of ideology with the immediate goals of economic
improvement of the own social class is the core of success in a stage of metamorphosis. As
argued above, the narrow geographic range of a polis today has been substantially widened
by the use of new technologies, smartphones and the internet. In the case at hand, the new
arena of the Arab world now to a considerable part consists of the users of these technologies.
The crucial point with respect to the Islamic Winter is that ‘users’ never are users only, as far
as they are not the producers of the information transmitted between them, they rather are
the used entities. After a first surge of an elementary chorus of insurrection, which is original
information production, quickly comes the wave of interpretation of what has to change and
how. And it is at this moment when existing information distribution nodes start to play a
decisive role as transmitters of the goals of social classes via interpretation schemes; think of
churches, mosques, newspapers, radio and TV stations, websites. It often has been the case
that the progressive tendency of the first wave of revolt in this second stage of interpretation
and partial loss of orientation has been diverted, even reversed, into an ideological framework
that is borrowed from the distant past. A turn to a ‘true’ religious, ethnic or nationalist
interpretation of the events often has occurred as a powerful mean to freeze progressive
aspirations. Their command of the information distribution machinery allows certain social
groups to take hold of the movement, in the case of the Islamic Winter most of these
competitors relied on the still existing deeply rooted Islamism in the population. The use of
the very old rivalry between Shiites and Sunnis is a typical example, its bewildering explosion
into a broad spectrum of sects in Syria’s civil war proves how unimportant the original religious
text actually is.
From politics to (civil) war is a step that is closely linked to the availability of weapons, as
described above. In the case at hand this not only concerns weaponry already used by the
different paramilitary groups, it also concerns the military power of the potential ally behind
In [Hanappi & Scholz-Wäckerle, 2015] we have called these stages of evolution ‘metamorphosis phase’, in the
natural sciences the phenomenon is called ‘phase transition’.
the group; be it Saudi-Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Russia, or NATO States. Since the stakes
traditionally are high in the Middle East (crude oil, NATO Eastern expansion frontier), war
broke out there and not in Western Arab states. But with war, economic damage and
humanitarian misery multiplies. As soon as brute force commands actions in a war embedded
in global politics, the ideological battle of radical Islamism vanishes in the background. There
is no more progressive tendency that needs to be frozen.
The victims of war that can escape go North, to Turkey, to Europe. Their arrival is not an
unforeseeable, unhappy accident that troubles the EU at a time when its prosperity already
started to dwindle away. It rather is a logical consequence of the post-colonial order that had
been established after WW 2. In the last half century this order has lost its stabilizing force, it
had to break up. Immigration to Europe will not be a transitory phenomenon that will
disappear as soon as some international peacemakers control some fighting Arab tribes. There
is a deep change of the global setting, which is on its way, compare [Dickens, 2015]. Remember
Robert Zimmerman singing, ‘… and you better start swimming before you get drowned.’
North-African Exodus
It is a central thought of standard mainstream economics that human actions follow economic
incentives. With respect to labor income this implies that workers and their families move to
places where expected labor income is highest. Nevertheless, there are additional conditions
that are to be observed to determine when and how strong such an economic mechanism sets
in. First, it is clear that the expectations on possible living conditions abroad are built by using
information and communication channels with all the biases that these channels might add.
What certainly can be safely assumed is that with modern ICT technologies information flows
have grown tremendously. It would be extremely naïve to count on an information policy that
can cut down information flows in a way that leaves low income countries in an isolated
information environment where families there simply do not know that leaving conditions
elsewhere are much better
. Second, there always is a sensitivity border of cultural
boundedness in the population of a country. To leave your country means to cut all ties that
are based on geographical facts: friends that stay there, a language environment, climate,
shared cultural habits, etc. Only if the difference between economic standards experienced
there and the expected economic standards assumed to be achievable abroad is large enough,
only then the decision to emigrate will be taken.
The simplest measure to approximate the difference in living standards between countries is
GDP per capita (GPPC). As diagram 2 shows, there is an enormous increase in this indicator of
economic welfare as one moves from southern to northern countries. In particular, the jump
A similar misconception is the idea to deter people from emigration by twisting their expectation building with
poster campaigns in their home countries that tell them that they will not be welcome in richer countries, e.g. a
campaign of the Austrian government in the Middle East. First, this is not a credible threat since single politicians
are conceivably not representing a countries population. Second, even the burden of some frictions in
neighbourhood relations cannot outweigh an expected enormous jump in living conditions.
across the Mediterranean Sea implies that average income increases by a factor between 5.4
and 10.0, which means that even if expectations are to earn much less than the average citizen
in Europe there still remains a lot to win compared to the local situation.
Diagram 2: Welfare gap from South to North
Source: United Nations Economic Database
The data for 2014 dramatically underlines the persistent source of immigration from North
Africa to Europe. In a dynamic view it can be asked if this situation has worsened or improved
in the last decades. Diagram 3 therefore shows how the factors between the countries
displayed in diagram 2 have changed over time. (The ratio between Chad and Libya uses the
vertical scale on the right side, since there have been exceptionally high values in the past.)
Only a few features can be derived from these rather unsteady dynamics. During the eighties,
when the bi-polar global economy approached its end, a marked widening of the gap
occurred. European countries developed faster than their north African neighbors. And later,
in the 21st century, a slight convergence of ratios can be seen. Since the factors between north
African countries and their southern neighbors by and large are in the same range, this implies
that European immigrants from these countries can expect an average GDP per capita more
than 50 times as high as their current one! The latter remark evidently does not really concern
the Arab population but rather explains the exodus from black Africa.
This quick glance at the time line of economic inequality makes clear that the sudden wave of
immigration has not been caused by a sudden widening of this gap. As argued above, it rather
was another factor, namely the political breakdown of state power combined with new
technological possibilities that suddenly unleashed the latent forces frozen by authoritarian
regimes. But nevertheless the enduring inequality from now on will fuel population
US $
GDP per capita in 2014
Africa south
Africa north
Europe south
movements, in the mid-run the lowered hurdles to be taken to leave Africa will persist
. In
the long-run this gap is the source of immigration.
Diagram 3: Evolution of the income gap
Source: United Nations Economic Database
When certain territories become war zones - when the transition of particularly infuriating
local politics or more global conflicts into military action and war occurs then an additional
wave of refugees can be expected.
In diagram 4 estimates of the development of migration streams from African Mediterranean
countries to European Mediterranean Countries are shown, as well as the analogue
movement from the countries south of the belt of African Mediterranean countries. The
absolute numbers inserted in this diagram show how small the latter movement is compared
to the movement across the Mediterranean Sea. Given the fact that the ratios in GPPC for the
northern and southern belt of countries is in the same range as the ratio between European
and African Mediterranean countries (compare diagram 3), this is a bit surprising. It suggests
that GPPC plays only a minor role for immigration within Africa; in fact, a look at the details
reveals that it has been civil war in Sudan only that caused larger immigration streams. The
fear of some European politicians that all Africans will invade Europe for economic reasons
Conservative and nationalist politicians in Europe, of course, are aiming at re-building a fortress Europe with
a strong military support of NATO.
Ratios of GDP per capita
thus finds no support with the data till 2010. In what follows, migration within Africa therefore
will be ignored.
Diagram 4: Migration to the North
Source: Wittgenstein Centre Vienna, Global Migration Database
Despite the somewhat poor availability of data, it is tempting to provide some rough estimates
of elasticities, i.e. with which factor (elasticity) a one percent increase of the GPPC ratio will
affect a one percent increase of the emigration stream. The only historical period that
provides an example for such an exercise as already mentioned above and seen in diagram
3 - is the period around the breakdown of the bi-polar global system from the late 80-ties to
the mid - 90-ties. As expected, elasticities for the stable authoritarian regimes of this period
were inelastic (Morocco to Portugal: 0,04; Tunisia to France: 0,54; Egypt to Europe: 0,09). Only
the already destabilizing case of Libya in its first civil war 1989-1996 (Libya to Italy: 2,87) and
the civil war 1991-1997 in Algeria (Algeria to France: 2,72) indicate a strongly elastic reaction
of migration flows. But even in these two cases it has not been the economic incentive per se
that induced emigration, but rather the sudden lowering of state control and thus of the
barriers to leave the country amplified by danger of being killed - that came with the civil
. The lesson to be learned from the period up to 2010 thus is: Migration was successfully
stopped by north African regimes, with their strong form of authoritarian control of
economics, as long as the transition from politics to war (2nd phase transition), which usually
starts as civil war, did not occur.
In 2011 the Arab Spring, as discussed in the first part of this chapter, finally brought about this
fully-fledged transition. From that point onwards, with little orderly state power present in
the south of the Mediterranean Sea, the stream of refugees arriving in European ports has
dramatically increased. A most recent Brussels estimate counted 130.000 refugees coming
across the Mediterranean Sea in the first three months of 2016. One of many quantitative
A simulation model mimicking essential processes described in this chapter is currently developed in a
companion paper titled ‘Evolutionary Simulation of the Mediterranean Political Economy’.
9691 710 6686 10588
805522 779133
1990-1995 1995-2000 2000-2005 2005-2010
Migration to the North
To Mediterranean North Africa To Mediterranean Europe
indicators of the more recent tsunami of immigrants from the Middle East is the (monthly
reported) number of applications for asylum in Germany, see diagram 5. In the first two
months of 2016 there were already another 120.000 applications, which for the whole year
result in an expectation of 720.000.
Diagram 5: Asylum applications
Source: Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, Germany.
Still these high numbers should not be too frightening, since the driving force behind them is
the war experience, and not a surge for higher income. Alone in Syria civil war is estimated to
have killed so far at least 250.000 people. If inclusive and visible good governance in Arab
countries is installed
, then the source of large migration streams is eliminated. In the mid-
run this is a reachable, though not an easy task.
The 1st phase transition of the Arab world the Arab Spring has transformed the untenable
economic situation that was kept quiet by authoritarian and feudal rulers into a chaotic
turmoil of opposing political actors. Groups, classes, tribes, religious communities clashed;
state-building processes evidently do not emerge spontaneously but take time. In classical
political economy the view was that classes have to acquire class consciousness to be able to
form coalitions and build more durable state institutions. With the many layers of
heterogeneous players interested to gain local dominance in the short-run, no such
constructive development could take place (just Tunisia hopefully might be a counter-
Several useful proposals for improvements are regularly published by the United Nations Development
Programme, e g. [Mirkin, 2010].
Applications for asylum in Germany
Applications for asylum in Germany
What did set in rather quickly was the 2nd phase transition, from politics to civil war. The
particular history of Arab states is responsible for a very special confluence of the missing state
specific nationalisms substituted by an overarching religious commonality (Islam) on the one
hand, and the already existing religious network organizations on the other hand. This rapidly
led to a strong ideological dominance of religious leaders, which were able to channel the
emancipatory trends that woke up in the Arab Spring into dogmatic and conservative Islamic
rules. These rules appeared as a return to true Islamism freed from the lieutenants of Western
capitalism that had oppressed Arabs before 2011. But any dogmatic religious organization that
dominates politics is bound to acquire the typical structure of a feudal regime: ideological
hierarchy needs its counterpart of a hierarchical military power structure, and vice versa.
Paramilitary organization and religion, in this case called Islamic radicalism, have often proved
to be a winning team. This freeze of emancipation of the Arab world has been dubbed Islamic
But while ideological dominance can spread quickly and retains a certain flexibility that can
adjust to the local history of an Arab country, dominance of a paramilitary organization is a
much more difficult task with a lot of rigidities to be overcome. International terrorist attacks
that figured prominently around the globe since 9/11, first only could play a modest role to
attract small groups of an extremely radicalized youth in some countries. Military strength had
to appear as dominance over a local territory to serve as a focal point for the confluence of
coercive power and religious leadership
. It could have been expected that this endogenously
emerging need would first crystallize in Iraq. The country defeated by US forces and then left
as an economic playing ground for people inspired by a completely misconceived neoclassical
economic theory, without any idea of a necessary political infrastructure
, such a country had
to become what a few years later has been called ‘a failed state’. Syria, the neighboring
country, was the ideal place for expansion of IS. Baschar al-Assad, Syria’s ruler, with his
stubborn resistance against the aspirations of the Arab Spring, fighting rival groups with brutal
military forces had already larger parts of Syria’s population turning against him. The
infrastructure that the Islamic State seemed to offer could easily appear superior to the
already waging civil war between Assad and his rivals
. Then the unbelievable rapid expansion
of IS necessarily became a full-fledged war on many frontiers. The mass exodus of families in
the Middle East as well as the surge of immigrants from Africa, where a mini-state of IS in
Libya and IS cells further in the south of Africa wage war, were just an immediate consequence
of the success of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
It is straightforward that Baghdadi, the leader of IS, therefore considers himself as the incarnation of Allah’s
will as well as its military leader - with the aspiration to conquer the world.
Neoclassical theory is proud to be institution free ‘; this adds to its generality as proponents say. In Iraq the
US army only trained some Iraqi police forces as a remainder of an ‘institution of last resort’. When they hit in
the east of Iraq, it was an easy prey for the troops of IS with their much more consistent ideological and military
First Assad seemed to have been not too unhappy about the successes of IS, since they at least occupied
territory belonging to his local enemies.
What will happen next? As of March 2016, the Islamic State seems to be on the retreat. It
loses territory, and worse than that it loses fighters and attractiveness to recruit new ones.
Since the only answer its leaders ever have learned is to be more aggressive and more
dogmatic, they intensify singular terrorist attacks in Europe and the rest of the world. A central
role in the organization of these attacks is played by the networks maintained by fighters
trained in the secret services of former (and contemporary) rulers in the Arab world. They will
be able to continue their attacks as long as the IS exists. Therefore, a final defeat of the Islamic
State, a complete loss of its territory, is a necessary pre-condition for peace. Some signs for
this possibility are currently appearing, e.g. there are signals from Assad to allow for
participation of rival groups in governance, probably motivated by a partial loss of support
from Russia. Of course, much will depend on the next president of the USA: If Donald Trump
reverses the deal with Iran and changes US foreign policy in the Middle East (as he promises),
then we are in a new setting. In a similar way European policy might take surprising turns if
right wing nationalist political parties assume state power in some large European countries.
In all these cases the predictive power of scientific analysis of the political economy shrinks to
a week by week forecast.
Finally, it is remarkable how insignificant in this analysis the role of the content of religion, of
Islam, really is
. The longevity of religions like Christianity or the Islam, is based on the
vagueness of their content, on the insignificance of their texts. To survive some 1500 years, to
provide ideological dominance for power structures as different as the Roman Empire, the
Ottoman Empire, medieval kingdoms, Saudi Arabia, Gaddafi’s Libya, modern EU states, the
USA, Erdogan’s Turkey, and Baghdadi’s IS (to name only a few), this really needs a vast space
for possible interpretations.
Religion thrives by walking on two feet: On one side (1) it is based on helping an existing power
structure to maintain its dominance. It does so by influencing the internal (mental) model
building process of all members of this power structure. On the other side (2) it provides
simple rule sets, which determine actions of individuals for all cases for which the individual
is unsure to decide. The key to this influence on individuals is the concept of believe: When
confronted with a phenomenon (and a decision to be taken) that is only partially understood
religious rules provide a short-cut for decision-making by suggesting to the individual that it
has to believe that the proposed decision is the best one. The stronger the believe, the
stronger is the power of the rule-making religious organization, and the weaker will be the
wish of members to modify the religious dogma
. Non-knowledge, as the baseline of religious
As Edward Said once (1995 !) lucidly remarked, ‘…what appears in the West to be the emergence, return to,
or resurgence of Islam is in fact a struggle in Islamic societies over the definition of Islam. [Said, 2003, p.333].
In this context the opposition between religion and science becomes very clear: Both start with the fact that
human knowledge is incomplete. But then the goal of the religious believe system is to retain as much non-
knowledge as possible to further construct its dogma of religious rules, i.e. to increase believe in these rules.
Science, on the contrary, aims at reducing believe and substituting it by more knowledge. Knowledge thus for
science is always preliminary knowledge that has to be increased by reducing believe, whereas knowledge in a
religious system consists of the belief in a monolithic religious rule-set, which itself is thought to be eternal and
rule sets and the organizations producing them, can have several sources. In ancient societies
the lack of scientific knowledge often was complemented by such a set of useful religious
rules, short-cuts to master the daily life of a tribe in a wiser way. A plethora of religions
emerged around the globe. Today an unbelievable amount of knowledge has been produced
by the human species in the last two hundred years, but this knowledge is split-up in myriads
of topics, in scientific communities and ordinary people working in places all around the globe.
This has led to the contemporary phenomenon of global alienation
, which in turn resulted
in a renewed surge of religious communities.
To understand international terrorism as a phenomenon of Islamic radicalism this double
nature of religion has to be taken into account. It resembles opium: The toxic content of a
religious believe system only reveals itself if the seductive attraction that it exerts on its users
is transformed into the sinister social consequences that their religion-driven actions produce,
become visible. Suicide bombers take this contradictory feature to the extreme
: Their
voluntary self-extinction is a sacrifice to the larger goal, an eternal reign of the caliphate.
Individually, the awareness of the complete insignificance of their existence in a world
characterized by global alienation is balanced by the sweet feeling to contribute to the highest
of all goals, Allah’s eternal glory manifested on earth as the Islamic State reigned by his
representative caliph Baghdadi.
As already argued above, global alienation and re-emergence of religious sects are certainly
most alarming elements of the recent state of global political economy, but for the immediate
future of the further development of civil wars south of Europe, religious rivalries are just
another ideological instrument with which existing power elites and warlords try to
ammunition their fighters. If it turns out to be possible to finally initiate a continuation of the
emancipation process in the Arab world, i.e. to initiate an ‘Arab Summer’, then it can safely
be assumed that it will thrive on a strong anti-religious and anti-clerical support of the Arab
population. Neither Western ‘Christian value systems’ nor a return to a new variant of a ‘true
Islam’, or any other religion is an adequate ideology to heal the wounds of a population that
suffered for so many years from misused ideological manipulation. With the help of modern
information and communication technology Europe’s role could be to support such a second
wave of an Arab Summer. But to be able to do so European governments must show that they
themselves are capable to defend their emancipatory unification process against the threats
of renewed nationalism and isolation policies within a ‘fortress Europe’
. Perhaps the
scientific community that already spreads its intellectual network across the involved
See also [Hanappi and Hanappi-Egger, 2012].
The basic logical structure of this thought seems to be a common feature of monotheist religions of the Middle
East. In Christianity, Jesus - as the son of God - had to be crucified by the mob of pagans for the eternal glory of
his father’s rule system; suicide bombers die with ‘Allahu Akbar(Allah is the Greatest) on their lips.
Another immediate threat would be European foreign policy that returns to the establishment of puffer zone
countries with dictators that help to lock-off the Middle East and North Africa. Again local military rulers could
be supported with European money to maintain refugee camps. It is evident that such a policy is short-sighted,
since it only re-installs the reasons for the rebellions in 2011. The next revolutions will follow shortly. A wiser
policy should concentrate on integration mechanisms in Europe and intense cooperation with emancipatory
forces in Arab countries.
continents, can play an important progressive role by providing a positive vision of peaceful
cooperation of European, Arab, and North-African societies; this chapter tried to provide a
modest example in this direction.
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Methods, Paper presented at the Annual EAEPE Conference in Genoa, September
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Full-text available
Recent developments in the global economy, such as the Greek budget crisis, have led to new focus on the role of Europe, and in particular on the countries in Europe’s south-eastern region. This new volume from a global set of contributors explores south-east Europe’s present and future direction, placing it in the context of the history of the region since the end of the Second World War. Through an exploration of Europe’s cultural and political economy, this volume argues that the south-east part of Europe is currently the most crucial component of Europe’s future development. The book charts the post-World War Two ‘evolution’ of the continent, taking in such key turning points as the 1971 breakdown of the fixed exchange rate system, the breakdown of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, and the 2008 global financial collapse. In doing so, the book seeks to explain why and how the current events in south-east Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean can be seen as the weakest points in the wider capitalist system in Europe, and how the issues faced by these regions can provide insight into a possible re-design of European governance. Including a comprehensive editorial introduction, this timely and important book is fully up to date with recent global events, including the 2011 Arab Spring, and provides context and comparison with the countries in the EU.
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The current economic crisis proves how deep the contradictions inherent in contemporary capitalism really are. At the same time it is evident that the financial crisis goes hand in hand with a social crisis, since an increasing number of people lost trust in governments, trade unions and other representative institutions. A main reason why the European Left nevertheless faces severe challenges in attracting supporters seems to be an experienced loss of what has been called ‘working class identity’ in earlier times. This development has been fuelled by the continuing debate on “identity constructions” as proposed e.g. by post-modernist scholars referring to “fluid” and ambiguous concepts of identity and strictly denying any social categorization. So there is a gap between the loss of working class identity on one hand and the focus on merely social identities on the other hand. To bridge this gap the two trajectories have to be linked. Thus, it is proposed to reflect the whole discussion on “working class identity” in the light of exploitation referring to classical political economy, but additionally to integrate social identity constructions by reviving the concept of alienation.
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A plethora of media platforms were involved in communicating recent protests across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), though it remains unclear exactly how these interacted. This qualitative article, based primarily on interviews with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) newsworkers, explores the networked linkages between social and broadcast media, asking how social media content moved into broadcast news, which standards shaped the interface between the two and how these standards were defined. It finds that a set of normative and practical standards caused significant friction at the interface, which is reduced as content assimilates these standards. Standards are shaped mainly in response to broadcast imperatives, but also through the mainstreaming of social media and more efficacious and practicable networked communicative practices, indicating how power may shift in the networked age. Responding to the optimistic view that networked multimedia environments enable unencumbered communication, it argues that the scope and limits of communicative affordances depend on these standards.
This book seeks to identify the forces which explain how and why some parts of the world have grown rich and others have lagged behind. Encompassing 2000 years of history, part 1 begins with the Roman Empire and explores the key factors that have influenced economic development in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe. Part 2 covers the development of macroeconomic tools of analysis from the 17th century to the present. Part 3 looks to the future and considers what the shape of the world economy might be in 2030. Combining both the close quantitative analysis for which Professor Maddison is famous with a more qualitative approach that takes into account the complexity of the forces at work, this book provides students and all interested readers with a totally fascinating overview of world economic history. Professor Maddison has the unique ability to synthesise vast amounts of information into a clear narrative flow that entertains as well as informs, making this text an invaluable resource for all students and scholars, and anyone interested in trying to understand why some parts of the World are so much richer than others.
Evolutionary Political Economy: Content and Methods, Paper presented at the Annual EAEPE Conference in Genoa
  • H Hanappi
  • M Scholz-Wäckerle
Hanappi H. and Scholz-Wäckerle M., 2015, Evolutionary Political Economy: Content and Methods, Paper presented at the Annual EAEPE Conference in Genoa, September 2015.äckerle_2015b_final.pdf
Das Ende des Nahen Ostens, wie wir ihn kennen, edition suhrkamp
  • V Perthes
Perthes V., 2015, Das Ende des Nahen Ostens, wie wir ihn kennen, edition suhrkamp, Berlin.
Promise of a Dream. Remembering the Sixties
  • S Rowbotham
Rowbotham S., 2002, Promise of a Dream. Remembering the Sixties, Verso Publishers, London. Said E., 2003, Orientalism, Penguin Modern Classics, London.