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Democratisation is defined as a change in political regime
within a sovereign state from non- democracy to democracy.  It is a process that
changes political life, it is not an event. This essay will discuss how the
early modernisation theory analysis of provisions proved uncertain and cultural
exceptional arguments are identified merely as an intervening variable in
regards to the Arab Spring. The theories of development imbalances and nation
building set backs are the main reasons as to why democracy failed in the
Middle East and North Africa.

Samuel Huntingdon had described this global change as
“Democracy’s Third Wave”. Most democratic transitions, resembling what had occurred
during the Arab Spring are mostly due to either political pacts, breakdowns
between civil and military elites, international pressure or in this case
grassroots movements demanding a change. The
Middle East and North Africa saw mass social protests for democratisation and
justice that led to the disintegrating of the longstanding authoritarian
governments in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011. The financial meltdown of 2008 in the
Middle East and North Africa had a consequently global economic crisis which led
to rising food prices, resulting in strikes and street protests in Egypt. There
and elsewhere in the region, the mixture of high unemployment, high cost of
living, and authoritarian rule heightened popular frustration. The protests
then spread quickly to Morocco in February 2011 in a rush to get justice from
the authoritarian regimes. The protests sparked elections in Tunisia, Morocco
and Egypt.  Despite the uprisings that led to the Arab
Spring; Egypt, Libya, or Tunisia under the dictatorships of Mubarak, Qadhafi,
and Ben Ali, these countries have never had a fully institutionalised
totalitarian regime.

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democratisation theory lends itself to the early modernisation approach of the
1950’s and 1960’s. Seymour Martin Lipset argued in 1959 through his
modernisation approach, the importance of various social and economic aspects
are essential to either liberal democracies or are required for
democratisation. He demonstrated and directly linked democracy to the
socio-economic development of modernisation of a country. He classified large
groups of states in categories: stable and unstable democracies and
dictatorships. He consequently compared them in terms of wealth and levels of industrialisation, education and urbanisation. The modernisation approach argued that
beyond certain thresholds of economic development, societies became too
multifaceted and socially organised to be governed by authoritarian means.

The modernisation approach exhibited that countries of
a high income were more likely to be democratic and rising urbanisation,
literacy and non agricultural employment which are indicators of social
mobilisation were associated with a heightened tendency to political participation.
The modernisation approach however has problems in identifying the precipices
of modernisation required for democracy and beyond which authoritarianism
ceases to be feasible. In addition, modernisation levels are not conclusive and
they constitute to an environment that may be more or less facilitative of
certain kinds of regime, preventing democracy only at the very lowest levels
and authoritarianism only at the very highest levels. Consequently, the
modernisation approach can merely suggest that middle-income levels
representative of the contemporary Middle East, democratisation is possible by
no means necessary but it also exhibits about what conditions allow
authoritarianism to remain possible at such levels.

As a direct challenge to Lipset’s thesis both in terms
of the approach and the essence of the arguments used, Dankwurt Rustow had claimed
that factors that stabilise a democratic regime ‘may not be the ones that brought it into existence’ and that many paths
to democracy may exist. He further went on to say democratisation need not be a
‘socially uniform’ process and that the views of citizens may differ from the
views of the politicians who live in the same place at the same time. The
relevance of the democratisation theory seems more questionable in the Middle
East and Northern Africa. Some have always regarded the region as exceptionally
culturally resistant to democratisation and the Middle East’s and North
Africa’s early liberal regimes quickly gave way to seemingly tough
authoritarianism after independence. Despite this, many scholars identified a
growing demand for democratisation and some movement towards it in the 1990s.

the vagueness, the Middle East and North Africa can be interpreted to be
generally compatible with the argument that modernisation matters. Nonetheless,
because democratisation did not happen in the Middle East and North Africa at
the income levels that produced some democratisation somewhere else, some may
argue that the cultural exceptionalism has decreased the relationship between
increased development and increased democratisation. Islam is no restriction to
democratisation. Islamic parties in many countries have illustrated a support
for democracy by participating in elections, however they are only likely to be
an obstacle to democratisation when radicalised. The association of higher
levels of modernisation indicators such as literacy and modern employment with
higher political awareness holds no less in the Middle East and North Africa than
elsewhere and modern Islamism makes a positive religious duty of public

culture and religion has two impacts. It is important in terms of shaping
notions of political legitimacy and it is also plausible to say that Islamic
traditions accept authoritarian leadership as long as it seems to serve the
collective interest of the community as well as defending them from outside
threats and deliver welfare which makes people feel entitled. This essentially populist
idea of leadership legitimacy is likely to be tolerant of populist versions of
authoritarian rule.
Islamic concepts of leadership do also integrate accountability, and nowadays
when authoritarian leadership fails to live up to Islamic standards it suffers
de-legitimation widely, with Muslims forming or joining opposition movements. In
the Middle East and North Africa, conceptions of legitimacy are hardly fixed
and they have not been unaffected by beliefs that procedural practices of
electoral democracy might be the best way to ensure against leadership
departure from the legitimate model.

second impact of culture or religion can originate from the popularity of
traditional loyalties. Some may argue that these make it harder to assemble
strong political parties or an international civil society. On the other hand
some may also argue those authoritarian regimes or its leaders had manipulated
this. In short, Middle Eastern and Northern African culture is regarded as not
an independent variable which obstructs democratisation but as an intervening variable
in which formations of legitimacy are more tolerant of authoritarian leadership
under certain conditions.

the Middle East and North Africa, modernisation was associated with new classes
developed from import-export business. The destabilisation of early democracies
resulted from the radicalisation of new middle classes. Even in the states with
the longest democratic experiences, military intervention in Turkey and civil
war in Lebanon could be linked to the inability of semi-democratic institutions
to incorporate newly mobilised social forces. Another obstacle to democratisation
is the disparity between state and identity from disorganised territorial
boundaries under imperialism. Rustow argued that the consolidation of national
identity was the first requisite stage in democratic transition; without this,
electoral competition would only intensify communal conflict.

the Middle East and North Africa the disintegration of the Arab world into a
multitude of small weak states was the persistence of sub- and supra-state
identities that weakened the identification with the state that was needed for
stable democracy. In these conditions it’s easier for states to resort to authoritarian
solutions where political mobilisation tends to worsen communal conflict or
empower movements threatening the integrity of the state. In addition, the Arab
Spring highlighted the division of small weak states and the need for democracy
as well as overcoming disunity. For
this reason, the main popular political movements, namely pan-Arabism and
political Islamists, have been inattentive with identity, unity and
authenticity, not democratisation. Where they have seized state power,
state-building has often taken an authoritarian form, with leaders seeking
legitimacy, not through democratic consent but through the championing of
identity; Arabism and Islam who are against imperialism and other enemies. The
demand for democratisation cannot be met when the political forces that would
lead the fight for it have been diverted into other concerns.

more result of the way state systems were imposed was due to artificial
boundaries that built irredentism to the states system. This in turn meant that
new states were being caught between security predicaments in which many others
perceived as a threat. Among the Arab states the threats led to forms of
ideological rebellions. The civil wars between states in the Middle East also exemplified
the wars over identity, territory and security. The insecurity and war has
naturally paved way to the rise of national security states being hostile
towards democratisation. The Arab Spring demonstrated its lack of ‘transition’
into modernisation hence the obstacles to democratisation. The combination of
population growth and increased social mobilisation meant the increased
economic inequality amongst states suffering political identity makes for an
undemocratic environment.

Moore looked to social structure to explain political paths that states take.
In its simplest terms, social structural analysis argues that democracy requires
a balance between the state/ruler and independent classes, in which the state
is neither wholly autonomous of dominant classes nor captured by them, allowing
a space within which civil society can thrive. Despite this, thorough
transformation of social structure emerges only at high levels of

modernisation has stimulated social mobility, it had also increased the growth
of the educated middle class across the region and this class was initially the
product of and dependent on the state. The special feature of the Middle East’s
political economy, namely rentierism, shapes a certain regional exceptionalism.
In many cases where large amounts of rent amass to the state and are
distributed as jobs and welfare benefits, ordinary people become highly
dependent on the state for their livelihoods therefore, not being required to
pay taxes, are discouraged from mobilisation to demand representation. At the
same time, the dependence of regimes on external sources of rent, whether oil
revenues or aid, attaches the interests of leaders to external markets and
states and shields them from accountability to their populations.

in 2005, argues that oil wealth leads to a misrepresentation of economic
development on democratisation in oil-rich countries, not to a special kind of
rentier authoritarianism. Most bystanders have recognised the difference
between Islam and authoritarianism to traditional values held by individual
Muslims. Most research also agrees that countries with oil and Muslim
populations are less likely to be democratic. It is also confirmed that
countries with highly educated populations are more likely to be democratic. Democracy
should be seen as a comprehensive and ongoing process at different levels of
social existence.

Turkey, the one successful democratic transition in the Arab
Spring suggests what conditions might assist it. Turkey’s agreement between
identity and territory provided the country with a national identity as well as
clarity that democratisation can work and is less risky compared to other Arab
states. Turkey was still not spared periodic
democratic breakdown, but coups have always been brief and aimed at restoring
an elitist version of democracy.

summary, authoritarianism is the main form of governance in the Middle East for
several reasons. The extreme hostile structural conditions that limit
modernisation as well as national problems, in particular class organisation. The
authoritarian leaders have also found the resources to help build stronger
modernised forms of authoritarianism compatible with their environments. These
regimes have also assembled institutions incorporating forces that enable them
to manage their societies.

paths to democratization are possible. If reformist authoritarian regimes can
deliver increased rule of law, better regulatory frameworks, educational
reforms and merit-based recruitment to the bureaucracy, they could precipitate
the investment and economic growth needed to expand the middle class, civil
society and an independent bourgeoisie, while increasing regime legitimacy and
dampening Islamist radicalism. This would create conditions similar to those
that precipitated democratic transition in East Asia. However, this scenario of
enhanced regime legitimacy and growing investment confidence is implausible
without a resolution of the national problem. That resolution depends on
policies outside the control of the Middle East, namely a change in the
intrusive and biased Middle East policies of the US hegemon. Democracy would
still only come about after a long-term evolution. A second pathway, ‘from
below’, is also possible. Assuming that the liabilities of incumbent regimes
remain unresolved, regime collapse might provide the conditions for a
negotiated democratization pact cutting across the state–society divide.
However, as the Iraq case suggests, if this scenario is delivered as a
by-product of US intervention or pressure the outcome may well be anarchy, not

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