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St Catharine's Political Economy Seminar Series - "Why Did Economists Fail to Predict the Arab Uprisings?"

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Date: Wednesday 27 February 2019 Time: 18:00 -19:30 Speaker: Hassan Hakimian Talk Title:‘Why Did Economists Fail to Predict the Arab Uprisings?’ Location: Ramsden Room, St Catharine’s College

Speaker Hassan Hakimian is Director of the London Middle East Institute and a Reader in Economics at SOAS , University of London. He has published on Middle Eastern economies with a special focus on Iran as well as on human resources and labour markets. His most recent book (co-edited with Parvin Alizadeh) is Iran and the Global Economy: Petro Populism, Islam and Economic Sanctions (Routledge, 2014). His current research is focused on inclusive growth in the MENA region and the economics of Arab uprisings. Hassan Hakimian is a Founding member and currently the President of the ‘International Iranian Economic Association (IIEA)’ and a Research Fellow and member of the Advisory Committee of the ‘Economic Research Forum (ERF)’ in Cairo. He is the Founder and Series Editor for the ‘Routledge Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa’, which he launched in 2003 and is currently editing the Routledge Handbook on the Middle East Economy.

Talk Overview: Economists have a less than happy record of predicting economic crises. Forecasting political upheavals is arguably even more of a challenge. This is partly conceptual since the mainstream economics’ focus on the equilibrium-seeking behaviour of homo economicus guided by rationale choice is ill-equipped to deal with social and political ruptures and uprisings. It is also partly empirical. Economists’ interest in economic fundamentals may miss out important points about mass welfare and material conditions of the population at large. From this perspective a raft of pertinent questions arises in the context of the unforeseen but tumultuous uprisings that rocked Arab countries after 2010/11: Were economists oblivious (not looking)? Were they focused on the wrong indicators? Perhaps weak inferences led them astray? Were the data flawed or did their framework lack sufficient analytical insight? This talk questions the link between political and economic cycles.Hassan Hakimian argues that as with the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the decade before the Arab uprisings experienced growth – not recession or stagnation – in both cases buoyed by favourable international oil prices. By formulating the case for understanding ‘inclusive growth’ in the region, Hassan Hakimian questions the popular perception that posits the roots of uprisings in economic downturns and immiserisation.

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This talk is part of the St Catharine's Political Economy Seminar Series series.

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