Overview of Authoritarianism and Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Throughout the semester, we learned about various countries in the MENA region with primary focus on authoritarianism. It is difficult to say which tool is significant to learn about  authoritarianism and change in MENA because each tool has its own factor that contributes to understanding MENA regions.

Let’s begin with regime type; learning about regime types in various nations is important because It is essential to comprehend the kind of government in order to comprehend power structures and decision-making procedures in nations. To relate this with MENA nations, examining the various forms of governance in the MENA allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics of political power in the region. It concerns not only authority figures but also the process by which choices are made. This allowed us in class to analyze how stable these regimes are and how adaptable they are to change. An example from the class lecture is the nation Libya; we focused primarily on the downfall of the regime due to Muammar Gaddafi’s failed leadership. We learned that uprisings, human rights issues, and the military contributed heavily to the failed regime. This example shows that the Libyan regime was primarily focused on the citizens and popularity amongst the people. Gaddafi was treating his people inhumanely, which caused the leadership to fall. The prime reason why the regime type is an important tool to understand authoritarianism in MENA.

Another tool that is important is resource endowments; looking at natural resources in each nation and how it contributes to the economy is vital because we are able to analyze the stability of the regime due to how much and how well the natural resources are. To relate this with MENA nations, examining the sharing and managing of natural resources reveals the economic foundations of authoritarian control, its effects on society, and the long term benefits for the nation. An example from the class lecture is the rentier states such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE is well known for their natural resources, mostly oil. In class, we analyzed how the oil wealth was not going to citizens in a beneficial way, instead it was used for corruption. With this analysis, we can tell the regime in UAE might not last long term due to the economy; UAE must provide funding laws/poliices that are sustainable for the long term (more in depth on my final paper). 

Other tools that are significant are historical factors; the regime is impacted by historical factors from political to economic structure. It is important because it allows us to make a comparative analysis from two different time periods and see if there were any major changes. To relate this to the MENA region; today’s MENA countries are greatly influenced by their past, which includes colonial control, independence struggles, and regional warfare. It influences how people view the world, as well as their identities and values. Our understanding of the political, social, and economic circumstances in the nation is by the historical context. An example from class is Iran; the Islamic Revolution, Islamic conquests, and ancient Persian empires define Iran’s history. The Islamic Republic was established as a result of the revolution, greatly influencing Iran’s political and cultural factors today. We can conclude that all of the tools listed above and more are significant when studying authoritarianism and change in MENA because each tool contributes to the regime in their own way. 

Wedeen provides a thorough case study on Syria that explores the country’s particular environment and provides insightful analysis of its distinctive political, cultural, and historical elements. This method enables a concentrated investigation of personal agency, examining the roles of significant figures and the effects of their choices on Syrian society. On the other hand, Cammett, Diwan, Richards, and Waterbury’s theme analysis, which covers various MENA nations, offers a broader viewpoint. This approach enables a comparative examination and addressing shared patterns. By integrating the two kinds of research, we are able to comprehend the MENA region’s authoritarianism and change in great detail, taking into account both the specifics of each case and the larger regional dynamics. 



All information from class presentations.






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