Topics: Democracy, Middle East, Social class Pages: 43 (12907 words) Published: March 17, 2013
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Authoritarian persistence,
democratization theory and the
Middle East: An overview and
Raymond Hinnebusch



Institute of Middle East, Central Asia and Caucasus
Studies and member of the School of International
Relations, University of St Andrews, Scotland
Version of record first published: 17 Jul 2006.

To cite this article: Raymond Hinnebusch (2006): Authoritarian persistence, democratization theory and the Middle East: An overview and critique, Democratization, 13:3, 373-395
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Authoritarian Persistence, Democratization
Theory and the Middle East: An Overview
and Critique

Downloaded by [University College Dublin] at 08:49 14 March 2013


What explains the democratic deficit and authoritarian persistence in the Middle East? An overview and critique of the cumulative layers of theoretical tradition that seeks to explain democratic and non-democratic outcomes provides a wealth of tools for understanding the Middle East case. Early modernization theory’s analysis of ‘requisites’ proved indeterminate and cultural exceptionalist arguments identified merely an intervening variable. Later theories of developmental imbalances and nation-building dilemmas explained more convincingly why democracy failed in the Middle East. Historical sociology, in identifying the social structural bases of alternative regime paths, showed what put Middle East states on their own distinctive authoritarian pathways. Institutionalist approaches to state-building helped explain the consolidation of authoritarian regimes in the region while political-economy analysis showed how these regimes adapted to changes in their environment. Rational choice approaches help show why the agency to lead democratic transitions has been lacking. Analyses of the impact of globalization and of the United States hegemon suggest the international variable is compatible with liberalization of authoritarian regimes but not with democratization. Key words: authoritarian; democratization; Middle East

The Debate on Democratization Studies
After a decade in which democratization studies were on the cutting edge, the wheel has turned again with growing claims that the ‘third wave’ is exhausted,1 the transition paradigm misguided2 and the democratization bandwagon bogged down in the quicksands of so-called hybrid or semi- or pseudo-democratic regimes.3 Nowhere would the relevance of democratization theory seem more questionable than in the Middle East. Some have always regarded the region as exceptionally culturally resistant to...
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