Roger Owen Book Award
American University in Cairo
The 2021 Roger Owen Book Award goes to Professor Amr Adly at the American University of Cairo for his book, Cleft Capitalism: The Social Origins of Failed Market Making in Egypt, which was published by Stanford University Press in 2020. In his book, Adly asks why market-based economic strategies have failed in Egypt. His novel argument diverges from dominant political economy accounts, which focus on corruption and crony capitalism or the lack of formal property rights and the rule of law. For Adly, the answer lies in the “missing middle” of small and medium enterprises, which have served an important role in capitalist development by scaling up to become important job creators in more successful developing economies, such as in South Korea. Adly traces the roots of the problem to historically specific institutional arrangements that emerged earlier in the 20th century and during the period of state-led development under Nasser and were consolidated under Sadat and Mubarak’s tenures. Adly’s book is grounded on impressive qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis and makes important contributions to the study of failed development in Egypt, with comparative implications for other developing countries in and beyond the Middle East and North Africa.