Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Civil Society and Democratic Transformation in the Arab World

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Civil Society and Democratic Transformation in the Arab World

Article excerpt

Civil Society and Democratization in Morocco, by Azzedine Layachi. Cairo: Ibn Khaldun Center, 1995. 195 pages. Append. to p. 197. Notes to p. 211. Bibl. to p. 221. n.p. Al-Urdun, by Mustafa al-Hamarna. Cairo: Ibn Khaldun Center, 1995. 153 pages. Notes to p. 168. Tables to p. 196. n.p.

Al-Dawla, al-Mujtama` al-Madani, wa al-Tahawwul al-Dimuqrati fi al-Iraq, by Falih `Abd al-Jabbar. Cairo: Ibn Khaldun Center, 1995. 190 pages. Notes to p. 221. Tables to p. 253. n.p. Al-Mujtama` al-Madani wa al-Tahawwul al-Dimuqrati fi Filastin, by Ziyad Abu `Amr. Cairo: Ibn Khaldun Center, 1995. 129 pages. Notes to p. 138. n.p. Al-Kuwait: Dirasa fi Aliyat al-Dawla al-Qutriyya wa al-Sulta wa al-Mujtama`, by Shafiq al-Ghabra. Cairo: Ibn Khaldun Center, 1995. 241 pages. n.p. Civil Society and Democratization in Egypt, 1981-1995, by Moheb Zaki. Cairo: Ibn Khaldun Center, 1995. 252 pages. Append. to p. 269. Notes to p. 284. Bibl. to p. 298. Index to p. 300. n.p.

The Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies (ICDS) was established in Cairo, Egypt, in 1988, with the goal to research and advocate civil society and democracy in Egypt and the Middle East. The center is a non-profit organization funded mainly by the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for Democracy. Since its founding, the center has published a monthly newsletter, Civil Society, in both Arabic and English. In addition, annual reports on Civil Society and Democratic Transformation in the Arab World (Al-Mujtama` al-Madani wa al-Tahawwul al-Dimuqrati fi al-Watan al-`Arabi) and Minorities in the Arab World (AI-Millal wa al-Nahal wa al-A'raq) have been published since 1993, both edited by Sa'd al-Din Ibrahim, the center's chairman of the board. By 1996, the Ibn Khaldun Center had published about 20 books, in both English and Arabic, 14 of them on civil society and democratic transformation. Six of the books in this series are reviewed here.

Each of the books under review has a more or less standard introduction on civil society in the Arab world, written by Sa'd al-Din Ibrahim. The introductions give a comprehensive overview of the relations between state and society in the Arab world. They are written from a sociological perspective and present a historical overview and relevant data to highlight the roles of the state and civil society in addition to the emergence of democratization in the Arab world. Ibrahim's introductions discuss the dynamic forces that have conditioned the interaction between the state and civil society and that set the pattern and the direction of change. Ibrahim uses a reductionist-deductionist paradigm of four variable sets that subsume socioeconomic formations, articulation of civil society, the state, and international input. The historical overview focuses, in particular, on the period between 1983 and 1993-a period which, in most Arab countries, marked the state's retreat from the economic sphere and a burgeoning political liberalization.

The introductions set forth the thesis that, despite all the particularities of the 21 member countries of the League of Arab States, the Arab world is evolving along the same trends and processes working in other, newly democratizing, societies. This paradigm provides a common framework for the case studies.

The construct of civil society in the Arab world is placed in historical context in the introductions of the six books with a review of the historically specific form of civil society that co-evolved with the Islamic state from its inception. Civil society acted independently of the state to provide socioeconomic services and political protection to its members. The public space in which members of civil society interacted coincided with the physical space in which they lived. The disintegration of civil formations in Arab society coincided with the disintegration of the Islamic state.

According to Ibrahim, the modern Arab state is a feat of political engineering by colonial powers. …

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