State, Society, and Land in Jordan

State, Society, and Land in Jordan

State, Society, and Land in Jordan

State, Society, and Land in Jordan

Synopsis

Discusses the social reaction to these policies, the different conceptualizations of land held by state & society, & notes these policies' ultimate political significance.

Excerpt

This is at once a book about tangibles and intangibles. Land in modern Jordan is tangible, whether in the form of rolling hills or rich grainfields or open desert spaces. The socio-economic and political implications of tenure and usufructuary rights, however, are intangible and mutable. So too is the dynamic relationship between those complex issues and the forces that comprise state and society. By examining the relationship between state and society through a study of how each conceptualized and approached issues relating to land, and how each interacted with the other in the process, we are in a position to draw wider conclusions about the process of state-building in modern Jordan from the late Ottoman period (1851–1918), the period of the British mandate (1921–46), and early independence (from 1946–1960s).

In a predominantly agricultural society as Jordan was during the period under study, land and the control of its fruits are powerful factors in determining the socio-economic and political contours of state and society. To no small degree social forces in modern Jordan have been linked to land and land tenure. Despite the image sometimes propogated that it was a “bedouin” society, Jordan from the 1850s–1950s remained at heart a country of small-scale, settled cultivators for whom private control of land defined life. Similarly, the ultimate success and longevity of the Anglo-Hashemite regime installed in 1921 on the remains of the Ottoman state apparati came to rest both upon its ability to extract taxes from the land while simultaneously securing the cultivators' loyalty by upholding their claims to land. The relationship between the state and the cultivators was characterized on the whole by cooperation, not conflict. In the process, both the shape of state-societal discourse and the conceptualizations of “property” and of “Jordan” itself were defined by the state, which was in turn constrained, however, by its commitment to safeguarding the cultivators' land.

Several decades after reimposing their direct authority, Ottoman authorities began applying their new Tanzimat-era land policies to the regions of Transjordan. At the heart of these lay the new 1858 Land Code, a system of land registration, and the establishment of . . .

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