Democratization and Authoritarianism in the Arab World.
by Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner, eds.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. 388 pp. $34.95, paper.
Reviewed by Hilal Khashan
American University of Beirut
Middle East Quarterly
This patched-together collection of twenty-nine previously published articles boasts a title suggesting the final word on the subject. It is not. Focusing exclusively on the opening stages of the Arab uprisings of roughly 2011-13, the editors have divided their work into two sections—sixteen thematic essays followed by thirteen country studies—seemingly for convenience sake alone as they offer no theoretical justification for this approach. The studies themselves are constructed haphazardly while the narrative is often outdated. Syria, for instance, where the bloodiest uprising shows no signs of ending, is covered in one meager essay; Iraq, Oman, and Lebanon merit none.
Why Johns Hopkins University would want to publish a work like this, filled with assertions that have been overturned by events, mystifies. In one false pronouncement by Mark Tessler et al., we learn that the Arab uprisings led to "the fall of dictators and a reversal of the de-liberalization process." Zoltan Barany is bullish on the future of Libya because of "the intensive political and military involvement of Western democracies on behalf of the rebels." Stephane Lacroix's essay on Saudi Arabia exhibits a total ignorance of the intricacies of Saudi royal politics, positing a mythical royal faction that would ally itself with Shiite "reformists."
Selecting previously published articles for an edited book is admittedly not an easy task. In this case, it would seem as if the editors imagined that the timeliness of their topic permits them to include any articles they liked, regardless of enduring value. This disservice to the field of comparative politics renders the book as palatable as years-old bread.
Related Topics: Democracy and Islam, Middle East patterns | Hilal Khashan | Summer 2016 MEQ
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