Dean Rohrer

The Saudi Spring?

With Saudi Arabia's political influence diminishing, and its oil wealth set to wane in the coming years, the country seems destined for national decline. But there is another possibility: a more representative political system, together with strong economic incentives, could unleash the young population’s creativity and dynamism.

LONDON – In the early 1970’s, Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal reportedly confided to senior members of the royal family his fear that, just as in a single generation the country had moved from “riding camels to riding Cadillacs….the next generation could be riding camels again.” His warning seems more apt than ever.

Saudi Arabia, long one of the Arab world’s most rigid societies, now finds itself in a state of flux. Its relations with the West – and with the United States in particular – have frayed in the turmoil unleashed in the Middle East and North Africa by the Arab Spring. Meanwhile, a group of women provided the latest sign of domestic restiveness by defying the Kingdom’s prohibition against women drivers.

While Saudi Arabia remains the largest Arab economy, the world’s leading producer and exporter of oil, and the guardian of Sunni Islam, its political influence has diminished significantly in recent years. From the early 1980’s to the mid-2000’s, Saudi Arabia was the coordinator of pan-Arab politics, with the palaces of Riyadh and Jeddah drawing political leaders from throughout the Arab world.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/6rLv9nf;
  1. An employee works at a chemical fiber weaving company VCG/Getty Images

    China in the Lead?

    For four decades, China has achieved unprecedented economic growth under a centralized, authoritarian political system, far outpacing growth in the Western liberal democracies. So, is Chinese President Xi Jinping right to double down on authoritarianism, and is the “China model” truly a viable rival to Western-style democratic capitalism?

  2. The assembly line at Ford Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    Whither the Multilateral Trading System?

    The global economy today is dominated by three major players – China, the EU, and the US – with roughly equal trading volumes and limited incentive to fight for the rules-based global trading system. With cooperation unlikely, the world should prepare itself for the erosion of the World Trade Organization.

  3. Donald Trump Saul Loeb/Getty Images

    The Globalization of Our Discontent

    Globalization, which was supposed to benefit developed and developing countries alike, is now reviled almost everywhere, as the political backlash in Europe and the US has shown. The challenge is to minimize the risk that the backlash will intensify, and that starts by understanding – and avoiding – past mistakes.

  4. A general view of the Corn Market in the City of Manchester Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    A Better British Story

    Despite all of the doom and gloom over the United Kingdom's impending withdrawal from the European Union, key manufacturing indicators are at their highest levels in four years, and the mood for investment may be improving. While parts of the UK are certainly weakening economically, others may finally be overcoming longstanding challenges.

  5. UK supermarket Waring Abbott/Getty Images

    The UK’s Multilateral Trade Future

    With Brexit looming, the UK has no choice but to redesign its future trading relationships. As a major producer of sophisticated components, its long-term trade strategy should focus on gaining deep and unfettered access to integrated cross-border supply chains – and that means adopting a multilateral approach.

  6. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now