There is a tendency in neo-liberal economics to consider the state and the private sector as one another's antitheses, as dichotomous and mutually exclusive. Moreover, the prevailing notion is that 'public is bad, private is good', meaning that the retreat of the one and the expansion of the other work together to provide the necessary conditions for economic growth. This article argues that this approach is not only obviously overly simplistic, but that it is not necessarily relevant in the context of the developing world. It will be argued that the state retains an economic role specific to regions where markets are less perfect and political structures unfavourable to a freely-functioning private sector. Indeed, it may even be appropriate to see the state and the private sector as ends of a sliding scale, with a significant area of overlap arising from specific historic, political, cultural and structural experiences. This is particularly true in the Arab Middle East and North Africa, where pre-colonial hitory, colonialism, Islam, patrimonialism, corporatism, and in some cases rentierism, have left a particular legacy in the form of economically reforming states that have nonetheless failed to surrender political power or economic hegemony. A brief survey of the particular historical experiences of state formation in three countries of the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia), and of the resulting state-private sector dynamics will follow, illustrating the range of possible sources of explanation for scenarios that appear to defy neo-liberal logic.
Murphy, E. (2001). 'The State and the Private Sector in North Africa: Seeking Specificity'. Mediterranean Politics, 6(2), 1-28. https://doi.org/10.1080/713604511