The Saudi Enigma

A History

Pascal Ménoret

The Saudi Enigma

Pascal Ménoret

Distributed for Zed Books

272 pages | 5.4375 x 8.5 | © 2005  
Paper $36.95 ISBN: 9781842776056 Published May 2005 For sale in North and South America only
'Finally, we have a book by someone who has a robust social science approach to what is a modern and fast-changing society, who has lived in, and thought a lot about, the country, who does not fall into conspiracy theory, who avoids the anti-Saudi banalities of the outside world as much as the pieties of the regime, who, in a word, tells us how the country actually works.' - Professor Fred Halliday, London School of Economics

'A treasure-house of precise references and analyses, this book does not set out to provide simple answers, but to illustrate the great complexity of the country and to account for the deep changes it has gone through. Particularly enlightening on the current crisis and the official response to it since 2002.' - Sophie Pommier, Le Monde Diplomatique

Saudi Arabia is a major piece on the world geopolitical chessboard. Despite the suspicion that has enveloped the country since September 11 2001, Saudi Arabia remains the key US ally in the Arab Middle East, a role secured by its continuing position as the world's largest oil exporter and its ever growing influence in the Muslim world. Yet the country is still very poorly understood. Western observers have rarely been able to penetrate this closed society and its opaque political system. Clich‚s about the role of oil wealth and fundamentalist Wahhabi Islam often serve to further mask the reality. The true complexity of Saudi society cannot be reduced to a mixture of poorly assimilated modernity and medieval Bedouin tradition. 

This volume illustrates the emerging autonomous - and Islamic - manifestations of Saudi national identity, fiercely reformist rather than medieval, complex and varied rather than merely a justification or support for the rule of the al-Saud royal family. Underlying Menorett's account is a sophisticated economic history of the Saudi state, from the eighteenth century to the present day, which details all the alliances and manoeuvres that have brought the country and its rulers to their current precarious position. 
Professor Fred Halliday


Going beyond the logic of security
Osama bin Laden and Saudi Arabia
A suburb of the West

Part OneThe Construction of Identities
1 The Island of the Arabs
The other country
The fantasies of outside perception
Contempt for history
The abolition of geography
An unattainable national identity?
Bedouin and sedentary
Sunnis and Shiites, Najd and periphery
Modernity and tradition

2 What Is Wahhabism?
The reforms of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab
The Najd revolution
Saudis do not call themselves
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