Lebanon: A Country in Fragments (Paperback)

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For everyone during this Pandemic; Einstein’s Theory on the Relativity of Time has taken on a new meaning.

Does anyone remember the giant explosion in Beirut in August of 2020 that killed over 150 people and wounded thousands more? So much has happened in the world that it seems like the explosion of a 2,750-ton stockpile of ammonium nitrate took place years ago.

This book was released shortly after the explosion and I immediately ordered it to learn more about what happened in Lebanon leading up to this disaster. Andrew Arsan looks into the role of politicians, corporations, former colonial powers, refugees and migrant workers have had on Lebanon. This country’s inhabitants face a variety of problems on a daily basis like lack of an effective garbage collection service, lack of a functioning electrical grid, and one of the highest numbers of refugees in the world.

The author argues that the current political situation unequally benefits certain citizens, like wealthy businessman, while pushing others to the margins, like refugees and migrant workers. The irony is that the rich and middle-class Lebanese are reliant on these migrant workers as a source of cheap labor that are willing to do the menial work that Lebanese people don’t want to do. The author also goes into how the government’s catering to real estate developers have completely changed downtown Beirut into “a glorified food court” full of Starbucks, P.F. Chang’s, and Pinkberry.

These developers specifically, Solidere, have ripped the authenticity away from Beirut and turned it into an overpriced generic place that could be found anywhere in the world. It is unlikely that anything will change because “The state, the private corporations that control so much of the economy, and the partisan organizations and communitarian support networks that provide welfare to the country’s inhabitants are controlled to a large extent by the same actors.” The author means that the elites have such a strong control over all aspects of the economy that wealth will still be transferred from the public into private hands and the poor will still struggle to survive daily life.

— From Cultures


Lebanon seems a country in the grip of permanent crisis. In recent years it has suffered blow after blow, from Rafiq Hariri's assassination in 2005, to the 2006 July War, to the current Syrian conflict, which has brought a million refugees streaming into the country.
This is an account not just of Lebanon's high politics, with its endless rows, walk-outs, machinations and foreign alliances, but also of the politics of everyday life: all the stresses and strains the country's inhabitants face, from electricity black-outs and uncollected rubbish to stagnating wages and property bubbles. Andrew Arsan moves between parliament and the public squares where protesters gather, between luxury high-rises and refugee camps, and between expensive nightclubs and seafront promenades, providing a comprehensive view of Lebanon in the twenty-first century.
Where others have treated Lebanon's woes as exceptional, a by-product of its sectarianism and particular vulnerability to regional crises, Arsan argues that there is nothing particular about Lebanon's predicament. Rather, it is a country of the age--one of neoliberal economics, populist fervor, forced displacement, rising xenophobia, and public disillusion. Lebanon, in short, offers us a lens through which to look on our times.

About the Author

Andrew Arsan is University Lecturer in Modern Middle Eastern History at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of St John's College, Cambridge. His first book, Interlopers of Empire: The Lebanese Diaspora in Colonial French West Africa was joint winner of the 2015 Royal Historical SocietyGladstone Prize.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781787383654
ISBN-10: 1787383652
Publisher: Hurst & Co.
Publication Date: May 1st, 2020
Pages: 520
Language: English