Contentious Politics in the Middle East: Political Opposition under Authoritarianism

By Khashan, Hilal | Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Contentious Politics in the Middle East: Political Opposition under Authoritarianism


Khashan, Hilal, Middle East Quarterly


Contentious Politics in the Middle East: Political Opposition under Authoritarianism. Edited by HolgerAlbrecht. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2010. 252 pp. $69.95

The timing of the publication of this book, just before the outbreak of the 201 1 uprisings throughout the Arab world, could not have been worse. If Albrecht and his authors had only been more prescient, the reader would not be faced with such a counter-factual conclusion as that offered by I. William Zartman: "Apparently everything has changed ... the Arab state is indeed remarkably durable."

The ouster of Tunisia's Ben Ali and Egypt's Mubarak, as well as the likely overthrow of Yemen's Saleh and perhaps Libya's Qaddafi and Syria's Assad, make the book dated even before libraries can begin the acquisition process. Although these uprisings surprised most, they did not occur without provocation. The fact that they have spread as fast and as far as they did suggests that the book's contributors were unaware of the Arab publics' explosive discontents that lay dormant for nearly two generations.

Apart from failing to account for the inception of the uprisings, the book suffers from fatal, methodological errors. The first three chapters present the reader with three different approaches to the study of contentious politics under authoritarianism but the gratuitous inclusion of a chapter by Peter Sluglett on political opposition in the Islamic tradition is out of place. …

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