Machiavelli is historically considered to be founder of the political school of thought known as realism: namely, the existence of states is not intended for some idealistic objective, but for the retention of power. Thus, in accordance with this principle, relations between states are power relations. Applying Machiavelli’s thought to the political environment of the Emirates and Dubai in particular, the residues of this great thinker’s realist account are clear.
David Ignatius in his blog post on the Washington Post site, entitled “Machiavelli in the Middle East”, develops precisely such a connection. Ignatius begins with the following quote from Machiavelli “it is much safer to be feared than loved”; Ignatius uses this to describe how inter-state relations are developed in the Middle East, in particular in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Ignatius’ usage of Machiavelli provides an intriguing starting point in regards to thinking of the realism present in the Emirates and Dubai, in so far as this appears to be a radical style of power politics, although one that is covert. In an article about Dubai’s political direction, As’ad Abu Khalil writes the following: “Dubai was supposed to be the antithesis of Palestine. It was designed to create a concrete Utopia that would encourage all young Arabs to forget about their political aspirations and dreams.” But such an ambition is precisely a form of realism: it is the exportation of American Western and Capitalist ideology to the Emirates and Dubai so as to make the citizens of these lands become politically passive as opposed to active.
In other words, is this not the realist political gesture par excellence? One consolidates power by trying to divert the general public away from interest in politics, creating a materialist culture that is meant to placate serious and critical thought. From this perspective, a Machiavellian style realism is the political underlining of apparent economic prosperity in the Emirates and Dubai.
AbuKhalil, A. (2009). “Dubai: The Political Model.” Al-Jazeera, December 9. Retrieved at:
Ignatius, D. (2004). “Machiavelli in the Middle East.” The Washington Post, March 23.
Retrieved 3 October 2013 at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A16411-2004Mar22.html.