Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Assessing MENA Political Reform, Post-Arab Spring: Mediators and Microfoundations

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Assessing MENA Political Reform, Post-Arab Spring: Mediators and Microfoundations

Article excerpt

Assessing MENA Political Reform, Post-Arab Spring: Mediators and Microfoundations. Edited by Brian Robert Calfano. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2014. 239 pp. $85.

Although the optimistically named "Arab spring" dislodged a few dictators, is life in the Middle East and North Africa (the MENA of this book's title) better than before? Calfano and eleven other experts look at a wide range of variables (Islam, politics, oil, media) and usefully conclude that "there is much potential for reform, but a great deal remains to be done in securing positive political change for residents across the region."

Calfano and colleagues are cautious, shying away from assuming that "the Arab Spring really constitutes a birth or rebirth of democratic or liberalizing tendencies-at least in any linear way." They provide nuanced explanations. The reader learns, for example, that power-sharing relationships between political parties and governments- such as in the Maghreb states of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco-are crucial in deciding the capacity for reform in the postuprising era. Calfano et al. help account for the differences between Arab and Iranian pro-democracy movements by showing that the latter was not as successful due in part to the Iranian regime's ability to exploit antiimperialism and authenticity, two dominant ideas that influence Muslim identity. …

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