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POLS 3326 – Politics of Middle East and North Africa – Final Exam Essay Questions (Essay Sample)

In light of the literature discussed in class, what are the prevailing explanations for the persistence of authoritarianism in the Middle East? In answering the question, students should consider the political, social, cultural and economic factors for the emergence and robustness of authoritarianism. source..
Authoritarianism in the Middle East Name Institution Affiliation Authoritarianism in the Middle East Introduction In the Middle East, authoritarian rule continues to increase, stronger and more resilient like never before. For the past few decades, the region has experienced events of power struggle, especially between Islamic movements and central governments. In this case, this study explores a wide range of developments concerning the politics of the Middle East. In other words, a comprehensive explanation for the persistence of authoritarianism is given while exploring various aspects such as political, social, cultural and economic factors. Persistence of Authoritarianism in the Middle East Persistence of authoritarianism in the Middle East continues to be one of the topics that have attracted the attention of many scholars. For example, Ross (2001) discusses the aspect of rentier while explaining the concept of authoritarianism in the Middle East. With the aim of getting to the core of the subject, his study explores authoritarianism from different perspectives including but not limited to cultural, social, political and economic aspects. In an economic perspective, Ross (2001) asserts that persistence of authoritarianism continues to take root in this region because of external rents that driven by the element of oil. In fact, the same study revealed that most of the Middle East countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Syria, Egypt to mention but a few are getting their revenues from oil. Just like Ross (2001), Haklai (2009) explains that most of the Middle East countries gained rents, especially from 1950. Countries such as the United States and the Soviet Union supported these countries financially in exchange for oil. However, Ross (2001) highlights that in the Middle East countries such as Syria, Jordan, Oman, Egypt to mention but a few accumulated rents, and as a result, they were on pressure for democracy driven by the West. In a bid to prevent this from happening, these countries started getting rents or financial support from other oil-rich countries in the same region. In fact, Ross (2001) stresses that most of the Middle East countries were termed as rentier states. Ross adds that this mechanism involves three effects that has since fuelled authoritarianism, and these include taxation, spending, and formation. Taxation Factor As explained by Ross (2001) most of Middle East countries (rentier states) that depend on oil, their citizens do not pay taxes. In fact, their governments provide most of the services. As a result, Ross (2001) asserted that this limits citizens from demanding for any political accountability or any level of influence. In this case, this has been fuelling authoritarian regimes for decades. In fact, Alfred & Robertson (2003) explained that such practices have created democracy gap in these countries. According to Haklai (2009), most governments in the Middle East are independent from their citizens because of oil, and people do not pay taxes. It is from such background that Ross (2001) explains that democracy in these countries has been smaller compared to other regions across the globe. On the same note, Alfred & Robertson (2003) highlight that governments in the Middle East do not care about democracy since they are independent. Even worse, they violet human rights, especially those who protest against the regime. More so, the same research indicates that most of these countries are not fully law-bound, and there is limited or no political rights. Spending Factor Instead of collecting taxes from citizens, most of the Middle East countries have always distributed money to their population in the process of gaining their uncompromised loyalty. Ross (2001) calls this spending effect since governments invest money in their citizens. On the same note, Heydemann (2007) add that Middle East countries use oil money to provide social stratification systems and welfare programs to control citizens. More so, they add that some of the welfare programs range from health programs, food supply, and education facilities. In this perspective, there is no doubt that regimes in the Middle East have sustained their authoritarian practices by controlling their citizens to have limited or no political influence. Group Formation Factor When it comes to group formation factor, Ross (2001) speculates that most of the regimes in the Middle East have always distributed money to social groups and civil society organizations in a bid to control them. Just like in countries from other regions, civil societies in the Middle East are essential when it comes to creating an environment of democracy. However, these organizations are limited, and a few that exists are threatened not to influence political situation. As Ross (2001) asserts, rents from the governments gave an upper hand to regimes in the process of weakening social groups, and this has helped regimes to sustain their authoritarian rule. Other Factors While investigating the concept of preserving non-democracies in the Middle East, Kamrava (2010) examines the relationship between institutions and state leaders, and how power continues to be consolidated among governments. In relation to Ross (2001)'s investigation, Kamrava (2010) revealed that persistence of authoritarianism is driven by the political circumstances that were created by rentierism. On the same note, it is indicated that such political consequences strengthened the ruling partnership or coalition between potential political opponents. In this case, regimes in the Middle East find it easy to use coercive means to rule their citizens. Based on research findings from three cases studies in the Middle East (Kuwait, Iran, and Egypt), Kamrava (2010) explains that most of the authoritarian regimes usually inherit or sometimes create institutions that must dance according to their tunes. As a result, this has continuously facilitated dictatorship among the countries in this region. Furthermore, Fish (2002) highlights that when created institutions start to seek independence to act as platform that can be used to influence political situations, their leaders and entire institutions are usually threatened, and at worst closed. More so, the study conducted by Kamrava (2010) indicates that most of the leaders that come to power in the Middle East establish specific institutions, which are used in a bid to enhance and consolidate their power as well as political longevity. In all three cases studied in this region, Kamrava (2010) found out that dictatorship governments continue to survive based on the adjustments to the rules of the game, especially when it comes to social factors that keep their opponents silent and powerless. At this point, therefore, the continued persistence of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East are based on two core aspects, and that is political consequences among the rentier states and institutional cohes...
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