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Democracy and Authoritarianism in the Arab World

Nicola Pratt
Democracy and Authoritarianism in the Arab World
ISBN: 978-1-58826-461-9
ISBN: 978-1-58826-486-2
ISBN: 978-1-62637-791-2
2006/236 pages/LC: 2006021635
A related title: Political Participation in the Middle East by Ellen Lust-Okar and Saloua Zerhouni.

"This is the most sophisticated and powerful interrogation of the function of civil society in the Arab world available today. Through an effective historical analysis of the interplay of socioeconomic development, ideology and institutional structures, Pratt explores how the space for political action across the Arab world has been defined; and how the potential for challenges to authoritarianism has been created. For anyone interested in how political reform can be mounted in this crucial region, the book provides compelling reading."—Glen Rangwala, University of Cambridge

"This is an important exploration of how the ideological orientation of civil society affects the possibilities for democratization."—Vickie Langohr, College of the Holy Cross


What explains the enduring rule of authoritarian regimes in the Arab world? Nicola Pratt offers an innovative approach to this recurring question, shedding light on the failure of democratization by examining both the broad dynamics of authoritarianism in the region and the particular role of civil society.

Pratt appraises the part that civil society actors played in the normalization of authoritarianism in the Middle East, the challenges that new organized groups now pose to entrenched Arab regimes, and the varying ways in which those regimes are responding. She also explores the diversity of conceptions of democracy among nonstate actors. Arguing against the idea that Arab culture is inherently incompatible with democracy—the concept of Middle East "exceptionalism"—she assesses the realistic potential for democratization in the region.


Nicola Pratt is associate professor of international politics of the Middle East at the University of Warwick and associate editor of the British Journal for Middle Eastern Studies.


  • Reconsidering Democratization in the Arab World.
  • The Normalization of Authoritarianism.
  • Challenges to Authoritarianism.
  • Authoritarianism Renewed.
  • The Politics of Democratization.
  • Transnational Links and Democratization.
  • Conclusion.