Dr. Maximilian Benner

Dr. Maximilian Benner has graduated at the research group of Economic and Social Geography. He studied economics and business administration, among others at the University of Munich. He is assistant lecturer at the research group of Economic and Social Geography for subjects of regional development and regional policy.

Research Interests

  • Regional structural policy and industrial policy
  • Cluster policy and smart specialisation
  • Middle Eastern political economy

Current Research Projects

A New Arab Social Contract? Institutional Perspectives for Private Sector Growth in Arab Economies

The economies of Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa are confronted with enormous structural difficulties. They manifest themselves in high rates of (youth) unemployment in a challenging demographic context, which are exacerbated by intense spatial disparities between more prosperous and lacking regions. This tension can be seen as a major underlying factor for the Arab revolutions and the transition processes under way since 2010/2011. Beneath the surface, what these structural problems and their political repercussions demonstrate is the breakdown of the "Arab social contract", a notion well known in Middle Eastern studies. This social arrangement centered on a strong role of the state in welfare and employment provision, for which regimes demanded acquiescence to authoritarian rule.

The research project argues that the Arab social contract can be understood in terms of regulation theories. In doing so, it applies an economic-geography approach to economic fundamentals of the Arab revolutions. It uses the approaches of the regulation school, national systems of innovation, social systems of production, and varieties of capitalism to analyze the structural situation Arab economies are currently confronted with. The basic assumption of the research project is that Arab economies are currently faced with a structural crisis that can be examined through regulation approaches. After the breakdown of the Arab social contract, there is a mismatch between the economic and institutional spheres of society.

The challenge, then, is for Arab societies to develop new forms of  regulation between their economic and institutional spheres, or what  might be called a „new Arab social contract“. Considering the growth limitations of the old social contract, it seems clear that such a new mode of regulation will have to be built around private sector growth.  For example, entrepreneurship could function as a central driver of  growth and job creation. However, in the framework of regulation  approaches, it becomes evident that partial political interventions to  encourage new business formation or other forms of private sector  growth will not be sufficient. What is needed is a broader form of economic-institutional regulation. The research project proposes ways towards such new modes of regulation by developing a framework for regulation specifically targeted towards Arab societies. By doing so with the help of regulation approaches, it applies notions from economic geography in a highly policyrelevant context. It refines this framework in two empirical case studies in Tunisia and Jordan.

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