It has become popular today to say that we live in an era of what Benjamin Barber has labelled "Jihad vs. McWorld." The globalising powers of capitalism ("McWorld") are confronted with or resisted by the forces that Barber labels "Jihad" — the variety of tribal particularisms and "narrowly conceived faiths" opposed to the homogenising force of capital. Even those with a critical view of the growth of American empire and the expansion of what is erroneously termed the global market usually subscribe to this interpretation. In fact it is the critics who often argue that we need a better understanding of these local forms of resistance against the "universal" force of the market.
The terms of this debate are quite misleading. We live in an age, to adapt Barber’s nomenclature, of "McJihad." It is an age in which the mechanisms of what we call capitalism appear to operate, in certain critical instances, only by adopting the social force and moral authority of conservative Islamic movements. It may be true that we need a better understanding of the local forces that oppose the globalisation of capital; but, more than this, we need a better understanding of the so-called global forces of capital.
Five years ago the Middle East and North Africa was electrified by unprecedented popular protests that heralded the start of the Arab Spring. Beginning in Tunisia popular movements swept regimes from power in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya and threatened to overthrow ruling elites across the region. Tragically, the Arab Spring has since become mired in counterrevolution and civil war with the extraordinary violence of the war in Syria, the rise of ISIS, the escalating refugee crisis, and the establishment of a new dictatorship in Egypt emblematic of the profound challenges facing the people of the region. As tumultuous events continue to unfold we present Verso's reading list of key titles addressing the developing situation in the Middle East.