Saudi Arabia in Transition: Insights on Social, Political, Economic and Religious Change

Publication Year



Making sense of Saudi Arabia is crucially important today. The kingdom's western province contains the heart of Islam, and it is the United States' closest Arab ally and the largest producer of oil in the world. However, the country is undergoing rapid change: its aged leadership is ceding power to a new generation, and its society, dominated by young people, is restive. Saudi Arabia has long remained closed to foreign scholars, with a select few academics allowed into the kingdom over the past decade. This book presents the fruits of their research as well as those of the most prominent Saudi academics in the field. This volume focuses on different sectors of Saudi society and examines how the changes of the past few decades have affected each. It reflects new insights and provides the most up-to-date research on the country's social, cultural, economic and political dynamics.

  • Presents a multinational group of researchers featuring both Saudi and Western scholars
  • All the research in this book is based on interviews, fieldwork, and archival research on Saudi Arabia


1. Introduction Bernard Haykel, Thomas Hegghammer and Stéphane Lacroix
Part I. Politics:
2. Rentier exceptionalism: oil and political mobilization in Saudi Arabia Gregory Gause
3. The dogma of development: technopolitics and power in Saudi Arabia Toby Jones
4. Enforcing the state's Islam: the functioning of the committee of senior scholars Nabil Mouline
Part II. Oil:
5. Saudi Arabia and the world oil market Giacomo Luciani
6. The political economy of regional development in post-World War II Saudi Arabia Steffen Hertog
7. Oil in Saudi Arabian culture and politics: from tribal poets to Al-Qaeda's ideologues Bernard Haykel
Part III. Islam and Islamism:
8. From Wahhabi to Salafi David Commins
9. Understanding stability and dissent in the kingdom: the role of the jama'at in Saudi politics Stéphane Lacroix
10. The struggle for authority: the Shaykhs of Jihadi-Salafism in Saudi Arabia, 1997–2003 Saud al-Sarhan
11. 'Classical' and 'global' jihadism in Saudi Arabia Thomas Hegghammer
Part IV. Social Change:
12. Raiders and traders: a poet's lament of the end of the Bedouin heroic age Abd al-Aziz H. Al Fahad
13. Rootless trees: genealogical politics in Saudi Arabia Abd al-Aziz H. Al Fahad
14. Caught between religion and state: women in Saudi Arabia Madawi al-Rasheed
15. Engendering Saudi consumerism: a study of young women's practices in Riyadh's shopping malls Amélie Le Renard.

Reviews and Endorsements

“:After 9/11, Saudi officials opened the kingdom to western researchers, gambling that what professors in the west write about them poses no threat. Bernard Haykel and his co-editors have collected the best of the new work in one volume, and we are all smarter for it. Buy, read and assign it. You won’t be sorry.” Robert Vitalis, University of Pennsylvania

“Saudi Arabia is one of the most important and least understood places on earth - and this volume illuminates its inner workings across politics, economics and religion. The book will be indispensable for scholars and policy makers, and deeply fascinating for anyone who wants to understand the Kingdom beyond the headlines.” Noah Feldman, Harvard Law School

“The authors represent the all-star team of scholars of Saudi Arabia. Together, they have created a book full of fresh insights and novel perspectives. Even veteran Saudi watchers will find much new and valuable here.” Jon B. Alterman, Senior Vice President, Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy and Director, Middle East Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies

“Haykel, Hegghammer and Lacroix are amongst the world's most knowledgeable scholars of Saudi Arabia. Based on in-depth fieldwork, a perfect mastery of the language, cultures and history of the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia in Transition is a must read, particularly at a time when the oil monarchy is facing major challenges, both domestic, regional and international.” Gilles Kepel, Sciences Po, Paris

“Edited by three of the foremost experts on Saudi Arabia, this volume gathers together a wide range of research on how the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has both effected change and been affected by profound changes in the surrounding region.” F. W, The Middle East Journal

“… a good source of information and analysis for the general public and for specialists.” William Ochsenwald, Bustan: The Middle East book Review


Cambridge University Press
New York
Cloth: 9781107006294; paper: 9780521185097