Brynen and his colleagues tackle their subject under four headings: domestic setting, civil society, political economy, and regional and international contexts. Their mature introduction recognizes both the difficulty of the Arabs' transition to democracy and the limitations of the Western model, thereby setting a high standard for the studies that follow. Lisa Anderson's valid critique of the "political culture" approach (which establishes connections between democracy and specific psychological tendencies, such as values and aspirations) analyzes the poor quality of a literature composed "not of closely reasoned or carefully researched arguments, but of self-fulfilling prophecies." Gabriel Ben-Dor's lucid analysis of prospects for democratization in the Arab world considers global, regional, and domestic dimensions and concludes that these favor Arab democratic experimentation, though the success of democratization hinges on the ability of Arab regimes to enlist the active support of their populations. In addition, Ben-Dor should be congratulated for the candor of his "Epilog," the evident sincerity he brings to his subject, and the openness he demonstrates to Arab intellectual endeavors.
One edited volume obviously cannot answer all the persisting questions on a complex subject but it does provide a balanced account of past and present hurdles to the realization of Arab democracy, and of the awesome challenges that lie ahead. This addition to the social-science scholarship indicates that Western understanding of the intricacies surrounding Arab democracy has finally come of age.