Academics often complain that policymakers do not take sufficient advantage of the insights that scholars have to offer. Favorite targets of criticism are the multilateral financial institutions, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which are said to ignore the political context in which economic policy is made. Those wishing to understand what academics can contribute to policy discussions would do well to consult this volume.

It consists of eleven papers stemming from a 1998 conference sponsored by the World Bank (which provided what the editors describe as "generous funding"). The aim was to understand the role of the state in the Middle East. A typical example of the insights included is the following contribution by Charles Tripp, head of the department of political studies at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies: "As a way of escaping from the circular logic and teleological difficulties of the structural-functionalist approach, with its prescriptivist bias, as well as to return the focus to human agency (without nevertheless succumbing to the connected and similarly situated logic of rational choice theory), it is important to stress the shaping of policy and of the states that emerge from these distinctive forms of structuration." That one sentence typifies what the World Bank can expect from most academics studying the Middle East.