ABSTRACT

The Maghreb today comprises five states-Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya-and one disputed territory-the Western Sahara. The constantly changing economic and political relations between these states and their struggle over the direction of national and regional development provide crucial elements of the ‘internal’ definition of the contemporary Maghreb as a region. The Maghreb is both the western extension of the Arab world and a part of north-west Africa; it is a region shaped in part by its ‘external’ relations with the Middle East and with Africa. But the Maghreb is, and most significantly, a region whose economic and political development has for over 500 years been dominated by its relationship with Europe and, particularly during the colonial period, by direct European intervention. This may be seen positively as part of the (still unfinished) process whereby societies in Africa, Asia and Latin America have, over the centuries, been integrated into a global capitalist political economy, and thereby modernized (Warren 1980). Alternatively, it can be conceptualized as an integral part of European imperialism which has persistently undermined any local initiatives to constitute distinctive and alternative modes of development, including most recently the construction of alternative regional economic and political groupings.