Middle East Politics and Security
Assignment – Pick 2 of the following 3 questions to answer: (2-3 pages each)
(1) There are debates about whether democracy is the best form of government for all societies and cultures. Some Arab Spring movements indicated that, at least in some countries, citizens are interested in some kind of more inclusive government and representation. Just as there are variations in democratic institutions in the West, democratic institutions in a MENA country would probably look different from those in Western states, given differences in societies, political cultures, and historical contingencies. Using your readings and citing supporting information, pick one specific country in the region. Evaluate the status of its political system, with reference to relevant historical events as needed, and discuss the degree to which democratic characteristics are, or could be, applied and customized to that country.
(2) What does Hinnebusch (2003) mean by “center-periphery relations” or “core-periphery relationships” and how does this concept apply to the Middle East? Is the Middle East still locked into such a structure in the 21st century?
(3) Mehran Kamrava (2013) discussed the term “rule bargain.” In a nutshell, this concept refers to an unspoken contract between the ruling regime of an autocratic state and the citizens, whereby the citizens do not contest the power of the regime, and return they are given concessions by the regime. In Kamrava’s words:
“Specific national variations notwithstanding, throughout the Middle East the ruling bargain is predicated on four primary, mutually reinforcing features. The first is the state’s presentation of itself as the sole and ultimate guarantor of the “national interest.” The second is patrimonialism, through which the state’s “protection” of the national interest assumes a personal character and extends down through successive, overlapping layers of patrons and clients. Closely related to patrimonialism is a third feature of the ruling bargain, the existence of a corporatist political economy through which the private sector’s cooperation with the state and the state’s ultimate superiority are guaranteed. The fourth and last feature is state authoritarianism, whereby the compliance of those who question the merits of the three other aspects of the bargain is guaranteed” (341-2).
Evaluate this concept with reference to specific examples. For example, can the concept be used to explain why the Arab Spring did or did not happen in different countries?
[Tip: The goal of this essay is to apply the concept of “rule bargain” to Middle East states or Arab Spring cases. Avoid writing a description of the Arab Spring. The instructor reads too many essays that start with something poetic about the “self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor” and then paint a picture of the Arab Spring in broad strokes without connecting the concept. Another tip is to avoid focusing on one example and then projecting that example onto all the cases. For example, Egypt is a popular example to discuss for good reason, but remember that things unfolded differently in other contexts. If you take the approach of comparing countries, you might find some interesting insights].
Kamrava, Mehran. 2013. The Modern Middle East: A Political History Since the First World War. Berkeley: University of California Press.