Influential French economist Thomas Piketty is raising important questions this week after positing a theory that the rise of the Islamic State (or ISIS) can be attributed, at least in part, to extreme regional inequality in the Middle East fueled largely by oil wealth.
Piketty argues in a column published Le Monde last week and translated by the Washington Post on Monday that the concentration of wealth in the hands of just a few petro-monarchies has made the region the “most unequal on the planet.”
As the Post‘s Jim Tankersley reports:
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In those states, Piketty says, the have-nots, including women and refugees, are often kept in a state of “semi-slavery.” This, combined with a series of foreign interventions, have created what he described as a “powder keg” for terrorism.
The Post notes that “Piketty is particularly scathing when he blames the inequality of the region, and the persistence of oil monarchies that perpetuate it, on the West.”
Indeed, the economist writes: “These are the regimes that are militarily and politically supported by Western powers, all too happy to get some crumbs to fund their [soccer] clubs or sell some weapons. No wonder our lessons in social justice and democracy find little welcome among Middle Eastern youth.”
He concludes that such terrorism that is “rooted in inequality…is best combated economically,” as Tankersley writes, and thus stands in sharp opposition to the growing military response to ISIS.
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