Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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
"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.
"Nasr offers a fresh look at the future of religious extremism in the Middle East.
“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.”
"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
“[A] humane and clear-eyed narrative…”
—Harvard Business Review
"Vali Nasr masterfully articulates his argument through comprehensive research and vivid reporting. A must read." -- Senator John F. Kerry
"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
“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.”
“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.”
Leading authority on the Islamic world and influential advisor to the Obama administration Vali Nasr shows that the West’s best hope of winning the battle against Islamic extremists is to foster the growth of a vibrant new Muslim middle class. This flourishing of Muslim bourgeoisie is reshaping the mind-set, politics, and even the religious values of Muslims in much the same way the Western bourgeoisie lead the capitalist and democratic revolution in Europe. Whereas extremism has grown out of the dismal economic failures of the authoritarian Islamic regimes, Nasr explains, the wealth and aspirations of this Islamic “critical middle” put them squarely at odds with extremism. They have ushered in remarkable transformations already in Dubai, Turkey, and Indonesia, and they are the key to tipping the balance in both Iran and Pakistan. As he writes “the great battle for the soul of the Muslim world will be fought not over religion but over market capitalism.”
About the Author
Born in Iran, Vali Nasr is a professor of international relations at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a senior fellow of The Dubai Initiative at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. His book The Shia Revival
was a New York Times
bestseller. He has contributed to The New York Times
, The Washington Post
, and Time
and appeared on Anderson Cooper 360
, The Situation Room
, Fareed Zakaria GPS
, The Today Show
, and Charlie Rose