Arab Studies Institute

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Laissez-Faire Reconsidered: On Political Economy and State Formation in Lebanon

By Ziad Abu-Rish and Hicham Safieddine

10/17/2012 03:30 pm

Location: George Mason University, Student Union I, Room 3A


The Arab Studies Institute (ASI) and George Mason University Middle East Program Studies present "Laissez-Faire Reconsidered: On Political Economy and State Formation in Lebanon" presented by Ziad Abu-Rish and Hicham Safieddine on October 17, 2012 at 7:30 PM at George Mason University, Studient Union I, Room 3A.


This panel discusses the political economy of Lebanon between 1934-1975, highlighting a specific set of structural processes, strategic mobilization, institutional outcomes that were very important parts of making the Lebanese economy. Drawing on each others research, the panelists will historicize particular aspects of Lebanese economic development, as well as connect that history to the larger debates about state formation and nationalism there. 


Paper 1 Title: Deregulating Trade: Customs, Licenses, and the Struggle Over State Intervention

Paper 1 Abstract: In most accounts of Lebanon (both past and present) the state is characterized as either absent or a natural outcome of confessionalism. This paper offers an examination of the institutional framework deployed in the (de)regulation of trade, struggles over the nature and function of those institutions, and the relationship of both to the broader trajectory of Lebanese state formation.

 Ziad Abu-Rish is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). He is currently writing his dissertation, provisionally entitled “Making the Economy, Producing the State: Conflict and Institution Building in Early Independence Lebanon, 1943-1958.” In addition to his academic training, Ziad serves on the editorial teams of both the Arab Studies Journal and Jadaliyya Ezine. He is co-editor of Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of an Old Order (Pluto Press, 2012). Ziad also currently serves as the Graduate Student Representative to the Board of Directors of the Middle East Studies Association.

Paper 2 Title: Searching for Economic Sovereignty: The Birth of Central Banking in Lebanon

Paper 2 Abstract: Lebanon gained its formal political independence in 1943, but it took another two decades before a money and credit law was passed and a central bank was established. The founding of the bank was touted by prominent politicians as a major step in asserting state authority and gaining fuller economic independence but opposed by top bankers as threatening the country's much-touted laissez-faire doctrine. In this presentation, I will examine the different political and economic forces (global and local) that led up to the bank's creation and try to bring these developments to bear on our understanding and framing of the creation and evolution of post-colonial states.   

Hicham Safieddine is a Ph.D Candidate of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Toronto with a special interest in the socio-economic history of the Levant. He is also a journalist who follows and writes about the contemporary politics of the Arab world.