Author: bishopsk (page 1 of 1)

Studying Authoritarianism and Change in MENA

The most important tools for studying Authoritarianism in MENA would likely be economic, social, military, and political documents as well as empirical evidence to support trends or changes that we see in this region. These trends can be explained through the application of detailed evidence to see why regimes are the way they are, why they change, and how they act toward international actors, their own citizens, or those within their borders.

It makes sense to understand all factors that go into why regimes act the way they do such as regime type, resource available within a nation, historical factors, geographical location, population size, and religious or secular affiliations. These many factors lead certain regimes to their specified goals, levels of influence, or economic prosperity.

When looking at a focused study such as Wedeen’s book on Syria we can see the specific trends of the nation through time, how the political situations developed through the economic changes and social upheavals that occurred in Syria. How international actors impacted the development of the nation and the international actors that continue to affect it.

When looking at the book written by Cammett, Diwan, Richards, and Waterbury we get broader picture trends that affected each specifically mentioned nation in the book but we tend to focus more on the overarching themes that impacted each nation. We look more for trends in regimes, economies, politics, and social issues than looking for specific unique evidence. In the Wedeen book we focus on one specific nation, the intricacies of Syria, while in A Political Economy of the Middle East we analyze the broader context that ideas and movement shave on nation across the region.

Middle Eastern Monarchies

The monarchies of the Middle East and North African region have struggled with sustaining their monarchal rule from the 20th Century to the modern day. Many of the citizens pushed for more democratic ideals in their political landscapes, fought against the repressive apparatuses of the state, and demanded economic reforms. These three factors contributed to the significant social unrest that has been seen throughout the MENA region after the 2011 Arab Spring.

The democratic push that was seen in the 2011 Arab Spring threatened many of the authoritarian regimes of the region and started a wave of reforms within the many monarchies of the region. Democratization was seen by many states as a threat to the security and stability of their regimes. They continually pushed back against the democratization movement through repressive means, as seen in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia where they expelled protestors through military actions (Battaloglu and Farasin, p. 305-306). These repressive means quelled the Arab Springs spread in the GCC states but Egypt under Siri or Mubarak struggled to counter the protests demands relating to economic and social reforms (Battaloglu and Farasin, p. 305-306). The Tunisian regime and the Syrian regime under al-Assad did not do well against the Arab Spring uprisings. Tunisia fell quickly and Syria was plunged into a bloody civil war that has continued to the modern day (Battaloglu and Farasin, p. 306). The states attempt to counter the revolutions through violent means failed and resulted in the collapse of their monarchal regimes. Overall the Arab Spring toppled many monarchies but a few monarchies of the region were able to sustain themselves long enough to outlast the movement either through violence or through economic and political concessions was seen in Jordan and Morocco.

Other monarchies attempted to prove their movement towards reform in the political sphere by politically liberalizing their regimes while also proposing and implementing minor economic reforms in response to the demands of the protests (Lucas, p 1140). This was seen in Jordan and Morocco where the monarchies responded to rioters with “economic structural-adjustments” (Lucas, p. 114). Monarchs also spread the blame of the unpopular policies by blaming prime ministers and parliaments for the polices that were in place, while simultaneously aligning themselves with the people to preserve their place in power.

Though many Monarchies fell due to the Arab Spring some were able to maintain their position in power through differing means. These means often depended on the economic capabilities of their state as seen with the repressive methods by the GCC states and the more cooperative means of Jordan and Morocco.

Siege of Salt and Sand

The documentary focuses on the struggles of southern Tunisia. The documentary was mainly about the water scarcity, the encroachment of the desert, and the rising water levels in the area. All of these factors are causing Tunisia to struggle economically and socially. Many of the people in the video were struggling with famine and water shortages; and overall just trying to make a living. Another thing the people were struggling with was the diseases introduced by sand flies. Overall these hardships have resulted in the struggles of many Tunisians and caused the once fruitful sectors of Tunisia to digress into extreme deficits.

The documentary compiles many issues that the nation is facing, from lack of rainfall, to rising water levels, and the destruction of farmland by the desert. These issues have led to food and water insecurities, unfortunately these citizens have few solutions an even fewer route to take to alleviate these problems.

I like the film in general, it was interesting and informative. Seeing the struggles of the Tunisian peoples gave more insight into the economic, political, and social aspects of the nations as well as seeing the hard evidence of these issues taking place. It was cool to see the desertification of farms and the rising sea levels as well as the empirical evidence, though it is awful to see those people lose their livelihoods. From an outsider standpoint it was beneficial to see what these people go through on a daily basis; I enjoyed learning more about Tunisia.



The damage that oil rents have done to political and social outcomes in the Middle East and North Africa region are due to the interaction of these rents with post colonial nations that had weak institutions, limited participation in government, inability to evenly distribute the wealth from those rents, and government corruption. All of of these factors combined with oil rents can be attributed to the harm that has been done to the social and political facets of the MENA region. In the Ross article he states that “only a few are engaged in the generation of this rent the majority being only involved in the distribution or utilization of it” (Ross, p. 329). States also often control the revenue from their rents, much of which is failed to be invested back into programs that benefit the masses. There is also the “spending effect” in which it is common for governments to invest in patronage which innately reduces the push for democratization. Ammeter attributing factor is the divide among the rich and the poor that can be seen throughout the MENA region and is a main contributor to a disparity in wealth between those that are directly involved in the oil industry and those that work and contribute to the industry but ┬ádo not receive the same reimbursement as those that own it. There is also a large investment into the military within the MENA region with the money earned from oil rents, this in turn leads to a more oppressive regimes and a stronger oppositions to democratization pushes from the population. Another reason for the damage done to the social and political facets of the MENA region is the mismanagement of funds from oil rents among political leaders. With this many of the investments that could be made to better the people of the MENA region never occur or occur at in very small increments. There is also the widespread corruption among the privatized oil sector due to the weak institutions in many MENA region nations. These are a few factors that when combined with oil rents hurt the development of the social and political facets of nations within the MENA region.

Anderson Response

Anderson highlights many different factors that attributed to the failure of political scientists to successfully analyze the Middle East in the ways they were attempting to. One such way was the over emphasis of political scientists to attribute the United States’ actions and policies in the Middle East region for more than they could possibly have been. She doesn’t say that the U.S. didn’t have significant sway in the region but she believes that many political scientists attribute many of the changes in the Middle East to the U.S. when they couldn’t have had that amount of influence. She also believes that many western analysts ran into problems during their studies of the Middle East in regards to how they measure political change. She states that many political scientists measure change in the amount of democracy and globalization a nation undergoes and in this region many western ideals were met with resistance. Another issue political scientists ran into was the slow decline of democracy in the region. Many were looking for trends in the expansion of democracy but they just weren’t there. As time went on and the governments of the once Ottoman Empire began to form identities and govern themselves; democratic ideals began to fade and many political scientists were not able to gather the “empirical or analytical” evidence that they were looking for. Democratic trends that political scientist were looking for weren’t there. The failure of democratic nations to emerge in the Middle East comparatively to the rest of the world from the 1970’s to 2000’s challenged the general notion that the inevitable rise of democracy was in fact inevitable. Many political scientists came to this conclusion as democracy had failed int he region. From the prospect of its emergence post WWII to the complete collapse of almost all democratic nations by the 2000’s the region contradicted what many political scientists wished to believe.