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Politics in the Arab World

1. Make an argument explaining the persistence of authoritarianism in the Arab world. Include as many factors as relevant.

Distribution of natural resources is the key agent of determining the outcome of a political struggle, in which the participating actors are aware of their strengths and weaknesses. In this political game, the international community, despite the rhetorical commitment to democracy, ensures legitimacy of the ruling regimes. In the light of this, there are several reasons for the persistence of authoritarianism in the Arab world. One of the leading factors is lack of significant pressure for the process of democratization. Secondly, rejection of interaction with the Islamist opposition is also one of the contributing reasons. The third factor is provision of economic and military aid to the authoritarian leaders as well as recognizing them as participating states in international forums. On their side, the ruling elites maintain regional stability and avoid openly anti-Western policies.

Therefore, their policies are favored by foreign investors which refrain from a confrontational stance on, for instance, the Arab-Israeli conflict. This is done in order not to challenge the dominance of the West. More specifically, the Arab countries are increasingly involved in the neo-liberal forms of cooperation, initiated by the Western countries, including signing of bilateral free trade agreements with the United States, as well as participation in the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. This is meant to provide liberalization of trade between the EU and their partner countries.

In addition, the US demands the vast majority of Arab countries to recognize its military and diplomatic dominance in the local region. As a result, these countries are not able to object the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the presence of US in Iraq.

The global struggle against the terrorism strengthens the authoritarian elites of Arab countries. This is based on the awareness of international community of the fact that the Islamists' coming to power would prevent implementation of the above mentioned policies, and would lead to greater instability in the region.

When analyzing the resistance to authoritarianism in the region, it is necessary to consider the debate about the relationship between Islam and democracy. Some researchers state that Islam is a religion that is incompatible with democracy in its nature, since it has not been a part of the European Enlightenment and, therefore, generates an authoritarian political culture.

Historically, it used to be similar, since Islam necessitates submission to faith. From a political point of view, this submission has been interpreted as a political quietism, in accordance with which Muslims are discouraged to question the authority of their political leaders, as it would create internal divisions. This, in turn, would undermine unity of the faithful living in the same political power. The lack of political pluralism is a logical result of such views. In such a way, there is a constant persistence of authoritarianism in the Arab countries, in which Islam is a prevalent religion.

2. Make an argument for or against the compatibility of Islam and Democracy. Include historical, doctrinal, and ideological (the works of Sayyid Qutb, Muhammed Abdou, etc.) evidence.

Discussions of the relationship between political Islam and democracy are important for understanding the diversity of approaches and the variety of perceptions of civil society in the Arab world. Many studies of democratization often view a civil society as a key factor for democracy, since a strong and active civil society becomes a driving force for delegitimizing an authoritarian regime.

As suggested by Sayyid Qutb, there is a very small number of civil society organizations that promote and defend democratic and liberal values. A civil society has significantly strengthened over the last decade due to a sharp increase in the number of established organizations. This trend is clearly evident, for instance, in Morocco. In modern Morocco, there are extensive and active civil society organizations that are involved in various political and social works. However, this is not necessarily a sign of the ruling elite losing power and societal control. This creates an artificial civil society, in which the independent actions are limited, and civic activism, thus, becomes another way of social control.

Another view towards suppression of democracy in the Arab world, expressed by Muhammed Abdou, states that a civil society should be seen as a neutral analytical category and Islam should not be considered authoritarian. From this point of view, a civil society’s power must be analyzed through the dynamics of the relationship between its segments, with an emphasis on the relationship between the Islamists and the secular / liberal parities.

Therefore, authoritarianism can prevail by the paradox of civil society’s power. In the context of restrictions imposed by an authoritarian regime on all of the opposition groups in a civil society, it would be logical for them to unite for a political change. Dynamism of associative life and large-scale criticism of a authoritarian regime should, in theory, lead to growth of democratic attitudes and behaviors. They, in turn, should lead to political reforms.

Cooperation and an established coalition between the two sectors of civil society on the basis of shared goals and values is a very rare occurrence because of the sharp ideological conflicts between Islamist and secular / liberal groups of interests. This distinction entails formation of extremely conflicting political preferences. The division is based on fundamentally opposite views. While Islamists seek to make Islam a central reference point in the process of any political decision-making, the secular-liberal groups strive to eliminate Islam from politics completely.

This leads to the absence of a democratic discourse, which could be capable of uniting these distinct groups, as they have fundamentally different views on the core values and even the procedures that should be the basis of a new society, which is the ultimate goal of all of these groups.. Another paradox of this complex relationship between democracy and Islam is that formally both groups declare their commitment to democracy and human rights. However, they put a very different meaning to these concepts. As a result of these differences, authoritarian regimes allow pursuing a policy on the 'divide and rule' principle in order to retain their power.

3. Based on the course explain the persistence of monarchies in the Arab World.

Many of countries in the Arab world retain the monarchical form of government. The role of the institution of monarchy in the state and legal institutions in capitalist countries orientation is very high. It should be noted that in modern conditions there is a vast variety of monarchial institutions.

This situation is quite natural, since monarchy is very flexible and able to adapt to a variety of class relations of domination. Imperialist countries with parliamentary monarchies, which have long been a powerless dynasty against the people, now coexist with monarchies in the developing countries, including those in the Arab world. Development of the institution of the monarchy in some of the Arab countries share many common features, as Arab countries in general resemble a combined number of historical traditions, common culture, religion, language, some features of the socio-economic structure.

At the same time, there are significantly different countries in the region, in comparison with the European countries. Certain common ways of the monarchy development in the Arab world is dialectically related to presence of specific features. They are known to be inherent in the form of government in each of these countries. These differences are related to the fact that social content of the state in these countries is treated differently. This opens a possibility to identify both common laws of the Arab East countries and the prospects monarchy’s development. In addition, it shows the peculiarities its manifestations in the individual countries.

There are several groups in which monarchy could be classified. The first group encompasses absolute monarchies. It acts as a form of respect to the feudal-bourgeois content of these states. The existence of such a form of government, which replaced feudal despotism, reflects certain basic changes. The second group of monarchies encompasses states in which the government is under command of both monarch and parliament, or only parliament, as stipulated by a country’s constitution. Thus, in comparison to the first group, an additional and very important distinction of this type of monarchy is presence of an elected legislature body, the parliament. The countries included in the second group, are, for example, government of Kuwait and Bahrain According to the constitution these countries display certain traits of both monarchial institutions and parliament.

The main argument for the reason why monarchies in the Arab world are quite prevalent relates to the necessity of stability within the local region. The power which is transferred from one generation to the next one ensures similarity in the style of governing and helps to follow the same principles and directions through many years. This contributes to the aims and results which have always been a mainstream of the countries' policies. The necessity of a strong political leader leads to formation of a strong hierarchical society and respective political outlooks, which could control the current situation within countries of the Arab world.