Kamrava of Georgetown University-Qatar focuses on state-society relations in select Arab countries and primarily examines their institutional makeup and their instruments of coercion.
He suggests that Arab monarchies, unlike republican regimes, have succeeded in eluding the turmoil of the 2011 uprisings mainly because of their greater state capacity, largely due to their substantial hydrocarbon resources. Kamrava finds that Arab regime dominance of the public sphere emerged in the early 1950s and that Arab republican rulers chose to rely on unmitigated coercion and repression to retain power rather than open their political systems and unleash growth-driven economic models.
Arab leaders missed the unique opportunity of the 2011 uprisings to create new institutional structures that would have given them a new lease on power. Kamrava cites the example of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad's mishandling of the opening phase of the uprising. He expands on the notion of Tunisian exceptionalism by highlighting the capacity of the country's political parties for coalition formation as well as the Ennahda party's confidence-building measures and receptiveness to new ideas.
In Egypt, he credits strong social homogeneity and the continuing functioning of state institutions for that country's avoidance of civil war. This argument might be partially correct, but the Egyptian military's excessive coercion and extra-judicial killings also terrorized civil society into submission. Algeria's politics have baffled analysts and scholars ever since its independence in 1962, and Kamrava is no exception. He praises the state's vitality in defusing the 2011 protests but also applauds President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for undermining "possibilities for the emergence of a social movement." Kamrava did not predict the 2019 uprising that coerced Bouteflika to quit, but despite the president's resignation, the deep state in Algeria remains firmly in place.
Inside the Arab State is a top pick for understanding the Arab state and politics.