The books under review are a chronicle of the instabilities and death and destruction that have plagued the wider West Asian region in the recent past. Vijay Prashad brings to note the ‘slow political death of the idea of Arab nationalism’ by highlighting the chaos engulfing Iraq, Syria and Libya and the destructive role of regional players (p. 6). The author critically analyses the socio-political churning that is taking place across the region, combining his analysis often with first-hand accounts from the ground. In Egypt for instance, the author finds that divisions within society run deep and opinions are divided whether the military rule of General al Sisi was good for the country in the long term. Across the region, terrorism provides a convenient alibi for the rulers to crackdown on every form of dissent.
Prashad notes that the ingredients fuelling the discontent that led to the uprisings in the Arab world beginning from 2011 were widespread across the region, the first and foremost being the majority of the population under 30 years not gainfully employed (p. 93). The decline of living standards across the Arab world led to the revival of ‘working class’ politics, most prominently seen with the mobilization of textile workers in Egypt and those working in phosphate mines in Tunisia. Political Islam was the go-to philosophy to address socio-political-economic deficits, given that it had a dedicated cadre and a presence in neighbourhood mosques. This made it difficult for the authorities to suppress it. However, Prashad notes that political Islam does not have an economic solution to the enormous developmental challenges plaguing the Arab world (p. 42).