The timing of the publication of this book, just before the outbreak of the 2011 uprisings throughout the Arab world, could not have been worse. If Albrecht and his authors had only been more prescient, the reader would not be faced with such a counter-factual conclusion as that offered by I. William Zartman: "Apparently everything has changed … the Arab state is indeed remarkably durable."
The ouster of Tunisia's Ben Ali and Egypt's Mubarak, as well as the likely overthrow of Yemen's Saleh and perhaps Libya's Qaddafi and Syria's Assad, make the book dated even before libraries can begin the acquisition process. Although these uprisings surprised most, they did not occur without provocation. The fact that they have spread as fast and as far as they did suggests that the book's contributors were unaware of the Arab publics' explosive discontents that lay dormant for nearly two generations.
Apart from failing to account for the inception of the uprisings, the book suffers from fatal, methodological errors. The first three chapters present the reader with three different approaches to the study of contentious politics under authoritarianism, but the gratuitous inclusion of a chapter by Peter Sluglett on political opposition in the Islamic tradition is out of place. It does not connect to the theme of political opposition under authoritarianism but is, instead, a historical narrative of religious opposition covering the past fourteen centuries. Thus, Albrecht undercuts the book's value, reducing the effect to that of mere historical narratives with little relevance to theories on contentious political opposition.
The fundamentals of scientific inquiry presuppose the ability of the researcher not only to identify correctly the existence of a problem but also to assess its magnitude. As if the book's failure to predict the current Arab insurgencies is not enough, the last chapter, Bassel F. Salloukh's "Remaking Lebanon after Syria: The Rise and Fall of Proxy Authoritarianism," delivers the coup de grace: "Syria's exit from Lebanon and the subsequent collapse of its proxy security regime" is prematurely celebrated since Syria's machinations have succeeded in turning the March 14 majority coalition into a parliamentary minority. It is hardly likely that anybody will find this book of utility except perhaps as a warning about the pitfalls of presumptuous scholarship.