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Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for Our World [Bargain Price] [Hardcover]

Vali Nasr
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 15, 2009 1416589686
Renowned Middle East expert Vali Nasr's bestselling The Shia Revival profoundly transformed the debate about the Iraq War by unveiling how the Sunni-Shia rift was driving the insurgency. Now, in Forces of Fortune, Nasr presents a paradigm-changing revelation that will transform the understanding of the Muslim world at large. He reveals that there is a vital but unseen rising force in the Islamic world -- a new business-minded middle class -- that is building a vibrant new Muslim world economy and that holds the key to winning the cold war against Iran and extremists.

His groundbreaking analysis will utterly rewrite the wisdom about how the West can best contend with the threat of Islamic extremism, as well as about what we can expect from the Muslim world in the future. The great battle for the soul of Iran, the Arab world, Pakistan, and the entire region will be fought not over religion, Nasr reveals, but over business and capitalism.

With a deft combination of historical narrative and eye-opening contemporary on-the-ground reporting from his constant trips to the region, Nasr takes us behind the news, so dominated by the struggle against extremists and the Taliban, to introduce a Muslim world we've not seen; a Muslim world in which the balance of power is being reshaped by an upwardly mobile middle class of entrepreneurs, investors, professionals, and avid consumers -- who can tip the scales away from extremist belligerence. His insights into the true situations in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the crucial bright spots of Dubai and Turkey provide a whole new way of thinking about the troubles and prospects in the region.

Drawing on his in-depth knowledge of the Muslim world's tortured history, he offers a powerful reassessment of why both extremism and anti-Americanism took hold in the region -- not because of an inevitable "clash of cultures" or the nature of Islam, but because of the failure of this kind of authentic middle class to develop in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, largely due to the insidious effects first of colonialism and then of top-down dictatorial regimes, often supported by the West. He then shows that the devoutly Islamic yet highly modern Muslims of what he calls the "critical middle" -- in Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and the stealth force behind the extraordinary growth of aggressively capitalist Dubai -- are finally the middle class the region has desperately needed. They are building a whole new economy -- as the middle classes did in both India and China -- and their distinctive blending of Islam and capitalism is the key to bringing about lasting reform and to defeating fundamentalism. They are people in the region the West can and must do business with.

Forces of Fortune offers a transformative understanding of the Muslim world and its possible future that is sure to spark lively debate and to play a vital role in bringing about a sea change in thinking about the conflict with Islam.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nasr (The Shia Revival) offers a fresh look at the future of religious extremism in the Middle East, suggesting that the great battle... for the soul of the region will be fought not over religion, but over business and capitalism. He posits that a rising middle class—seen most dramatically in Dubai, but a force across the whole Muslim world—is far more interested in economic success than in fervent religiosity, even as many bring a distinctly Muslim approach to the business they do. He points out that while the Reformation created the modern world, it wasn't that era's intolerant faith that made the transformation but rather trade and commerce, adding that values gain currency when they serve the economic and social interests of people. His in-depth analysis of the failures of various governments to provide for their people, as well as special focus on what is working in Turkey, and what is crippling Pakistan, helps drive his thesis home. Nasr's analysis can't help being somewhat hobbled by the fact that it depends heavily on the shifting sands of history-in-the-making, but his approach is sensible, well-argued and deserves close attention. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Vali Nasr masterfully articulates his argument through comprehensive research and vivid reporting. A must read." -- Senator John F. Kerry

"Vali Nasr's new paradigm about the rise of a new Muslim middle class will be embraced by a broad spectrum of experts: because it is a startling truth hiding in plain sight that Nasr brilliantly reveals and elaborates." -- Robert D. Kaplan, author of Balkan Ghosts and Imperial Grunts

"With his unique credentials and bold insights, Vali Nasr has written a landmark work at a pivotal time. It's a rich and exciting read." -- Robin Wright, author of Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East

"In this fascinating and timely book, Vali Nasr argues lucidly that free trade, not sanctions, is the key to a democratic awakening in the Muslim world. Forces of Fortune seems bound to be influential." -- Jon Lee Anderson, author of The Fall of Baghdad

"Take American chips away from the endlessly hypocritical and fruitless diplomatic games and rhetoric, our weakest hand, and put the chips on our strength -- helping Middle Eastern and Muslim countries with economic growth. That's the way to ultimately defeat the terrorists, build the middle classes, loosen ties to Arab autocrats, and develop democracies. That's Vali Nasr's brilliant message. It's the only way to rescue U.S. foreign policy from disasters." -- Leslie H. Gelb, former New York Times columnist and senior government official, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations

“Nasr has written a rewarding and impressive book. He is a lively guide to a maze of issues that rarely get discussed, and he uses the fruits of his wide travels in the Middle East with great skill ? full of knowing insights and subtle personal portraits.  Judging by this book, it is no mystery that Nasr has risen to such prominence in U.S. government circles as a preeminent explainer of the complex phenomena that define the modern Middle East.”

Foreign Affairs

“Vali Nasr's important new book helps us understand the positive power of commerce in the Muslim world. He shows how growing economies and a new business class will be more important than extremist ideologies in determining how the Middle East interacts with the world. This is a wonderful combination of historical analysis and insightful reporting.”

—Walter Isaacson, CEO of The Aspen Institute and author of Kissinger: A Biography

“In recent years, much of the discussion about the Muslim world has focused on the role of Islam in politics, especially the rise of extremist groups.  In this informative book, Middle East expert Nasr challenges our commonly held assumptions about the dynamics of the contemporary Middle East. Relying on examples from countries ranging from Iran to Turkey and Pakistan, he demonstrates that that is a commercial revolution in the Muslim world fueled by the emergence of dynamic and upwardly mobile middle-class entrepreneurs and reformers?It is this “critical mass,” he says, that will define the contours of Middle Eastern politics and the broader Muslim world and not the marginal extremists that have dominated news coverage of the region. This book should be read by all concerned citizens and policymakers in the West.”

Library Journal

“Nasr offers a fresh look at the future of religious extremism in the Middle East.  He posits that a rising middle class is far more interested in economic success than in fervent religiosity.  Nasr's analysis ? is well-argued and deserves close attention.”

—Publishers Weekly

“[A] humane and clear-eyed narrative?”

Harvard Business Review

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (September 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416589686
  • ASIN: B003IWYG0W
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,790,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Vali Nasr is Dean and Professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, a non-resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Contributor to Bloomberg View. He is a member of the State Department's Foreign Affairs Policy Advisory Board to advise the Secretary of State on global issues.

Between 2009 and 2011 he served as Senior Advisor to U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

Vali Nasr is one of America's leading experts on the Islamic world and Middle East politics. He is internationally renowned and has influenced critical public debates and policy decisions in both U.S. and Europe. He is the author of the groundbreaking book The Dispensable Nation (2013), which takes a hard look at strategic risk of a shrinking American role on the global stage. His two previous books, the New York Times best seller Shia Revival (2006), and Forces of Fortune (2009) correctly foretold of sectarian conflict following Iraq war and the potential for an Arab Spring. He has advised presidents and senior policy makers, members of the Congress, presidential campaigns, and global political and business leaders. He was featured on the front page of Wall Street Journal; quoted by Senator John Kerry on the floor of the U.S. Senate; and described as a "national resource" by Richard Haass, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Vali Nasr is the author of The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat (Doubleday, 2013); Forces of Fortune: The Rise of A New Muslim Middle Class and What It Means for Our World (Free Press, 2009; also published in paperback as The Rise of Islamic Capitalism: Why the New Middle Class is Key to Defeating Extremism and in U.K. as Meccanomics: The March of the New Muslim Middle Class); The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam will Shape the Future (W.W. Norton, 2006); Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty (Oxford University Press, 2006); The Islamic Leviathan: Islam and the Making of State Power (Oxford University Press, 2001); Mawdudi and the Making of Islamic Revivalism (Oxford University Press, 1996); The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jama`at-i Islami of Pakistan (University of California Press, 1994); an editor of Oxford Dictionary of Islam (Oxford University Press, 2003); and co-editor of Expectation of the Millennium: Shi`ism in History (SUNY Press, 1989); as well as numerous articles in academic journals and encyclopedias. His works have been translated into Arabic, French, German, Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian, Italian, Turkish, Persian, Chinese, Hindi and Urdu.

He has written for The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, Newsweek, Time, Foreign Policy, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, and has provided frequent expert commentary to CNN, BBC, National Public Radio, Public Radio International, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Frontline, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, and has been a guest on the Charlie Rose Show and Meet the Press, Larry King Live, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report and Real Time with Bill Maher. His interviews have appeared in Al-Hayat, Al-Sharq al-Awsat and Al-Jazeera in the Middle East, Der Spiegel and Die Welt in Germany, La Repubblica, La Stampa, and Corriera della Sera in Italy, El Mundo in Spain, and Le Monde in France, as well as in leading media outlets in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Iran, Japan, Turkey, Sweden and Switzerland.

He is a member of Board of Trustees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Board of Trustees of National Democratic Institute; Board of Directors of the Foundation for Iranian Studies; and the Fund Board of the Public Affairs Association of Iranian-Americans (PAAIA). He has been the recipient of grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council. He is a Carnegie Scholar for 2006.

He received his BA from Tufts University in International Relations summa cum laude and was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa in 1983. He earned his masters from the Fletcher School of Law in and Diplomacy in international economics and Middle East studies in 1984, and his PhD from MIT in political science in 1991.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
As one of the foremost scholars and thinkers on Muslim society Vali Nasr has demonstrated his keen insight into that world. His 2007 book The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future sought to reframe the debate over the Iraq war by exploring how the Shia and Sunni divide was fueling what in essence was not only a civil war but a continuation of a long-running religious conflict. With "Forces of Fortune" Nasr has produced another work that should reshape opinions and increase understanding of the broader changes occurring in the Muslim world. Nasr asserts that the rise of a business-minded middle class is reshaping societies across the Muslim world and how the West engages this burgeoning middle class will provide the key to countering the threat from Islamic extremists and Iran. That alone represents a considerable paradigm shift from the West's longtime support of autocratic nations in the region who have failed to democratize and liberalize their economies and their societies. Nasr makes a compelling argument that the way to win over the Muslim world is to engage it over business, capitalism, and trade; not to fight it over religion.

Equally surprising is his assessment that Islamic extremism and anti-Americanism took hold in the region not because of an inevitable clash of cultures (as other scholars have asserted), but because unlike other countries and regions a middle class failed to emerge in the 19th and 20th Centuries. This is hardly surprising given the sclerosis and decline of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th Century, the exploitative effects of colonialism and the autocratic regimes that dominated the latter half of the 20th Century.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A First Rate Look At the Middle East September 19, 2009
Mr. Nasr is a one of the best minds on Islam and the Middle East. His last book, The Shia Revival, was a best-seller that forecast sectarianism in Iraq even before it had happened. He has a reputation for being insightful and coming up with new ideas. This book lives up that reputation. It gives a completely different picture of the Middle East than the one we read and hear in the media. Nasr writes that extremism is a problem, and so is fundamentalism, poverty, and dictatorship. But he does not think things are hopeless. He explains that there are places in the Muslim world where a new middle class tied to business has been changing things for the better. There is a lot of useful history and facts, often about issues we do not hear about, in this book. It also ties change in the Middle East to things we know about, business, economics, capitalism. Tom Freedman meets Islamic history, that is what this book is about. It is a completely novel idea and a worthwhile read.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Vali Nasr reminds his audience that since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the U.S. has placed the greatest emphasis on containing and defeating Islamic fundamentalism in the Islamic world, especially in the Middle East (pp. 1-2; 84). Nasr invites the West, especially the U.S., to see the whole picture (p. 10). The sub-optimal integration of the Middle East into the global economy is largely responsible for the key role that this region plays in fueling global political instability (pp. 168; 262).

To his credit, Nasr shows with much clarity how the failures of secularism have made possible for fundamentalism to survive past its prime across the Islamic world (pp. 11; 84-85; 142-143; 146-148; 152; 156; 164-165; 173; 175; 213; 255). Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Modern Turkey, was decisive in westernizing his country to catch up with the West in the 1920s and 1930s. The leadership of Iran and much of the rest of the region followed in his footsteps, despite the fact that their countries were not as well-endowed as Turkey after WWI (pp. 95-97; 106). Kemalism, a model of modernization-by-command, resulted in several failures after scoring some remarkable successes:

1) Patronage state, mismanagement, and corruption rather than robust capitalist economies;

2) The absence of a middle class of merchants and professionals with their own bases of economic power, independent from state sponsorship;
3) Suppression of Islam and its accompanying resentment (pp. 8-9; 65-69; 72-75; 85; 90-91; 94; 98-110; 113-114; 118-119; 129; 141; 149-150; 169-171; 192; 207; 219; 229; 236; 250).

Nasr observes that Kemalism is now playing a key role in undermining stronger capitalist growth and liberalization in the Islamic world (pp. 94; 114; 167; 226). The U.S.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting analysis of the Middle East July 3, 2013
This book describes the Middle East in a different way by explaining the growing importance of the middle class. It is well written and highly readable, and I would also recommend the book to those who are not familiar with the region.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Vali Nasr gives a great overview of MENA history and why the emerging business class will drive politics moving forward.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Informative Book! March 5, 2011
Format:MP3 CD|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book and learned a lot from it about the Arab world. It has particular meaning at this time when the New Muslim Middle Class truly is rising in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in learning more about Islam and the Arab world of today.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars An Unfortunate Title & A Shallow Analysis
After the brilliant "The Shia Revival", Vali Nasr's "The Rise of Islamic Capitalism" is a disappointment for two reasons: (1) Nasr's choice of title is misleading and unfortunate... Read more
Published 5 months ago by K. B. Rodoper
3.0 out of 5 stars Out of date
I needed this book for a graduate class and while much of the text is worthwhile, it needs to be updated to take into account the Arab Spring. Read more
Published 7 months ago by StaMara
2.0 out of 5 stars Western point of view
Very western point of view of an author of eastern origin. Informative for the western reader about what happened and is happening in the muslim world in terms of economics and... Read more
Published 18 months ago by F M Sula
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly readable thesis
I found Forces of Fortune to be a fantastic follow-up to the more narrowly focused expression of Vali's thesis in Islamic Revival, with his use of personal anecdote as well as... Read more
Published on January 20, 2011 by Steffen M
4.0 out of 5 stars An Important Thesis In Need Of More Support
Vali Nasr is always worth reading. `The Shia Revival' was superb political analysis and there's plenty of that here as well, especially when Nasr gives a straightforward historical... Read more
Published on December 17, 2010 by T. G. S. Hawksley
5.0 out of 5 stars How to Defeat Extremism
This book is a wonderful history of the Middle East and argues that the solution to Islamic extremism lies in improving the Middle East's economic situation. Read more
Published on September 26, 2010 by Morgan Hartley
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Overviews of the Middle East
In his new book, Vali Nasr provides an overview of the broad, societal trends that have shaped the Middle East over the last century. Read more
Published on September 13, 2010 by Lars Lofgren
5.0 out of 5 stars A provocative proposal that economics will change the Middle East
Since September 11, 2001, the media has saturated Westerners with information about radical Islam. Many people view Islam as a monolithically fundamentalist creed whose followers... Read more
Published on June 8, 2010 by Rolf Dobelli
5.0 out of 5 stars A Critical Analysis of the Re-emerging Muslim World
The author, Vali Nasr, explores the recent political history of the Muslim world and the probable direction it is moving. Read more
Published on February 20, 2010 by Andy "Alpha 3"
Vali Nasr has very coherently developed his thesis that the youth of the Muslim World(more than 50% of 1. Read more
Published on January 21, 2010 by Faroq Khan
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