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About this book

A systematic and up-to-date introduction to politics and society in the Middle East. It examines domestic, regional and global actors and in light of the so-called 'Arab Spring', pays particular attention to the tension between processes of democratization and ongoing authoritarianism.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
Few regions of the world have attracted as much attention in recent decades as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Clearly, this is a consequence of the importance of the region for world affairs and for comparative politics. Some of those who have written about the MENA have focused almost exclusively on the politics of individual countries in the region, while others have focused more broadly on region-wide political dynamics. This text adopts an entirely thematic approach to the politics of the region. Rather than opting for an in-depth analysis of the historic, political, social and economic particularities of individual countries, we have chosen to examine the region as whole, highlighting some of its shared issues, traits and challenges.
Vincent Durac, Francesco Cavatorta

Chapter 1. The Arab Awakening

Abstract
By the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century, the political order in much of the MENA region appeared to be remarkably stable. Despite a series of challenges, political and economic, leaders and regimes in the region were long-lived. In particular, the leaderships of almost all Arab states enjoyed remarkable security in their enjoyment of office. In Egypt, Husni Mubarak succeeded to the presidency in 1981; Tunisia’s Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali first came to power in 1987; in Yemen, Ali Abdallah Saleh had occupied the presidency since the country came into existence in 1990, having been the leader of the Republic of Yemen for a further 12 years before that; in Libya, Muammar Gaddafi dominated political life after the 1969 coup which overthrew the monarchy in that country. Meanwhile, in Syria, Bashar al-Asad became Syrian president in 2000 following the death of his father, who had, in turn, ruled the country since 1970 and, in Algeria, the rule of president Bouteflika, foreign minister between 1963 until 1979 and in power since 1999, seemed so secure that his supporters called for him to seek a fourth mandate in 2014, which he indeed obtained. Elsewhere, unelected monarchies of various kinds ensured the maintenance of ‘family’ rule in Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states.
Vincent Durac, Francesco Cavatorta

Chapter 2. The Historical and Political Context

Abstract
This chapter will explore the evolving relationship between the Middle East and the West from the late nineteenth century onwards. It will describe the ways in which European power came to dominate the MENA region and local responses to this domination. Next, it will outline the emergence of the modern state system in the Middle East in the aftermath of World War I and the coming of independence. The chapter will conclude with a discussion of patterns in post-colonial political development, with a particular focus on the trend towards authoritarian forms of rule, the rise and decline of pan-Arab nationalism, and the impact of the Cold War and its aftermath.
Vincent Durac, Francesco Cavatorta

Chapter 3. Social Structures and Social Development

Abstract
The MENA, as did other regions of the non-Western world, underwent a dramatic transformation in the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, not least as a result of the interaction with the outside world described in Chapter 2. Dramatic changes took place in the sphere of economic production, especially in the rural settings in which the majority of the population lived. These changes, generated by both internal and external factors, in turn stimulated processes of urbanization and class formation which brought with them revolutionary changes in education and literacy, as well as having significant impacts on gender roles and relations. This chapter will examine each of these in turn.
Vincent Durac, Francesco Cavatorta

Chapter 4. Political Economy

Abstract
In their classic text on the subject, Richards and Waterbury (1991) note that the political economy of the Middle East is dominated by ‘three simple facts’: little rain, much oil and a rapidly growing — and hence young — population. Although tending towards the simplistic, there is a great deal of truth in their observation. Much of the MENA region is in the arid zone of the Eastern Hemisphere, a zone that stretches from Morocco to Mongolia and receives less than 20 inches of rain per year. As King Hassan II of Morocco was fond of reminding his foreign visitors, to govern with success is to have abundant rainfall. Because of its low rainfall and limited agricultural potential, the area has a low overall population density. While the MENA covers 11–12 per cent of the world’s land area, its population (in 2012) of 339.6 million is roughly 7 per cent of the global total (World Bank, 2014). For many observers, the political economy of the MENA is synonymous with oil. The reasons for this are unsurprising. Around two thirds of known global reserves of crude oil are to be found in the region and the dependence of the global economy on the continued flow of Middle Eastern oil is clear. Nonetheless, oil is by no means the only factor in the political economy of the region. Although it is, by far, the most important natural resource, it is certainly not the only one.
Vincent Durac, Francesco Cavatorta

Chapter 5. Institutions, Parties and Elections

Abstract
The Arab uprisings in 2011 refocused attention on the importance of the institutional set-up of the countries of the MENA region, particularly when it began to appear that the Arab republics were more vulnerable than monarchies to potential regime change (Gause and Yom, 2012). The institutional differences between republics and monarchies are significant in explaining different national trajectories between countries in the region and this chapter will return to them to underline the influence of institutions on the behaviour of political and social actors. However, these differences have been discussed extensively and satisfactorily elsewhere (for example, Pratt, 2007), including in Chapters 2 and 3 of this volume. Therefore, this chapter will focus more specifically on an understudied area of Middle East politics that is becoming increasingly relevant — namely, party politics and elections. This is not to suggest that political parties have become crucial actors in the politics of the region overnight. But there are at least three factors that should be considered before they are dismissed as irrelevant.
Vincent Durac, Francesco Cavatorta

Chapter 6. Religion and Politics

Abstract
Few phenomena in the politics of the modern Middle East have received more attention in recent decades — whether from scholars and the media, or policy-makers and politicians — than the impact of religion on political life. Much of the focus is on Islamic politics, the impact of which has been felt in every country in the region (and many beyond it). However, the intertwining of religion and politics is not confined to Islam: both Christianity and Judaism also play significant roles in the political life of the region. This chapter will first provide a brief, but important discussion of the terminology currently employed to define the relationship between Islam and politics. Then the chapter will place the rise of Islamism in context and provide an account of what can be described as the resurgence of religion in politics in the Middle East. Finally, the chapter will examine in detail how the three monotheistic religions present in the region each influence, and are influenced by, political developments.
Vincent Durac, Francesco Cavatorta

Chapter 7. Civil Society and Political Change

Abstract
This chapter introduces the concept of civil society and discusses its relationship with democracy before turning to the expansion in civil activism in the Middle East in recent decades. It then sets out five ways in which civil society in the Middle East can be analysed and understood before concluding with a short discussion of the role of civil society in the recent Arab Awakening, which will be dealt with in greater detail in Chapter 11.
Vincent Durac, Francesco Cavatorta

Chapter 8. Gender and Politics

Abstract
Among the most controversial and frequently misunderstood topics in the study of the MENA is the role of women in society. The realm of women’s rights is typically seen as one of the most divisive issues between the Muslim world and the rest of the globe. Specifically, the region is often presented as resistant to the modernizing trends that have taken place in other parts of the world, Western and non-Western, when it comes to women’s rights and the participation of women in society. The Western image of the Middle Eastern woman is invariably linked to notions of inequality, and oppression, veiling and seclusion, despite the fact that this does not reflect the reality of many women in the region, above all in Israel, Turkey and, to a lesser extent, Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan or Algeria. Irrespective of the complex and varied reality, there is a widespread opinion that women, as a whole, are subjected to widespread oppression and unequal treatment.
Vincent Durac, Francesco Cavatorta

Chapter 9. The Military, Security and Conflict

Abstract
In a seminal article in 2004, Eva Bellin provided what seemed a perfectly simple and plausible explanation for the survival of authoritarianism in the Arab world (and Iran, it might be added): the robustness of the security apparatus. Rather than looking for complex structural explanations or actor-led models, when accounting for the global singularity and exceptionalism of the region in regard to authoritarian survival, Bellin concentrated her attention on the ability of regimes to maintain a cohesive and effective security apparatus that acted to repress dissent, silence opposition voices and, thus, prevent any change. Bellin identified a number of variables that fuelled the continuing strength of the security apparatus, and argued convincingly that, ultimately, what prevents democratic change in the region is the use, or the threat, of physical violence. Taken to its logical conclusion, Bellin’s argument identified fear of physical violence, meted out by the state against dissidents, as the real obstacle to transitions to democracy.
Vincent Durac, Francesco Cavatorta

Chapter 10. The Middle East and the Wider World

Abstract
The Middle East and North Africa have been a focal point of international relations for some time and, since the launch of the ‘war on terror’ by the US administration after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, DC, the importance of the region has only increased. There are a number of reasons that make the MENA such a significant strategic region, ranging from the presence of vast energy resources to the prominence of clearly anti-Western ideologies, and from the prevalence of civil and intra-regional conflicts, as highlighted in Chapter 9, to the international spillover of political violence and terrorism, which has affected countries all over the globe from Argentina to Indonesia and from the United Kingdom to Australia. Finally, the seeming intractability of the Arab—Israeli conflict, with all of the international diplomatic repercussions and divisions it generates, looms large in global politics because it can be easily construed as global struggle between monotheistic religions with all the consequences that this has in terms of popular mobilization.
Vincent Durac, Francesco Cavatorta

Chapter 11. After the Awakening

Abstract
The events of 2011 clearly heralded a transformation in political dynamics across much of the MENA region, and constitute a profound shift in the ways in which scholars and policy-makers examine regional affairs, too often framed and explained through Orientalist stereotypes. Nevertheless, with the passage of time, it has become clear that initial enthusiastic expectations of a straightforward transition to democratic practice were misplaced or, at the very least, optimistic in terms of timing. By 2013, ongoing political instability in Tunisia seemed to threaten the most promising political transition in the region with the rise of conservative Salafi forces, the assassination of secular political leaders and the inability of the government to command widespread support — thereby provoking an increasing confrontation between Islamists and secular forces. However, the promulgation of a new Constitution in early 2014, with the consensus of the vast majority of the political class, appears to have set Tunisia, uniquely in the region, on the path of democratic consolidation. In Egypt, the appetite of the military to interfere in political life appeared to be undiminished, following the deposal of the elected Islamist president, Muhammad Mursi, in the summer of 2013.
Vincent Durac, Francesco Cavatorta
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