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In , the price of oil peaked, and demand began to fall as a result of recessions in industrialized nations and more efficient use of oil which produced surpluses. The remaining oil exports are transported via the east-west pipeline across the kingdom to the Red Sea port of Yanbu. A major new gas initiative promises to bring significant investment by U. Following final technical agreements with concession awardees in December , development should begin in However, beginning in late , Saudi Arabia again faced the challenge of low oil prices.

Saudi Arabia was a key player in coordinating the successful campaign of OPEC and other oil-producing countries to raise the price of oil to its highest level since the Persian Gulf War by managing production and supply of petroleum. That same year, Saudi Arabia established the Supreme Economic Council to formulate and better coordinate economic development policies in order to accelerate institutional and industrial reform.

The mids was also the time that foreign ownership of business was allowed. In the mids, foreign ownership rules were relaxed again, with investment sought in telecommunications, utilities, and financial services. Since , extensive land investment has taken place, especially in Africa - see paragraph Non-petroleum sector. The fall in investment is attributed to negative intra-company loans by foreign multinationals and various divestment. After the finance budget was released for , Saudi Arabia planned to issue bonds worth approx.

The foreign investments in the Kingdom have witnessed a rapid increase in the first quarter of Most licenses were approved for British and Chinese companies which have driven this increase. The government has sought to allocate its petroleum income to transform its relatively undeveloped, oil-based economy into that of a modern industrial state while maintaining the kingdom's traditional Islamic values and customs.

Although economic planners have not achieved all their goals, the economy has progressed rapidly. Oil wealth has increased the standard of living of most Saudis. However, significant population growth has strained the government's ability to finance further improvements in the country's standard of living. Heavy dependence on petroleum revenue continues, but industry and agriculture now account for a larger share of economic activity. The mismatch between the job skills of Saudi graduates and the needs of the private job market at all levels remains the principal obstacle to economic diversification and development; about 4.

Saudi Arabia first began to diversify its economy to reduce dependency on oil in the s as part of its first five-year development plan. Basic petrochemical industries using petroleum byproducts as feedstock were developed. However, their effect on Saudi Arabia's economic fortunes has been small. Saudi Arabia's first two development plans, covering the s, emphasized infrastructure. The results were impressive—the total length of paved highways tripled, power generation increased by a multiple of 28, and the capacity of the seaports grew tenfold.

For the third plan —85 , the emphasis changed. Spending on infrastructure declined, but it rose markedly on education, health, and social services. The share for diversifying and expanding productive sectors of the economy primarily industry did not rise as planned, but the two industrial cities of Jubail and Yanbu —built around the use of the country's oil and gas to produce steel, petrochemicals , fertilizer, and refined oil products—were largely completed.

In the fourth plan —90 , the country's basic infrastructure was viewed as largely complete, but education and training remained areas of concern. Private enterprise was encouraged, and foreign investment in the form of joint ventures with Saudi public and private companies was welcomed. While still concentrated in trade and commerce, private investment increased in industry, agriculture, banking, and construction companies.

These private investments were supported by generous government financing and incentive programs. The fifth plan —95 emphasized consolidation of the country's defenses; improved and more efficient government social services; regional development; and, most importantly, creating greater private-sector employment opportunities for Saudis by reducing the number of foreign workers. The sixth plan — focused on lowering the cost of government services without cutting them and sought to expand educational training programs.

The plan called for reducing the kingdom's dependence on the petroleum sector by diversifying economic activity, particularly in the private sector, with special emphasis on industry and agriculture. It also continued the effort to "Saudiize" the labor force. The seventh plan — focuses more on economic diversification and a greater role of the private sector in the Saudi economy.

For —04, the government aims at an average GDP growth rate of 3. The government also has set a target of creating , new jobs for Saudi nationals. Advertising expenditures have reached new peaks due to emphasis on value-added manufacturing. They mainly invested in chemical industry, real estate, tourism, fossil fuels, automobiles and machinery. Since that time and pursuant to its commitment to the WTO, Saudi Arabia has been developing trade-related policies and legislations. Moreover, foreign investment has been highly encouraged recently with the announcement of The Saudi vision as it promises of a better economic diversification.

Why Economics is Driving Conflict in the Middle East and North Africa

However, the government officials said the policies were causing serious effects on the economy. Saudi businessmen reported a decline in sales for , blaming the government. A person close to the firm stated, "The IPO is seen as a sensible way to clear up the company.

Together, the three projects will employ more than , technicians and engineers working around the clock. The products will include ethylene , propylene , aromatics , polyethylene , ethylene oxide , chlorine derivatives, and glycol. Saudi Arabia had plans to launch six "economic cities" e. King Abdullah Economic City , to be completed by in an effort to diversify the economy and provide jobs.

Privatization program, a part of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman 's Vision , is running behind the schedule. The oil prices have gone up by double since the government began to consider the program in Delay in Aramco's initial public offering further highlights the less urgency in privatization, even though in July , the International Monetary Fund urged to accelerate the process. As Vision has been recently adapted by the Saudi government several reforms has been undertaken including improving the business environment and reform in the financial sector.

Moreover, the government has been seeking to achieve greater transparency by issuing a draft law regarding the involvement of private sector. Another reform move has been undertaken to increase the number of national manpower working in the private sector. This compares to 10 million foreign expatriates working in the kingdom.

According to Reuters, economists "estimate only 30—40 percent of working-age Saudis hold jobs or actively seek work," although the official unemployment rate is only around 12 percent. Most Saudis with jobs are employed by the government, but the International Monetary Fund has warned the government cannot support such a large wage bill in the long term. This has done little to lower the unemployment rate, which rose to One obstacle is social resistance to certain types of employment.

Jobs in service and sales are considered totally unacceptable for citizens of Saudi Arabia—both potential employees and customers. Saudi Arabia has natural resources other than oil, including small mineral deposits of gold, silver, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, tungsten, lead, sulphur, phosphate, soapstone and feldspar. The country is one of the world's largest producers of dates. For some years it grew very expensive wheat using desalinated water for irrigation, [58] but plans to stop by Although jobs created by the roughly two million annual hajj pilgrims do not last long, the hajj employs more people than the oil industry—40, temporary jobs butchers, barbers, coach drivers, etc.

In , the "Initiative for Saudi Agricultural Investment Abroad" was launched, leading to extensive billion-dollar purchases of large tracts of land around the world: Ethiopia , Indonesia , Mali , Senegal , Sudan and others. Critics see cases of land-grabbing in various instances that also lead to uproars in the respective countries. In , Mohammad bin Salman announced Saudi Vision , a plan to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil , diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education , infrastructure, recreation and tourism.

One of the fastest growing sectors in the country has been real estate supported by the introduction of real estate investment trusts REITs market which has witnessed a significant growth in the number of REITs, [85] [86] although this is yet to achieve its full potential despite some shortages in both residential and commercial real estate. A number of regional experts believe that most issues will be resolved as the market becomes more mature.

Real estate plays a fundamental role in the country's non-oil economy. The real estate sector has been driven recently by strong local demand fundamentals and only a small amount by speculation. Ownership of land property in Saudi Arabia is generally restricted to Saudis, but this is subject to certain qualifications. The major expansion in this sector attracted the top real estate consultancies such as Jones Lang LaSalle , [90] Knight Frank [91] and Cluttons [92] to the country who have now opened offices in the country.

Beyond this, demand for professional real estate services is attracting regional educators such as DREI to provide courses on Saudi real estate, and even dedicated books focused on the market such as Saudi Real Estate Companion. Real Estate plays an important role in the Saudi Vision which maps out significant commitments by the Saudi Government relating to housing and the development of land for a variety of uses. We will allocate prime areas within cities for educational institutions, retail, and entertainment centres, large areas along our coasts will be dedicated to tourist projects and appropriate lands will be allocated for industrial projects.

This aims at opening the real estate market to a wide range of investor. These units are offered to the public and traded on the Saudi Stock Exchange. These firms are "heavily dependent on government spending", which is dependent on oil revenues. From —, "several key services" were privatized—municipal water supply, electricity, telecommunications—and parts of education and health care, traffic control and car accident reporting were also privatized.

According to Arab News columnist Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg, "in almost every one of these areas, consumers have raised serious concerns about the performance of these privatized entities. To provide the best support for the private sector and entrepreneurs, The Kingdom announced a decision approved by the Saudi Cabinet, In July , allowing businesses in the country to be given the option to remain open 24 hours a day.

Negotiations have focused on the degree to which Saudi Arabia is willing to increase market access to foreign goods and services and the timeframe for becoming fully compliant with World Trade Organization obligations. In , the government established the General Authority for Foreign Trade to enhance the kingdom's international commercial and investment activities. Among the challenges to Saudi economy include halting or reversing the decline in per capita income, improving education to prepare youth for the workforce and providing them with employment, diversifying the economy, stimulating the private sector and housing construction, diminishing corruption and inequality.

In answer to the question of why the Saudi economy is so dependent on foreign labor, the UN Arab Human Development Report blamed stunted social and economic development inhibited by lack of personal freedom, poor education and government hiring based on factors other than merit, and exclusion of women. Unlike most developed countries where gross domestic product growth is a function of increases in productivity and inputs such as employment, in Saudi the fluctuation of oil prices is the most important factor in the growth or decline of domestic production.

Saudi population grew sevenfold from to , [] and petrol prices are subsidized and cost users less than equivalent quantities of bottled water. Saudi population is young. However, "employers complained bitterly about the lack of skills among young locals; years of rote-learning and religious instruction fail to prepare them for the job market. According to another source scholar David Commins , the kingdom depends "on huge numbers of expatriates workers to fill technical and administrative positions" in part because of an educational system that in spite of "generous budgets", has suffered from "poorly trained teachers, low retention rates, lack of rigorous standards, weak scientific and technical instruction and excessive attention to religious subjects".

Another statistic conducted by Bayt. Saudi has not been a hotbed of technological innovation. The number of Saudi patents registered in the United States between and came to —less than twelve per year—compared to 84, patents for South Korea or 20, for Israel during that period. Saudi Arabia's legal system is based on Shariah Islamic law , which comes from interpretations from the Quran and the Sunnah.

That the king and government have not been inclined, or able, to impose a solution to this widely known difficulty is an apt measure of the cultural and political influence of fiqh and ulama and of the centrality of the shari'a ideal for Saudi life public and private. A business journalist Karen House criticizing the Saudi bureaucracy complained that someone seeking to start a business in Saudi Arabia.

Then, for any business of any size, government contracts, not private competition, are the financial lifeblood. So this means more patrons, more favors, and more obligations. Not surprisingly, Saudi businesses that can compete outside the protected Saudi market are few. Since then "businessmen say it has only gotten worse. Saudi Arabia has been severely criticized for failing to tackle money laundering and international terrorism financing.

Estimates of the number of Saudis below the poverty line range from between The Saudi state discourages calling attention to or complaining about poverty. In December , days after the Arab Spring uprisings, the Saudi interior ministry detained reporter Feros Boqna and two colleagues Hussam al-Drewesh and Khaled al-Rasheed and held them for almost two weeks for questioning after they uploaded a minute video on the topic Mal3ob 3alena , or 'We are being cheated' to YouTube. This was announced in August by the minister of Housing Mr.

Majed Al-Hogail. A major reason for the high cost of housing is the high cost of land. In urban areas the price of land has been bid up because nearly all of it is owned by the Saudi elite members of the royal family or other wealthy Saudis , who have lobbied the government for land "giveaways". However, no firm plans for any tax have been unveiled.

According to journalist Karen House, "every" Saudi five-year plan "since the first one in " has called for diversifying the economy beyond oil, but with marginal success. Consumer spending was also restrained after a sharp increase in prices for energy, electricity and water earlier in The kingdom witnessed a mass departure of around , foreign workers after imposing new government levies on expat workers.

The government is also forcing small-business owners to hire Saudi nationals at comparatively higher wages than the foreign workers. Gaining money from large foreign direct investments is also not working in the favor of the government. Rich Saudis are reluctant to invest within the kingdom due to the fear of triggering government scrutiny. Saudi Arabia has one stock exchange, the Tadawul , whose financial markets are regulated by the Capital Market Authority. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been rated as the 92nd for ease of doing business, according to the World Bank in its annual "Doing Business" report issued for Saudi Arabian companies dominate 's "MEED ", with companies listed on the Tadawul , accounting for 29 out of the region's biggest publicly quoted companies ranked by market capitalisation.

Just three of the 20 companies that have dropped out of the top over the past year are listed on the Saudi stock exchange. Foreigners are allowed to wholly own limited liability companies in the majority of industries. With a total of foreign investor licenses were issued in the second quarter of , the Kingdom has witnessed an increase in international investment, reflecting the economic reforms under the Saudi Vision Obtaining a foreign investor license became more straightforward as it requires only two documents, and it is processed in three hours.

Saudi Aramco has both the largest proven crude oil reserves , which it claims to be more than billion barrels 4. Its yearly production is 3. In , SABIC was Asia's largest in terms of market capitalization and most profitable publicly listed non-oil company, the world's fourth-largest petrochemical company, ranked th as world's largest corporation on the Fortune Global for , the second largest producer of ethylene glycol and methanol in the world, the third largest producer of polyethylene and overall the fourth-largest producer of polypropylene and polyolefin.

Ma'aden was formed as a Saudi joint stock company on 23 March for the purpose of facilitating the development of Saudi Arabia's mineral resources. Ma'aden's activities have focused on its active gold business which has grown in recent years to include the operation of five gold mines: Mahd Ad Dahab, Al Hajar, Sukhaybarat, Bulghah, and Al Amar. Ma'aden is now expanding its activities beyond its gold business with the development of phosphates , aluminum , and other projects.

In addition, since its formation, Ma'aden through the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources has collaborated with the government and local legislators to develop a regulatory framework for the governance of the mining industry. Saudi Arabia is currently enjoying a massive boom in its personal computer industry since the deregulation of The Saudi ICT sector has grown significantly over the last decade and is still showing strong growth. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.

Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Riyadh , the financial center of Saudi Arabia. Fiscal year. Inflation CPI. Gini coefficient. Human Development Index. Crude oil production petroleum refining petrochemicals ammonia industrial gases sodium hydroxide cement fertilizer plastics metals ship repair aircraft repair construction. Ease-of-doing-business rank. Gross external debt.

Public debt. Credit rating. Further information: Saudization. Further information: Foreign workers in Saudi Arabia. World Bank. Retrieved 30 May Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 28 May Retrieved 24 November CIA World Factbook. He has a PhD from Cambridge University. She has also taught at the Lebanese University. He has a PhD from the Bradford University.

He has a PhD from Columbia University. He is author of Desiring Arabs He received his PhD from Columbia University. She has been pursuing graduate work at Columbia University since September He is the Editor of Globalization and Emerging Economies He received a PhD from Georgetown University. Mustapha K.

He has a PhD from the University of Geneva. Previously he taught at California State University, Fullerton. He is the author of a forthcoming book, The Development History of Iraq. He is the author of Political Islam in Syria He has an MA degree from Damascus University. This book is the outcome of a collaborative research project on the determinants of the democracy deficit in the Arab world. Our deep gratitude goes to a number of institutions and individuals who have supported, advised and encouraged this project.

A generous grant from the International Development Research Centre IDRC, Canada made it possible to assemble a first-class research team to undertake the often arduous research work this project has entailed. Emma Naughton of IDRC has been greatly supportive of the research project from its inception and to her we extend our sincere appreciation.

We owe special gratitude to the IFE, which provided excellent secretarial and research assistance in an intellectually congenial environment. We also would like to acknowledge the support of the AUB administration and in particular Khalil Bitar, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, who always stood ready to facilitate the administrative requirements of the project.

Our thanks also go to the Office of Grants and Contracts, which provided very helpful administrative support. In particular, we would like to thank Luis Serven, Manager of the Macroeconomic and Growth Division for his support, and Gary Milante for his substantive and technical contributions to the project. The Economic Research Forum for the Arab Countries, Iran and Turkey Cairo organized a panel on the preliminary findings of the cross-country work; the Dubai School of Government hosted a workshop on the research methodologies of the various papers; and the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster in London organized a session to present the findings of the project.

All these meetings provided valuable feedback and insights that helped improve the ongoing research. It was gratifying to work with our colleagues on the research team. Their unflinching collaboration and engagement in the research work for a period of over two years greatly facilitated our task as co-managers and editors.

We hope that as a team our joint aspirations to fulfil the objectives of the research project have been realized. Our sincere thanks go to Kristine Stroad Moore for her capable technical editing of the manuscript. Samir Makdisi would like to acknowledge his great debt to his wife Jean for her support and patience in putting up with the various demands that the work on the project entailed.

Equally importantly, he benefited greatly from her penetrating intellect and, whenever called upon, her enriching of the written text. His three scholar sons, Saree, Ussama and Karim, often provided critical intellectual engagements that helped him focus more sharply on particular issues being addressed. He would also like to extend special thanks to Rima Shaar, secretary of the IFE, for first-rate secretarial support, and to acknowledge the research help of graduate research assistants at the IFE who have efficiently carried out the tasks assigned to them: Moon Baz, Sandra Chaoul, Hanan al Fakih and especially Layal Wehbeh who, for two years, assisted in the research project.

Ibrahim Elbadawi would like to acknowledge the support and patience of his wife Enayat and the stimulating discussions with his daughter Lina. He would also like to thank his assistant Tourya Tourougui for her superb secretarial support. When the Arab countries were still under colonial tutelage, the burning question for them was how and when to gain independence. Most of them in fact became independent only after the Second World War, 1 and democracy did not arise as a political issue except as a potential post-independence question.

However, with the exception of Lebanon and early isolated cases of democratic engagement that did not last long, Arab political regimes since independence have generally been characterized by varying forms of authoritarian rule, despite notable growth in the levels of real per capita income and levels of education. Intermittent attempts at political reform might over time have permitted limited political liberalization, but the essential nature of authoritarian rule has not changed materially.

Indeed, throughout this period Arab intellectuals and groups advocating substantive political reform have condemned authoritarianism and the absence of democracy in the Arab world. Denial of full political rights of citizens and restrictions on civil liberties and, hence, lack of representative and accountable governments, are also blamed for the failure of Arab regimes to achieve sustainable and equitable economic and social development, or to address the major issues presently faced by the Arab world, including, among others, the Palestinian question. A secondary objective is to discern the growth and development consequences of autocracy.

To identify the factors that explain the continuation of the Arab democracy deficit, a two-tier research approach was adopted that combines both quantitative and qualitative analyses: cross-country work followed by intensive country case studies. The cross-country work is an extended modernity regression model of democracy measured by the widely used Polity IV index for a global sample covering most Arab countries. It is preceded by an analysis of the crisis of Arab democracy, which draws a political framework for the penchant of Arab autocratic regimes to hold on to their rule.

The model finds that after controlling for a host of economic, social and historical variables, as well as for religion, a negative and highly significant Arab region-specific effect remains, that we refer to as the Arab dummy. What we do find is that oil and, more importantly, regional conflicts notably the Arab—Israeli conflict, but also other civil and international wars seem to be the major factors that account for this negative Arab dummy.

The most striking result of the analysis of cross-country work is that once it is interacted with the conflict variable, the direct Arab dummy effect not only disappears, but its interaction effect is negative and highly significant, while the same effect is positive and significant for other developing regions.

This finding does not carry over to other determinants of democracy e. These results remain robust against a variety of diagnostic tests. The above findings suggest two important conclusions. First, unlike conflict, both oil and gender 2 — like other determinants of democracy — had an impact that does not vary across regions. Second, however, the Arab world is different with regard to the impact of conflicts on democracy; while conflicts have led, for whatever reasons, to a subsequent democratization process in other regions, in the Arab world they have not.

Thus, drawing from the robust and persistent findings of the econometric analysis, the central premise of this work is that oil and conflicts are the two major overarching factors behind the persistence of the gaping democracy deficit in the Arab world. At the same time, it probes beyond the generality of cross-country work by focusing on selected Arab countries in an attempt to identify country-specific factors that could provide supplementary explanations for the survival of their autocracies. Thus, with the cross-country model as a starting point, the following eight case studies, carried out by teams of economists and political scientists, were selected for in-depth analyses of the factors that account for their persistent, though varying, democracy deficits: Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria and the Gulf region.

Equally importantly they analyse country-specific factors historical, political, economic and institutional that further explain the persistence of the democracy deficit — factors that are not necessarily captured by the global model, thereby shedding additional light on why autocracy has tended to survive in the Arab world. These idiosyncratic country-specific factors were found to be critical in shaping the dynamics of the influence of oil and conflict in blunting and pre-empting democracy in these countries and thus help explain the observed diversity across these countries in terms of the extent and stability of autocracy.

What is noteworthy is that religion as such Islam, of course, being the major religion of the Arab world does not appear to play a significant role. There have been a number of studies, both inside and outside the Arab world, on the characteristics of contemporary Arab societies and how they relate to the nature of prevailing undemocratic Arab regimes.

Gender inequality whose multifaceted aspects have been addressed by a vast and growing feminist literature , familial, patron—client or tribal relationships, and, in some cases, religion, have been put forward as explaining the intrinsically non-democratic nature of Arab societies. In this vein, culturalist approaches in particular, have been advanced as alternative explanations of the persisting Arab autocracy.

Culturalist approaches that make too many assumptions about the universal acceptance, uniform exposure and internalization of particular views are not supported by historical evidence. This conceptual analytical perspective strongly coheres with our own cross-country empirical work in Chapter 2. We find that while the ratio of female labour force participation is positively and significantly associated with democracy, unlike oil and conflict, it does not, however, explain the direct Arab dummy effect.

Moreover, unlike conflicts, the gender effect is uniform across all regions, suggesting that the Arab world is not different from other regions with regard to the potential impact of the empowerment of women on democracy. Similar findings have also been found in the empirical literature, with an even more robust set of gender indicators.

Economy of Saudi Arabia - Wikipedia

Indeed, other societies in the developing world have similar social characteristics to those attributed to the Arab region, yet they still made the transition to democracy. Thus, whatever the explanation for this transition in some societies, and for its absence in the Arab world, the persistence of the Arab democracy deficit has remained a question that we felt needed to be critically addressed, and was at the heart of this research, while the causes and nature of the transition from autocracy to democracy lay outside its purview.

In undertaking the task of explaining why the democratic process has failed to take root, we have been cognizant not only that notions and meaning of democracy have been explained in various ways, but that its empirical measurement suffers from certain limitations. There is perhaps broad agreement as noted in Chapter 1 that the concept of democracy encompasses a political system in which members regard themselves as political equals, collectively sovereign and possessing all the capacities, resources and institutions they need to govern themselves.

Democratic regimes become consolidated i. Whereas liberalism and democracy are distinct concepts, they have tended to converge. Contemporary democratic regimes are generally liberal ones, though in a few cases non-liberal fundamentalist or other parties have come to power via free elections. This phenomenon poses an interesting challenge to the prospects of the continued congruence between liberalism and democracy, mainly but not solely in developing countries, where fundamentalist movements are potentially strong and could assume the reins of power democratically. Whatever these prospects, fear of such movements is not an argument at all, though some writers have propagated it to promote the perpetuation of autocratic regimes.

Instead, greater civic and political rights across the board should be promoted, and, in the Arab region, it is imperative that outstanding regional conflicts, primarily the Palestinian question, be justly resolved. Meeting the challenges posed by these interlocking factors would, among other things, greatly help in promoting the cause of democracy in the Arab world. In the former case a polity may demonstrate the trappings of democracy — including elections, ideologically diverse political parties and the appearance of political participation, to name a few indicators — but may not possess a political culture in which citizens evince loyalty to a set of democratic rules of the game, to the idea of an autonomous civil society and to notions of individual social and political rights, including gender equality, as would be the case in a substantive or mature democracy.

In the Arab region this distinction is important. A number of Arab political regimes have the trappings of a democratic system, i. The gap between a theoretical understanding of a democracy and its actual implementation is often wide, especially in developing countries. But even among the so-called mature democracies there are distinct differences in this regard.

For example, the influence of corporate capital on the democratic process, including control of the media, is much stronger in certain Western countries than in others; or the degree of social equity and the quality of social coverage pertaining to the social rights of citizens , as well as of civil liberties and political participation, may differ markedly from one country to another. Such differences, it might be argued, render some of these countries more democratic than others see Economist Intelligence Unit, In other words, empirical measurements of democracy that attempt to capture its basic features — such as political competition, participation, and civil liberties — do not necessarily succeed in fully reflecting the true democratic status in any given country; this is debatably more true in developing than in developed countries.

Equally importantly, any measure of democracy must fully recognize the universal right to political participation as reflected, for example, in universal suffrage. The Polity IV index and other indices, with one or two exceptions does not account explicitly for female suffrage.

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To that extent it suffers from an inadequate assessment of the democracy status of any given country in the period prior to the enactment of the right of women to participate in national or even municipal elections. This problem is of greater relevance for measures that attempt to identify transitions to democracy than measures concerned with the level of democracy at any particular point in time, as in the case of Polity IV, especially as they focus on recent periods that witnessed a growing extension of female suffrage across countries.

Suffrage is, of course, part of the wider issue of gender equality that Polity IV and other indices of democracy do not explicitly recognize. Such gains reflect the recognition that a real democracy implies gender equality as well as equal opportunities for all segments of society.

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Important as they are, the above limitations of Polity IV do not bear significantly on the polity analysis of the case studies included in this volume, particularly as the analysis focuses on explaining the persistence of their autocratic regimes and not on any transition from a state of autocracy to a state of democracy. Lebanon is an exception in that from the beginning of independence it has had its own special form of constrained democracy. Jordan introduced the right of women to vote in The Gulf region, with the exception of Bahrain and Kuwait, has yet to introduce female suffrage.

The former introduced it in and the latter in The remaining Arab countries, not included in this volume, introduced female suffrage before In all of them however, various forms and degrees of gender discrimination continue to exist, giving an additional signal of the non-democratic nature of political regimes in place. What matters for our purposes is that for all the countries in this volume the persistence of autocracies goes beyond the question of universal suffrage or gender equality in general.

Those states that introduced female suffrage early on have remained non-democratic despite subsequent limited political reforms. This assessment remains valid even after we account for other measures that might have been introduced to reduce gender inequality. With or without greater gender equality, as we note below, the Arab countries with the exception of Lebanon remain autocratic and the question of explaining the persistent Arab democracy deficit remains to be addressed.

Thus, while we have relied on a widely used empirical measure of democracy, i. Perhaps, as pointed out by some researchers, one main empirical limitation of this index along with alternative indices of measurement is the applied aggregation rule: no justification is provided for the weighting schemes of the index attributes, which may lead to potential double counting.


On the other hand, Polity IV possesses a number of positive attributes e. Furthermore, it appears to cohere with other indices of democracy e. This enhances its validity though it does not necessarily establish its total reliability. Now, while the Polity IV rankings of Arab countries may not always have accurately reflected their evolving political situation, in general they have not been far off the mark in assessing the status of democracy in the Arab region. There is plenty of evidence that the political and civic rights record in Arab countries has been marred by serious violations, attested to by various reports of Arab and international human rights organizations.

All this lends support to the empirical assessment that, excepting one case Lebanon , various shades of autocracy have prevailed in these countries since independence. The limited political liberalization that some of them undertook at various times does not materially change this picture. Indeed, the case studies clearly point out how political regimes and practices reflect various forms of autocratic behaviour, the intensity of which could change from one period to another depending upon circumstances. The obstacles to the strengthening of democratization in the Arab region are yet to be overcome.

Over the course of the project, three workshops were held during which the research teams discussed the progress of their work and critiqued the methodologies employed. These proved to be extremely beneficial. They allowed for a constructive and enriching exchange of views among the participants in the project. Mutual feedback helped shape the final drafts of the studies. Toward the end of the project a dissemination conference was organized to present the findings of the cross-country and case studies to academics and civil society organizations, among others.

Their feedback provided many helpful insights. In addition, a few separate individual country workshops were also organized to engage experts in the research findings of the case studies concerned. All these engagements were greatly advantageous to the progress of the research being undertaken. They allowed for a critical discourse of research methodologies and findings that could only serve to improve the ultimate outcome of the research project.

The volume is divided into three parts. Part I, on conceptual and cross-country work, sets the framework of the analysis. Part II, the main part, includes the case studies, which are divided into three groups: the Mashreq countries, the oil-dependent countries and the Nile Valley countries.

Part III is an interpretive synthesis summing up the question of democracy in the Arab world. Al-Naqib a, b ; Kedourie ; Sharabi Al-Naqib, K. Bowman, Kirk, Lehoucq, F. Casper, G. Donno, D. Economist Intelligence Unit Index of Democracy. Online at: www. Gandhi, J. Kedourie, E.

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Liu, A. Munck, G. Paxton, P. Sharabi, H. When the scandal over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison broke out in early , Seymour Hersh, one of the key figures behind the revelations, pointed to the irony that Abu Ghraib had been a notorious torture centre under the Saddam Hussein regime that was thoroughly looted and stripped even of windows and doors after the fall of the regime. Then they proceeded to do exactly what the Saddam regime had done there before, only this time they took pictures to amuse themselves.

Some even compared the process to the creeping Nazification of Germany in the s Rajiva, Other observers compared this latest Western incursion into the Arab world to the first: that of Napoleon Bonaparte in Neither genuinely cared about grassroots democracy, but both found its symbols easy to invoke for gullible domestic publics. Substantial numbers of their new subjects quickly saw, however, that they faced occupations, not liberations.

When the people could take it no more and revolted, the advocates of liberty used the most brutal of tactics, including resorting to indiscriminate shelling of Cairo and even the mosque. Every rule in the book was broken, and all pretence of promoting liberty or respecting Islam was dropped. Al-Azhar was occupied and desecrated. Horses were tethered to the Kiblah, furniture was hurled around and the Koran kicked about the floor. El Djabarty, aghast, saw soldiers spit on the carpets, urinate on the walls, and litter the mosque with broken wine bottles … Heavy fines were imposed all round, and ten Sheikhs believed to have been implicated were stripped naked and shot in the Citadel.

Sound familiar? It could be Fallujah , Hebron , Hama , or Halabja This convergence of regime conduct across times and cultures should cast a sharp light on some of the unspoken assumptions that underpin much of the current discussions on democracy and democratization.

It is a condition that seems to infect rulers and other political actors in the region, regardless of their cultural background or origin, and suck them into a spiral of abuses, oppression, mounting resistance and more repression, leading to eventual collapse. The resulting paranoia is self-reinforcing; the actor who feels threatened by everyone around him acts in a manner that further alienates people and confirms his fears. Ironically, this paranoia is also shared by entrenched and increasingly beleaguered Arab regimes, and the excuses are comparable.

This blaming of the victims suggests that it is not just Napoleon and Bush who tend to believe their own propaganda, but that many analysts do so as well. To start, we can draw one logical conclusion from the encounters just mentioned: that the amount of repression needed to sustain a regime is proportional to the depth and breadth of rejection it faces from the people. By definition, democracy should not face popular resistance, since democracy is rule by the people, which cannot be in revolt against itself. So if a certain order provokes a fierce resistance, that order is, by definition, not a democracy.

While there are many disagreements about defining democracy, David Beetham is right to argue that:. Disputes about the meaning of democracy which purport to be conceptual disagreements are really disputes about how much democracy is either desirable or practicable; that is, about where the trade-off should come between democratic and other values. A mode of decision-making about collectively binding rules and policies over which the people exercise control, and the most democratic arrangement to be where all members of the collectivity enjoy effective equal rights to take part in such decision-making directly — one, that is to say, which realizes to the greatest conceivable degree the principle of popular control and equality in its exercise.

Democracy should properly be conceptualized as lying at one end of a spectrum, the other end of which is a system of rule where the people are totally excluded from the decision-making process and any control over it. The theoretical disputes, as Beetham points out, revolve around rival and contestable claims as to how much democracy can be realized in a sustainable form. However, the general idea is that a democracy can be considered consolidated when such activities do not pose a serious threat to its stability.

Linz and Stepan stipulate six conditions needed for a democracy to be consolidated: an authoritative state, a lively civil society, an autonomous political society, the prevalence of the rule of law, an effective state bureaucracy and an institutionalized economic society Linz and Stepan, 51—8. However, modern democracy has another dimension to it. Liberal constitutionalism seeks to limit the powers of the state through guarantees of individual rights and private property.

The designers of the American constitution in particular had used complex constitutional curbs on democratic rights indirect elections of the president and senate, special role for the Supreme Court, etc. However, and of central relevance to our current investigation, the consciousness of the distinction and tension between liberalism and democracy has led to another startling conclusion.

Taking as its premise the same point made above that democracy and liberalism have become inseparable , some analysts have argued that in cases where democracy could lead to illiberal regimes as was the case in the former Yugoslavia or some Arab and Muslim countries where Islamists could come to power , it might not be wise to promote democracy. Instead, some form of authoritarian liberalism should be championed Miller, ; Zakaria, ; Plattner, From this perspective, it could be seen that what Napoleon and George W. Bush were trying to promote in the Arab world was not really democracy, but some form of authoritarian liberalism cf.

Cole, The claim that Arab culture is hostile to democracy has thus been reinterpreted to argue that Arabs are in fact hostile to liberalism. Other theorists trace the genealogy back to de Tocqueville and even to Aristotle Diamond, The political culture approach has in recent years been eclipsed by rival approaches, after a brief ascendancy in the first half of the last century Almond, pp.

Central also is a solid commitment to the democratic process by all actors as stipulated above. This overriding commitment to democratic proceduralism is a critical political cultural condition for democracy. In combination with policy pragmatism and political tolerance, it promotes moderate partisanship, and these qualities together are most likely to limit the politicization of social life and the rancor of political intercourse. For if one includes evaluation of the political system in the definition of political culture, then the assertion about the influence of culture becomes a tautology.

Nevertheless, attempts to identify causal links between political development and existing identifiable cultural traits in given societies face a number of problems. Determinism is rejected also on normative grounds, because belief in the rigidity of culture and a one-way causal relationship would condemn whole societies to perpetual lack of democracy Diamond, 9— These multiple qualifications look like the prudent preparation of multiple escape routes. Acceptance of democratic norms evolves at a later stage, as a consequence of the compromises reached and the deals struck between former enemies.

In a sense, it can be said that, apart from the elite commitment to democratic procedures which may be initially instrumental and expedient there may not be any specific preconditions for democracy. Moreover, many of the requirements postulated as preconditions for democracy may, in fact, be outcomes of democracy Diamond, Any viable appeal to cultural explanations must take account of this interactive aspect of culture.

While cultural norms and identities of necessity condition reactions to political challenges, political realities also condition culture. The way, for example, ethnic identification evolves and shifts even within similar groups depends on many contextual factors as well as conscious choices Wedeen, —5. This discourse comes in two main versions. One thinks of premodern peoples as those who are not yet modern, who are either lagging behind or have yet to embark on the road to modernity.

The other depicts the premodern as also the antimodern. Whereas the former conception encourages relations based on philanthropy, the latter notion is productive of fear and preemptive police or military action. This position has a political purpose. The message it seeks to send when it argues that the clash of Western powers with Arabs and Muslims is a clash of civilizations rather than a genuine political conflict Lewis, ; Huntington, , is that these people are not worthy of political engagement.

These arguments are additionally suspicious when they are promoted by experts known for their right-wing views and sympathies for Israel. In some of its more recent recastings, the slightly more sophisticated thesis defines the problem in terms of a fundamental contrast between the world of jihad and the McWorld.

Needless to say, McWorld predominates in the modernized West, symbolized by America. Jihad, by contrast, is found predominantly outside the West, or on its periphery and in small pockets within it. Apart from the interesting Freudian? It does not explain why parochialism persists among some groups and not others. In the end, we are finally referring to the Orientalist thesis proper, but in an even more simplistic form.

Manji, Hudson attempts to tackle the issue by dividing studies that apply the political culture approach to Arab politics into two categories: the reductionist of which the Orientalists are the oldest and most influential and the empiricist. Lisa Anderson is less charitable to the political culture crowd, accusing them of residual racism and extremely negative attitudes to their subject of study Anderson, 79, 88—9. Most of these writers fail to notice that the attitudes and behaviour patterns they refer to when they are not mere projections or misreadings of the facts are neither uncaused nor unchanging.

This is also the reason why Arab and Muslim countries remain averse to liberalism, since liberalism has been historically associated with the rise of the bourgeoisie Binder, — After the debacles in Iraq and the success of Islamists in elections in Egypt and Palestine in late and early , even this limited goal appears to have been abandoned. According to Sharabi, patriarchy has been a feature of Arab culture since before Islam, which failed to modify it significantly. Similar views are expressed by Khaldoun Al-Naqib, who uses the concept of tribalism to illustrate the same point.

Other writers such as Hasan Hanafi similarly argue that the problems we face in attempting to build free societies can be traced back to deep roots in our shared heritage, transmitted across generations through texts or direct oral inculcation Hanafi, —9. Like Hanafi, Sharabi, it has been correctly pointed out, indulges in sweeping generalizations for which he provides only sketchy and anecdotal evidence Hamoudi, He also neglects important facts regarding the role of mothers and the exposure of children to influences outside the home, such as schools or the media Hamoudi, 18— Moreover, he fails to demonstrate any causal link or coherent interdependence between the traits he ascribes to neopatriarchy for example, why should a society that embraces patriarchy — supposing that this was the case — tend to be irrational or lacking in initiative?

For if the basic problem inheres in the culture, and therefore in the people, it would be useless to advocate democracy. The Orientalists are frank about this, as we see in Kedourie, who cites the fact that democracy has been tried and tested in the Arab world before and was a dismal failure, and who hence argues that the Arabs cannot understand, let alone embrace, democracy Kedourie, 1—2.

Therefore, priority must be given to the revolutionary transformation of that society. It has been noted that a significant section of Arab intellectuals made a very reluctant conversion to democratic ideals in the late s and early s Ismael, A deep sense of crisis that engulfed Arab thought in the aftermath of the defeat by Israel was made more acute by the slide of most Arab regimes into an intolerably repressive mode.

Cataclysmic events such as the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in and the Gulf War of —1, which saw direct American hegemony imposed on the region, further enhanced this sense of crisis Ismael, 93—6; Abu-Rabi, 50—2. First, the lesson of the previous decades was that the social and political gains sought by revolutionaries needed the masses to protect them; second, the regimes that promised economic development and Arab unity in exchange for suspension of human rights have achieved neither, and had become so gratuitously and brutally repressive that it had become impossible to tolerate the levels of violence they deploy against opponents; and, finally, the situation in the Arab world had deteriorated dramatically in the face of US-backed Israeli hegemony, leading to a marked increase in Arab dependency in all spheres CAUS, 11— How reluctant and incomplete this conversion to democracy was can be clearly seen from the very debates announcing it.

Also, the social conditions of Arab societies, plagued as they were by tribalism, sectarianism and ignorance, make it imperative to prioritize social transformation and social justice rather than formal democracy CAUS, 81—3. Another intellectual speaking in the same debate George Corm argued that the admiration for democracy in Arab opinion clashes with the antipathy to all things Western and the attachment to values hostile to the individualism that is central to Western democratic norms CAUS, A number of intellectuals engaged in that debate accepted that the call for democracy has arisen in Arab thought and practice, not for its intrinsic qualities, but as a tool to achieve independence and development CAUS, Similar ideas were repeated in other writings and debates during the years that followed.

It is to be noted that discussions of democracy by Arab intellectuals, including that in the much celebrated Arab Human Development Report , rely heavily on Western concepts and sources in their definitions and explications Al-Naqib, ; CAUS, ; Ayubi, ; Sadiki, Often there are differences between those who adopt radical leftist views and those who would like to follow the more traditional liberal line, even though the recent shift referred to above points to a convergence between the two positions. This has led to a criticism that this convergence is another problematic adoption of democracy as an ideology of salvation that is espoused equally irrationally Tarabishi, Like many other Arab intellectuals, Tarabishi adopts the Culture Talk stance, arguing that the problem is a social-intellectual, rather than a political, one.

Others were even more scathing, accusing intellectuals of becoming too pro-Western and alienated from the masses, or concerned merely with their individual interests. These criticisms notwithstanding, a number of the intellectuals participating in those debates were already officials or sympathizers of regimes that were undemocratic.

Many more went on to become ministers in cabinets that could not be described as democratic except by an extreme stretch of the imagination and terminology. This probably provides the key understanding as to the nature of the democratic crisis in the Arab world. From the beginning, the concern in Arab and Muslim circles has not been with democracy as an intrinsic value, but as a means to something else.

It was the same with the revolutionaries of the post-war era. For that early generation and their latter day — more radical — successors, some key objectives were too important to be left at the mercy of democratic process. Both groups did not concentrate on empowering the people as an urgent necessity, for the priority was to empower communities or states. Only later does commitment to democracy evolve and solidify, receiving an unequivocal and enduring commitment from main actors.

However, the problem in the Arab world is that rival political groups continue to entertain the view that many things are too important to entrust to the vagaries of a democratic process and the whims of the populace. The debate on governance in the Arab world on the threshold of modernity became entangled from early on with the debate on what form of government is required by Islam. In its early form, the debate centred on the caliphate and whether it could be saved or restored El-Affendi, 81— Additionally, this debate was also influenced by developments such as the Constitutional Revolution of —6 in Iran, the first experiment of its kind in the Muslim world.

Many of the proponents of these models were reluctant to describe them as democratic. In fact, many were adamant that democracy and Islam were incompatible El-Affendi, According to this formula, elected bodies should be constantly under the supervision of a faqih , a man of profound religious learning and integrity who has the power to overrule any decision deemed in contravention of Islamic law.

The emergence of Islamist visions of the state has become a hindrance to democratization on two counts. First, the Islamist—secularist divide has become the primary divide in Arab politics, hindering a democratic consensus and also giving autocratic regimes and their foreign backers excuses to avoid a commitment to democracy.

The association of Islamism with violent resistance to Israel Hamas, Hizbullah, etc. Secondly, Islamist ideas and practices have themselves tended to be anti-democratic. Islamic rule in Iran and Sudan, and the anti-democratic models mentioned earlier, have tended both to build anti-democratic constituencies and to make democrats sceptical about the democratic commitments of Islamists, notwithstanding the fact that moderate Islamist groups have generally made these commitments.

For one thing, these formulas appear to assume that governance is essentially a judicial process, with the ruler assuming the role of a chief justice issuing rulings about conformity to law. That characterization of governance is too narrow. Governance is about much more than law enforcement, involving as it does the constant negotiation of rival demands, interests and perceptions.

The skills required here are not merely those relevant to the task of determining conformity to law. But even if we accept this characterization, it becomes difficult to reconcile the basic contradiction between two central presuppositions inherent in these models. But in this case, the demand for a supremely pious and learned leader to help determine the law and the wide area of discretion granted to him becomes superfluous. That such an expert is called for seems to suggest that the law is not that clear, needing a special guide through its mazes.

But if the law is not already laid down, a question arises as to whether one individual or a small group of experts is better placed to determine and expound on it than a larger pool of people, which is the essence of the anti-democratic prescriptions of the proponents of the model. Finally, it is held that public opinion is not a reliable arbiter when seeking to determine what Islamic law dictates, and only specialized experts can tell us what the law is. In fact, Islamic teachings are not all legal injunctions, since the bulk are ethical norms requiring and offering a wide area of discretion and initiative.

Also the myth that Islamic teachings cover every facet of life and offer ready guidance is contradicted by unequivocal Quranic verses demanding that believers should not ask too many questions of the Prophet Quran 5: This is, in turn, related to an incident when the Prophet became upset because one individual kept demanding unnecessary clarifications about a command he gave to perform a pilgrimage, prompting the Prophet to advise his audience not to risk burdening themselves with additional duties by asking for details.

This leaves the widest possible margin for initiative and fresh thinking on the most appropriate ethical conduct in all areas, including the area of governance, on which the texts say very little anyway. The argument that an individual or a class of individuals is better placed to resolve matters of dispute than the community as a whole contradicts another fundamental Islamic tenet: that no priesthood is permitted or acceptable.

A khalifah or a faqih who puts himself up as an absolute authority in fact claims divine powers for himself, an unacceptable situation that can only be negated if the individual in question becomes accountable to the community as a whole. It would appear from the above that Islamic teachings are not only compatible with democracy, but demand it. The challenge posed for Arab democracy by Islamist thought and practice is probably the most important one at the moment, and it needs to be tackled at several levels. Further, all political forces in the Arab world, including Islamists, need to build democratic coalitions constructed around mutual reassurances and understandings, with a commitment to peaceful coexistence and mutual recognition.

This is necessary in order to deprive the despotic regimes of their divide-and-conquer advantage. Finally, a clear international stance in favour of democracy must be developed on the basis of the rejection of all excuses that maintain Arabs are not worthy of freedom for one reason or other. Nothing ever justifies the deprivation of whole peoples of their non-negotiable rights of self-determination and a life of freedom and security.

As Waines aptly put it,. What is seldom acknowledged is that the strident authoritarian voices of contemporary religious fundamentalists have confronted for decades the powerful forces of secular fundamentalism, which have striven to eliminate them. One consequence of this has been the muting through co-optation by secular fundamentalists of the religiously authoritative voices of modernists.

The account above highlights some key issues impinging on the stubborn democracy deficit in the Arab world. The glaring absence of democracy in the Arab world is not in dispute. Between and , not a single Arab country has been classified as free in the Freedom House annual survey. Polity IV scores tell a similar story. But it is not just the persistence of autocracy in the Arab world, but its depth. A similar story also emerges from comparing annual mean changes of Polity IV in and outside the Arab world … Out of observations of change in the polity score for Arab states, only 31 of them are positive i.

There are, of course, problems with both indexes, as they do not necessarily reflect accurately the existing conditions due to their reliance on subjective measures. These mark how heads of state and members of the legislature are selected, as well as political party development, suffrage, and the maturity of political rights and civil liberties. The annual Freedom House survey provides a fifth variable measuring media freedom. Measurements of religious liberty can be derived from US Department of State reports. The status of democracy index assigns each of these nine variables 2 points for a total of 18 points.

Each score ranges from 0 to 2, with 0 being nonexistent and 2 being the highest measurement. On this basis, Arab states were ranked according to performance, with Morocco at the top, with 11 points, and Saudi Arabia at the bottom, with 2. In the rankings, Saudi Arabia was given 4, but still remained at the bottom, while Morocco was downgraded to 8, leaving Jordan and Lebanon at the top spot with Again, many of the rankings display anomalies, ranking Libya, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar on the same level 5 points; Qatar was raised to 6 in , while Tunisia is given a score of 10 9 in , well above UAE 6 and one point above Kuwait 9, downgraded to 8.

Clearly, there is also something fundamentally wrong with this classification Sarsar, However, the overall picture cannot be mistaken. Its score in rejecting authoritarianism is also the highest, significantly higher, in fact, than the population of Western Europe in both scores AHDR, The report conducted surveys of its own that confirmed this inclination AHDR, 89— The correlation between support for [democracy] as a very good way of governance and religiosity is insignificant although slightly positive.

Predominantly Islamic societies show very high levels of support for [democracy] as a very good way of governing their countries, while simultaneously showing high levels of religiosity. Al-Braizat goes further, finding a strong correlation between the Human Development Index HDI and the actual progress to democratization. While support for democracy in most Muslim countries remains high, actual democratization as measured in years of uninterrupted democracy correlates positively with HDI and negatively with religiosity Al-Braizat, — Al-Braizat takes this to reflect a correlation between actual democratization and modernization, since he assumes a correlation between modernization and decline of religious observance, in line with classical modernization theory.

A similar stance in support of modernization theory is taken by Epstein et al. Using polity scores, Epstein et al. However, another study using the same polity scores has concluded that, regardless of its merits, the modernization hypothesis does not work in the Arab world Elbadawi and Makdisi, In fact, the richer oil-producing Arab countries, whose per capita GDP is topped only by the OECD income levels, have consistently obtained the lowest polity scores, with some scoring —10 for prolonged periods.

Ironically, while income levels in most Arab countries were higher than the median income in developing countries worldwide, Arab countries lagged behind developing countries in democracy as reflected in polity scores, while the sporadic spells of democratization occurred mainly in the poorer Arab countries Elbadawi and Makdisi, —2. This important insight takes us back to the Napoleon—Saddam Syndrome, the persistent pathology specific to the Arab region in particular and the Middle East in general. If we observe democratic norms and human rights, their argument goes, all will be lost.

Enemies of the people or civilization or religion or freedom will take over Zakaria, The convergence in attitudes between the alien invaders and occupiers Israelis, Americans in Iraq and the local despots in advancing the claims that the Arab region is a brutal jungle where violence and repression are needed to keep order, betrays deeper structural similarities between the forces of alien occupation, and the indigenous post-colonial state which has inherited the colonial legacy and sought to perpetuate it.

As the Tunisian activist Moncef Marzouki see below and others argue, the current despotic Arab state has come to resemble an alien occupation. While there is clearly a difference in the degree of alienation between foreign colonial forces in particular, Israeli settler colonialism and home-grown despotism, there are also some significant parallels. If Israel believes itself to be an alien entity facing rejection, the state in the Arab world is equally alien and at war with society Ayubi, —4.

It jealously safeguarded its autonomy from society and has sought to rely more and more on foreign support. This character of the state has made it precarious and vulnerable. The fact that a number of Arab states have come to resemble occupation powers is dialectically related to the tendency of some opposition groups to seek foreign support and even court foreign occupation or presence in their counties. In Libya and later in Sudan, the opposition sought foreign support to topple the regime and, in the case of Sudan, supported the presence of foreign troops to protect civilians.

It thus appears that for at least certain opposition groups the regimes they oppose are seen as worse than foreign occupation. At the very moment when Soviet troops were leaving Eastern Europe to pave the way for independence and democratization, foreign troops were pouring into the region to back authoritarian regimes. More troops have since arrived and vast funds have also been deployed to support favoured regimes. The aftermath of September 11 reinforced these trends. Everything pointed to system meltdown.

In view of all this, it can be argued that the reason why the Middle East remains inhospitable to democracy is the same reason why it also remains inhospitable to the rise of an autonomous and influential bourgeoisie. The indigenous bourgeoisie bears the stamp of this war environment. Otherwise, it stands no chance.

In most Arab countries the state manipulates economic measures for political ends. The phenomenon is akin to internal colonialism, with the privileged rich acting like a settler community. More significantly, the new regimes appear to have in fact almost abolished the public—private distinction, leaving the state elite to treat both as a legitimate domain. In any case, the rentier state has less need of the bourgeoisie than the latter has of the state.

Political structures and cultural orientations which could oversee and underpin the atomization of society, the dissolution of feudal or traditional bonds, a massive urbanization, relative indifference to religious strictures, the pauperization and uprooting of farm labourers, etc. In particular, a relatively impartial state which is not also a private business enterprise is absolutely essential.

Secularization does not bring about indifference to religious issues; it is widespread indifference to religious issues that enables secularization. A disenchanted world, by contrast, is a bland universe of acts which are indifferently alike. In the case of the Middle East, the trend has been moving in the other direction.

It is true that in some countries economic liberalism has made some progress. In places like the United Arab Emirates, and in particular its thriving emirate of Dubai, the system has witnessed some reform and streamlining. However, Dubai has been criticized for having achieved its success by becoming a site of runaway globalization where the creation of wealth is deliberately de-linked from citizenship rights Devji, The nearby state of Qatar is also moving in the same direction of the liberalized bourgeois state, but has additionally institutionalized the distinction between the private wealth of the rulers and state revenues.

It has also taken tentative steps towards institutionalizing democratic citizenship. However, in all these countries, some very important taboos remain, most significantly with regard to political action. Governments regard any unsanctioned attempts at political or civil society organization as a very serious matter.

In recent decades, the region has also witnessed twin processes of Islamization and traditionalization. The first phenomenon is now well known and has been extensively studied. It has been reflected both in increased personal religious observance and also in membership of Islamic activist groups. Such groups tend to endow more and more social activities with religious meaning, and either encourage or oppose them on this basis.

Most of these activities relate to sexual mores and the public conduct of women Islamic dress, mixed dancing, etc. Simultaneously with this, and even prior to it, some governments adopted a reverse attitude of investing personal and social acts such as the wearing of head-scarves by women with utmost political significance, and treating them as a most serious threat.

This contagion has now moved to Europe and beyond with the headscarves and niqab controversies. At the same time, regimes in the area began to deliberately revive and exploit traditionalist social structures, such as tribes, clans, sects and rural dignitaries and heads of families, in their bid to strengthen their hold on power and to further marginalize the rebellious intelligentsia from which came most of the opposition to their rule. Opposition groups also resorted to the mobilization of sectarian, ethnic and tribal identities in order to fight back, while ordinary citizens sought protection from the threat of the expanding authoritarian state in these traditional bonds, a process made more imperative by the deliberate weakening of any viable civil society mechanisms of defence or solidarity.

We point here to the huge rents emanating from oil, aid, strategic assets, etc. The regimes that participated in the —1 war on Iraq, for example, received massive foreign funding vital for their longevity at a time when dictatorships in Eastern Europe and elsewhere were unravelling.

The resulting strong and modernized economy helps to subsidize a host of unproductive or counterproductive activities and make it financially attractive enough for bourgeois families to abandon the bastions of McWorld in Europe and the USA for a life on the frontline settlements on the hills of Judea. The generous flow of external resources has helped this extraordinary juxtaposition of jihad and McWorld.

In the subsidized settlements, the profit motive and religious activism are satisfied in one move, and the salvation ideology meshes beautifully with the bourgeois economy. The USA, which has had its own contingent of militias, Armageddonites and other jihadists since the s Barber, ; El-Affendi, b , has been a long-term contributor to jihadism in the region.

It funds and backs extremist settler groups in Israel as it had earlier backed jihadists in Afghanistan. American jihadism in the region has triggered a powerful defensive reaction in the Muslim world, further undermining the prospects for democracy. One can thus argue that the central issue relating to democratization in the Arab world pertains to the robustness of authoritarian regimes and their sources of power, given the nature of the alien state and the widespread opposition to despotism and alien control. As Eva Bellin perceptively put it:.

Thus, the solution to the puzzle of Middle Eastern and North African exceptionalism lies less in the absent prerequisites of democratization and more in present conditions that foster robust authoritarianism, specifically a robust coercive apparatus in these states. The robustness of the coercive apparatus of the Arab state is derived from ample resources put at its disposal by the states and their foreign backers ; the reassurance and legitimacy provided by international networks of support; the patrimonial nature of the state; and its security apparatus, where private links of kin and patronage reinforce loyalty and demobilize the opposition.