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American Studies Encounters the Middle East$
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Alex Lubin and Marwan M. Kraidy

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469628844

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469628844.001.0001

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The Uses of Modernization Theory

The Uses of Modernization Theory

American Foreign Policy and Mythmaking in the Arab World

(p.175) The Uses of Modernization Theory
American Studies Encounters the Middle East

Waleed Hazbun

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter traces the post-World War II uses of modernization theory in US policy towards the Middle East. Modernization theory suggests that in the long run socio-economic transformations could eventually result in governments and societies with interests more aligned with the US. These ideas allow US policy makers to suggest the contradictions between US strategic interests and the expressed interests of Arab societies are temporary. The chapter argues that this notion is a fiction enabled by how modernization theory misreads patterns of political change. As the convergence of interests never arrives the approach suggests the need for increased repression to counter existing forms of authority and political mobilization as well as the growing challenge of modernizing political forces seeking greater agency and with interests not aligned with the US. The constant recycling of ideas associated with modernization theory since the 1950s has been sustained more by America’s self-image as a benevolent force in the region than by the theory’s ability to explain processes of change.

Keywords:   development, ideas, John F. Kennedy, Walt Rostow, Middle East Studies

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