A Marxist approach to writing social history emerged in Middle East studies just as it was fading elsewhere. Goldberg, director of the Middle East Center at the University of Washington suggests this shows that studies of the Middle East are as underdeveloped as the region itself.
Determined to start a trend, he assembled seven non-Marxist essays on labor history-one each on the Ottoman Empire, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and North Africa. The authors stress two themes: that governments, rather than workers' movements or employers, have largely determined workers' wages, benefits, and working conditions; and that industrialization enhanced government control over the economy.
As in most works on labor history, this volume focuses too narrowly on industrial workers. A few essays take note of the extensive artisinal social communities that have long characterized the Middle East, but others largely pass over the issue. One would never know from Valentine Moghadam's essay on Iran that to this day more Iranians earn a living from weaving carpets than from working in factories. Another problem: not one author discusses the two areas that employ most wage earners in the Middle East-services (shops, banks, schools, and government offices) and agriculture (which in the Middle East often relies on wage laborers rather than family members or sharecroppers).