09 January 2010

Books: The New Authoritarianism in the Middle East and North Africa

Two books by Stephen J. King might shed light on some aspects of what is called, particularly in Political Science and Development Studies, "new authoritarianism".

In October 2009, Indiana University Press published his "The New Authoritarianism in the Middle East and North Africa":


From the publisher's description: "Stephen J. King considers the reasons that international and domestic efforts toward democratization have failed to take hold in the Arab world. Focusing on Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, and Algeria, he suggests that a complex set of variables characterizes authoritarian rule and helps to explain both its dynamism and its persistence. King addresses, but moves beyond, how religion and the strongly patriarchal culture influence state structure, policy configuration, ruling coalitions, and legitimization and privatization strategies. He shows how the transformation of authoritarianism has taken place amid shifting social relations and political institutions and how these changes have affected the lives of millions."

This book follows on from a 2003 publication, "Liberalization Against Democracy: The Local Politics of Economic Reform in Tunisia" (also Indiana University Press):


"In Liberalization [A]gainst Democracy, Stephen J. King argues that, in contrast to prevailing views, pro-market economic reforms in Tunisia did not foster democratization. Instead, state-led economic liberalization facilitated the reorganization of authoritarian rule and contributed to the subversion of democratic tendencies at both the national and local levels. In addition to King's analysis of neo-liberal economic transformation and regime change at the national level, his book offers a rare local-level analysis of these processes, based on the author's extensive fieldwork in the rural community of Tebourba. King's focus on the local level of analysis is particularly valuable. His community study shows firsthand how local elites have manipulated cultural traditionalism in order to sustain market-oriented reforms. This rich account clearly delineates the pathways by which pro-market reforms in Tunisia have fostered corporatism, clientelism, and authoritarianism."

The latter book is fully searchable on Google Book Search (including table of contents):


Stephen J. King is Associate Professor of Government at Georgetown University.

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