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The Arab Gulf States: Beyond Oil and Islam

Sean Foley
The Arab Gulf States: Beyond Oil and Islam
ISBN: 978-1-58826-730-6
ISBN: 978-1-58826-706-1
ISBN: 978-1-62637-026-5
2010/315 pages/LC: 2009040867
"An ambitious and original work of analysis and insight."—Philipp O. Amour, International Studies Review

"Make[s] the reader realize that the people of the Arab Gulf states are much more like us than we are likely to imagine."—Karen K. Clark, Digest of Middle East Studies

"An extremely welcome addition.... This book should be read by all scholars, students, and analysts studying this vitally important region."—James Russell, Middle East Journal

"Brings out well the challenges, future possibilities, and oft-overlooked complexities of the six monarchical states of the Gulf.... This is a wonderful addition to the literature, advancing scholarly understanding while being eminently accessible to the interested lay person."—Gerd Nonneman, International Affairs

"This engaging study of the political, social, and cultural dynamics of the Arab Gulf states demonstrates that popular images do not reflect the much more complex reality.... Foley presents a compelling picture of the region."—Agnieszka Paczynska, George Mason University

"Foley has performed an important task in challenging the easy stereotypes and subsidized hagiographies that have at times dominated discussion of this vital strategic and political space."—Jonathan Spyer, Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs


If petroleum buys political legitimacy in the Arab Gulf states, how can we explain the rise of dissent and calls for political reform despite sustained oil revenues? The answer, according to Sean Foley, lies in political, social, and economic dynamics that have been brewing beneath the surface for more than a decade—and that are slowly shifting the balance of political power.

While not disagreeing that oil revenues have been important in preserving the power of Gulf autocrats, Foley goes beyond popular stereotypes to identify other crucial forces —including the telecommunications revolution, the lack of jobs for major segments of the male population, and the increasing economic power of women and minority groups—that are conspiring to disrupt the status quo. It is these complex issues, Foley convincingly argues, that are at the forefront as the Arab Gulf states grapple with the challenges of both modernity and money.


Sean Foley is professor of history at Middle Tennessee State University.


  • Introduction.
  • The Emergence of the Modern Gulf,1930-1981.
  • Globalization, Wars, and a Telecommunications Revolution.
  • The Twenty-First-Century Gulf.
  • When Only Women Will Work.
  • Inclusion, Tolerance, and Accommodation.
  • Beyond Oil and Islam.