Chapter I: The State
Theoretical Framework and Arab State


“There can be no ‘general state theory’. There can only be state structures formed by the contingencies of social developments.”3

One of the main problems of studying the state is the absence of any standard definition or theory that can serve as base for building a general hypothesis. Anyone who is interested in studying the state finds himself before a mass of theories and definitions that reflect in some part the author’s own perspective, and in part the empirical reality of the case under investigation.


Another problem in studying the state is related to the history of state formation, or to when the state emerged. This problem is basically connected to the first one. The lack of consensus among scholars as regards what the state is has led to the emergence of different histories of state formation. Some authors claim that the state had emerged before several thousands years ago, while others claim that the state in its current modern form emerged in the 19th century with the full blooming of capitalism at the expense of the land-based feudal system.

These authors assert that the full bloom of capitalism, marked by the rapid development of trade and communications and emergence of a market economy, gave rise to new social forces such as the bourgeoisie, merchants, bankers, and civil servants. These socio-economic developments manifested themselves politically and led to increasing demands for extending political, civil, and social rights, phenomena which made it necessary to re-conceptualize the relationship between society and political authority.4

Accordingly, a new form of politics emerged. The nation-state as a relatively autonomous, differentiated, centralized, and separate association came into existence for the first time. Such a state gradually expanded the ranks of citizenship to include all the excluded social groups, and made it possible for an individual to stand in direct relationship with the sovereign political authority, a fact which contrasted with the feudal system, where such direct relationship was limited only to specific social groups (groups of nobles and clergy, for example).5


The impact of the 19th century’s socio-economic developments was not limited to these realms, but also extended to include other realms of thought, particularly political thought. Thatcentury’s socio-economic developments had shifted the political focus from the individual (for example, the political thought of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau) to the structure of society. This shift in political thought expressed itself in the political ideas of Karl Marx (1818-1883), Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), Max Weber (1864-1920), and others.

These thinkers had basically devoted themselves to study of the new socio-economic transformations in Europe, and their political manifestations, in particular the newly emerging political identity (the capitalist state) and its relationship to society. It is not the aim here to review the ideas of these thinkers on the state, as that goes beyond the scope of this dissertation, but it is worth mentioning Karl Marx's and Max Weber’s contributions to theories of the state, as their ideas formed the departure point for most of the 20th century’s theories of the state.

The Marxist Perspective versus the Weberian One

A brief survey of Marxist and Weberian political thought will show clearly how such thought is developmental, and conceives history in a dynamic way. This dynamic vision of history had, in fact, shaped both Marx's and Weber’s notion of the state. The state for them is the apparatus of government, administration, and an instrument of coercion, and is in a continuous developmental process.


Marx considered the society’s mode of production, more specifically the production relations, as the basic foundation on which the political and other institutions arise.6 Accordingly, the state as a political institution is, for him, a manifestation of the dominant mode of production within the society, and varies according to variation in this mode of production. The state in this sense serves the interest of the economically dominant class, which manages to control the civil bureaucracy as well as the military and police apparatus. Therefore, the state in pursuing its policy becomes fully guided (not autonomous) by the interests of this class. State policy is the political expression of such interest.

On the other hand, Weber believes that the state has its own interest totally separate from the interest of any social group within the society. The state, according to him, emerges as part of a general trend toward rationalizing the society according to impersonal, universal, and general rules. In this sense the state is understood as a rationalized bureaucratic organization working according to general, universal, and impersonal rules that are devoted to specific ends established by the state itself. These rules make the state immune from the influence of society. In implementing these rules the state tends to monopolize the means of coercion within well-defined territories.7 The state according to this concept is fully autonomous in pursuing its own policy and is not subject to the influence of any social force/class within the society, as in the case of the Marxist concept.

Clearly, the two notions converge on what the state is, but they separate when it comes to the relationship between state and society. While the Marxist notion reduces the state to a specific social force/class within the society, and identifies coercive force as the essence of the state for protecting the interest of the said social force/class, the Weberian one regards the state as neutral. It emerges within the context of a general sociological process rationalizing society according to legal rules and principles. Such rules and principles constitute the essence of the state, and coercive force comes as a necessity to preserve these means of protecting society’s welfare.

The 20th Century’s State Theories


Most of the 20th century’s theories of the state are built on either Marx's or Weber’s notion of the state. Antoni Gramsci (1891-1937), drawing on Marx, conceived the state as an instrument in the hands of the dominant class and for the serving of it, but he expanded the means of social control to include ideological means alongside the coercive ones. Accordingly, Gramsci introduced us to his concept of ‘Hegemony’, by which he meant "A mode of social control through which one group exerts its dominance over others by means of ideology. “8

For Gramsci coercion secures state domination over society, but it does not secure state hegemony. To achieve hegemony over society, coercion should be complemented by ideological means of domination. Only this would enable state to gain the cultural and political support of the subordinated groups. Consequently, Gramsci provided the state as,


"the entire complex of practical and theoretical activities with which the ruling class not only maintains its dominance but manages to win the consent of those over whom it rules.” Thus, state is “political society plus civil society” or in other words, “hegemony protected by the armour of coercion”.9

Gramsci did not discuss how such a capitalist state comes into being. He was more interested in analyzing the relationship between state and society, than in explaining the process by which this state comes into being.

Paul M. Sweezy, too, in his Modern Capital and other essays argued the state as an instrument in the hands of the economically dominant class. In this regard he wrote,


"...The continued existence of monopoly capitalism depends on the existence or creation of sufficiently strong counteracting forces to permit the system to operate at a politically tolerable level of production and employment...; this therefore becomes increasingly the responsibility of the state, which, as noted above, has its primary task in assuring the smooth functioning of the accumulation process."10

Like Gramsci, Sweezy was not interested in studying the process through which the capitalist state emerges. His interest was in the international capitalist system, and in how such a system had developed during the 20th century.


Charles Tilly, in his distinguished essay entitled Reflections on the History of European State Making, 11focused on the process through which the state comes into being. According to him, the main engine of building the state is tax extraction for military purposes. Military purposes necessitated the process of tax extraction, which in turn necessitated the process of establishing bureaucratic staff to extract tax, and to manage and coordinate the flow of revenue to the state. Army establishments are crucial in this context. They produce the means to support government control over the population, to promote territorial consolidation, centralization, differentiation of the governmental apparatus from other organizations, and monopolization of the means of coercive force. Accordingly, Tilly, based on Weber,introduced the state as

"an organization which controls the population occupying defined territory is a state in so far as (1) it is differentiated from other organizations operating in the same territory; (2) it is autonomous; (3) it is centralized; and (4) its divisions are formally coordinated with one another."12


Theda Skocpol in her Theory of Revolution agreed with Tilly on tax extraction as the main motor of state building, and strongly emphasized, in this regard, the administrative and coercive organization as the most important aspects of any state. The state, she declared, is

"A set of administrative, policing, and military organizations headed, and more or less well coordinated by, an executive authority. Any state first and fundamentally extracts resources from society and deploys these to create and support coercive and administrative organizations.13


Michael Mann accepted the coercive force as an aspect of the state, but he refused to consider it, as was the case with Skocpol, as basis of the state. Instead, he highly emphasized the monopoly of making binding rules, and the centralized functional institutions, as the most important foundations of any state. The state, he wrote, is

A differentiated set of institutions and personnel embodying

Centrality in the sense that political forces radiate outwards from a center to cover


A territorially demarcated area, over which it exercises

A monopoly of authoritative, binding rule-making, backed up by a monopoly of the means of physical violence.14

Joel S. Migdal emphasized also these binding rules as the base of any state. In this regard, he cited the state as an organization that had as its major function


"…To make and implement the binding rules for all the people as well as the parameters of rule making for other social organizations in a given territory, using force if necessary to have its way."15

Clearly, the underlying assumption of the Weberian perspective is that the state is differentiated, distinctive, separate from society, and strong enough to lead it. There is no space within this perspective for society to influence state. Society is always seen as a dependent variable while state is an independent one. In other words, the state is the entity that is responsible for solving the crucial questions concerning society, and in creating historical changes.

Towards an Advanced Definition of the State


The above brief survey of state theories shows the basic conditions of any modern state. Evidently, any organization which controls a given population in a well-defined territory, and has the ability to issue binding rules for its population and to monopolize the levers of coercion, is called a state. Given those basic features of a state, scholars might vary in their perception of the relationship between state and society. The Marxist perspective is extremely reductive in the sense that it conceives the nature of the state-society relationship to be rooted in the economic structure. At the same time, the Weberian perspective is extremely static in the sense that it conceives the state to be an undifferentiated entity with a homogenous interest.

Bo Strath and Rolf Torstendahl in their State Theory and State Development 16 rejected the Marxist and Weberian perspectives on the state-society relationship, and developed a new perspective on that relationship. In doing so, they traced how the state had developed since 1800, from the early capitalist state until it reached its current form of modern welfare state. After explaining how the state had developed to its current form, they arrived at a more holistic, reciprocal, and dynamic vision of the state-society relationship.

According to them, the form of any state is not the outcome of the interest of a specific social force/class, or the state agents’ interest. The state can not be reduced to a specific social force/class, nor yet can it be reduced to the interest of state agents. Rather, the state's form is the outcome of the reciprocal influences of social forces/classes and state agents. In other words, the state is influenced by the interests of different social forces/classes within the society, but it is not a mirror of such interests, since it reflects also the interest of state agents. In this sense the state is autonomous but, at the same time, influenced by the society.


Charles Bright & Susan Harding highlighted also the influence of social forces on the state, as they consider state building to be a question of state agents’ initiatives, as well as of social forces reacting to such initiatives. But, they added the competition between the politicians and bureaucratic agents, who can develop and defend their own interest in the face of the politicians, as another factor that influences the form of a state. The state, according to them, is

"A distinct realm of structural political relations that is defined by contentions along its boundaries and among politicians and bureaucrats who, in competing for office and influence, rework social and economic conflict into political terms. These contentions both define the state vis-à-vis other social and economic institutions and continually re-make the state.17


Although Charles Bright & Susan Harding highlighted the state as a differentiated organization that formed two competitive parts, the bureaucracy and the politicians, they remained unable to explain how these two parts might be influenced in different degrees by different social groups or forces, an issue which is heavily emphasized by Joel S. Migdal in his State in Society: an approach to struggle for domination. 18

Migdal went a step further and regarded the state as an organization formed of not just two parts, but of many different parts with different interests. These parts, according to him, are in a continuous competitive engagement with other social forces. Such engagement includes the top policy makers, legislators, law enforcement personnel (executive bodies), the state’s policy implementation structure (bureaucracy system), and so on. The new contribution of Migdal is his assertion that through such engagement the different parts of the state, according to different interests they encompass, react and responds differently to the pressures they are exposed to.

The overall reactions of different parts of the state and different social forces resulting from such competitive engagement decide the pattern of domination in the society. It decides the extent to which the state can assume a full coherent domination and complete control over society, and thus act in a coherent fashion (integrated domination or centralization), or to which neither the state nor any other social forces have full domination in the country (non-integrated or dispersed domination or decentralization).


Generally speaking, the state is seen as an organization that monopolizes coercion as a means to support its major function of issuing binding rules for a given population occupying a given territory. For Charles Bright & Susan Harding (1984) and Bo Strath & Rolf Torstendahl (1992) the state must not be seen in a static way. Rather, the state is placed in a social context that influences and is influenced by it, and therefore affects the state's form. Also the state must be placed within its international environment, which also influences its form. For Migdal (1994), moreover, the state must be seen not in a coherent, but in a heterogeneous fashion, in which its different agencies exhibit different interests and continuously interact with other social forces in the society.

Accordingly, and drawing on the above-mentioned scholars’ discussion, it’s possible to conclude the state as an organization that

  1. Monopolizes coercive force and has extractive capacity (tax collection).
  2. Constitutes the ultimate source of the legally binding rules for the population.
  3. Works in a well-defined territory.
  4. Controls the population which occupies this territory.
  5. Forms agencies with different interests.
  6. Locates within a social context which it influences and by which it is influenced.
  7. Engages in international activities.


Conceiving of the state according to the above-mentioned paradigm sheds light on issues that lie at the heart of any state. Issues such as state differentiation, state agency coordination, autonomy, and centralization seem to be, as Tilly emphasized, a major criterion by which one can judge the degree of statehood in any country.19

The process of statehood necessitates the establishment of well-coordinated agencies (legislative, executive, judicial agencies) that are differentiated from other economic or social organizations within the society, a task that is heavily connected with state autonomy. State autonomy seems to be an extremely vague concept.

For example, Charles Bright & Susan Harding stressed that state autonomy lay in its ability to self-regulate, in the sense that it was governed by its own law, and not influenced by other internal or external forces.20


Joel Migdal sheds light on the actions of state officials, considering the state to be autonomous when state officials have the capacity to act upon their own preferences.21

Bo Strath and Rolf Torstendahl refused to consider state autonomy as an empirically-oriented concept, rather asserting that state autonomy is an “amorphous” concept.22

Theda Skocpol rejected such an idea, asserting that the state can be, to some extent, autonomous, and this can be measured by looking at the administrative and military institutions of the state. These institutions, she had emphasized, are the basis of state power (as the resources in the society are extracted for them), and have the potential of being autonomous (in their relationship to the social forces, and in their relationship to other states). To what extent they are autonomous can be explained " terms specific to particular types of socio-political systems and to particular sets of historical international circumstances."23


The concept of state centralization seems to be strongly related to the concept of state autonomy. State centralization, in the sense of its ability to get its people to obey its rulesand to absorb and monopolize them toward its legal and moral framework, seems to be the normative foundation of state power, or what Michael Mann called the “infrastructural power”.24 According to Mann the source of the state’s real power is to be found not in its ability to monopolize the sources of coercive force, but in its ability to penetrate the society and to implement its authoritative legal rules throughout the whole society, in a way that secures the dominance of such rules over any other rules within the society. The state’s authoritative legal rules must triumph over any ethnic, clan, familial, or any other social-force-based rules (primacy).

State in the Arab World

The previous debate over the nature of the state and its relation with society is, in fact, Eurocentric. It reflects a specific historical European context, in particular the context of feudalism, in which power was fused between long-established nobles, who enjoyed specific privileges in their relationship with the central authority (the king), and their relationship with their subjects (serfs). A group of a reciprocal rights and duties resting on customary law had organized the above-mentioned two relationships. 25

The decentralized nature of feudalism created equal and competitive power centers (the estate). Each power centre was controlled by a noble class, and constituted an autonomous political unit. The basic social organization of such system was the peasantry society engaged in subsistence production as the dominant mode of production. The political decentralization of the feudal system was associated with non-concentration of the land-surplus in the hand of specific social forces. The three basic social forces of this system (peasants, the noble class, and King together with the church) shared, with varying degrees, land surplus.


The dominance of such modes of production, and the absence of any parallel modes of production (such as the tribal mode of production), were, according to Tilly, the necessary historical conditions that made it possible for the nation-state to emerge in Europe,26 since it introduced a unified ideological superstructure (the peasant culture), among Europeans. Hence, when the state emerged it emerged as a manifestation of the European ruling class’s attempts to accentuate the diversity of European societies (or to accentuate the notion of “We”). That is why it is possible now to talk about the French nation-state, the German nation-state, and so on.

While the historical economic infrastructure of Europe promoted horizontal power relations, and consequently, produced nation-states with a major emphasis on the individual as a self-standing entity, the historical economic infrastructure of the Arab world promoted vertical power relations, and consequently, produced empires with major emphasis on the individual. However, this individual was not regarded as a self-standing entity, but rather as “part of the whole”.

With the exception of Egypt, which has a long history of a peasant society, most of the Arab World experienced the tribal social formation. The economic infrastructure of this social formation (pastoral activities) produced a cultural superstructure in which the group constituted the “basis for identity, political allegiance, and behavior” and the “…personal, moral, and ascriptive factors…”27 constituted the basis for individual status.


Without exception, Arab tribes were linked by blood lineage, or what Ibn Khaldun called asabiyya.28 It was this biological linkage (asabiyya) which enabled the Arab tribes in the Gulf countries to extract the Khawa (tribute) under the threat of sword from merchants carrying out long-distance trade activities.29 And it was the one which enabled tribes in North Africa (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia) to raid urban centers, and confiscate their treasures. The important factor here is that this tribal social formation does not imply, as Nazih Ayubi observed, the traditional Marxist correspondence between the mode of production (infrastructure), and the political and ideological superstructures.30 Indeed, the absence of the mode of production that distinguishes this tribal formation (pastoral economy) does not imply, for example, the absence of the cultural manifestation of this mode, or the political pattern associated with it, in spite of the fact that this cultural manifestation and political pattern, might take different forms.

With the introduction of Islam in the seventh century the tribal cohesion or blood cohesion was subjected to a process of Islamization. In other words, most of the Arab tribes were reorganized within the framework of the newly emerged Islamic umma governed by the new religious rules and principles. These rules and principles were derived from the Shari’a which is derived from the Muslim holy book (the Qur’an), the Islamic Sunni (denotes Prophet Muhammad’s sayings, actions, and orders-“Hadith”), and the Muslim jurists ijma‘(consensus).31 The Shari’a formed a new “legal” recourse to unite all Arab tribes within the framework of the Islamic Umma (Islamic community).

Though Prophet Mohammad succeeded in recruiting the traditional asabiyya for his cause (the Islam), his success in this respect was short-lived. Islamic history shows clearly how this asabiyya was re-born again after Mohammad’s death and played a significant role in the creation of the Islamic-dynasty-based empires such as the Umayyad (AD 660-750), and Abbasid (AD 750-1258) empires, and finally the Ottoman empire, which could take control over most of the Arab world in 16th and 17th centuries, and then ruled it for about 400 years.32


With the rise of Ottomans to power, and their success in diffusing their rule over most of the Arab world, Arabs, for the first time since the introduction of Islam, lost control over their future, and their fate became very much connected to the fate of another race (Ottomans). During the first half of the 19th century, Ottomans underwent significant developments, the most important of which was the rebellion of the Wali of Egypt, Mohammad Ali, against the central authority in Istanbul.

The event strongly alarmed Ottomans who, since then, have exhibited deep concern over the emergence of a centre of political activities or opposition to their rule. Driven by this concern, and seeking military support, Ottomans forged alliances with Western powers (mainly Britain). In exchange for this support, Ottomans bowed to Western powers’ demands and signed the “Treaty of Free Trade and Friendship” in 1838.33 The treaty, which diminished Ottoman’s control over their economy, left the territories of the empire open to foreign products and investment,34 and consequently, initiated the crystallization of the empire’s economy as a peripheral one in the international economic system.

The incorporation of the Ottoman Empire into the international economic system broke the basic foundations of the empire’s political economy, and left the Ottomans unable to control the production and distribution of the economic surplus, as was the case before 1838 (within the context of the Asiatic mode of production which was followed by Ottomans).35 The response of the Ottomans to this development was a group of reform measures (Tanzimat) which sought to change the mode of organization of the state apparatus. But these measures were inspired by the Western model, and thus, were alien from the socioeconomic infrastructure of the empire.


This fact brought state into conflict with local population who perceived the tanzimat as a radical break in the basic foundation of the empire.36 As a result, the state started to loose its legitimacy in the eyes of its inhabitants, in a way that enabled Western powers to subject most of the Gulf countries to their tutelage, and later, in the last two decades of the 19th century, to occupy most of the Arab Countries in North Africa. The growingweaknessof the empire was further manifested in the emergence of separatist national movements during the first decade of 20th century. The most notable of these movements was the “Young Turks” which advocated the turkization of the empire, and opposed the autocratic regime of Sultan Abdellhamid. In 1908, this movement revolted against the Abdellhamid regime, and succeeded in seizing power.37

The success of the Young Turks in seizing power became a standard-bearing example for other nations of the empire, among which was the Arab nation. Accordingly, Pan-Arabic organizations and movements started to appear on the scene from then onward. The most notable of these organizations and movements was El Qahtaniya (founded in 1909 by group of Arab officers of high rank in the Ottoman army), Al Fatah (founded by a group of young students in Paris in 1911) and the “Ottoman decentralization Party” (founded in 1912 by group of Arab activists).38 All of these movements and organizations emphasized the particular nature of Arabs as an ethnic group with a similar history, language, culture, religion, and so forth.

This emphasis was the instrument through which these organizations and movements sought to legitimize their demands either in an independent Arab state or some self-rule arrangements. Towards this end, Sharif Hussein, the member of Hashemite clan to which the Prophet Muhammad belonged, and the guardian of the holy places in the Arabian Peninsula, engaged in secrete negotiations with the British commissioner to Egypt, Sir. Henry McMahon.


Through these negotiations, which took the form of an exchange of letters between the two men, Hussein sought to enlist Britain on the side of his demands for an independent Arab monarchy under his throne, in exchange for uprising against the Ottoman regime, which became one of Britain’s foes due to its alliance with Germany, the chief foe for Britain during the First World War. In the period of July 1915- to January 1916, eight letters were exchanged between Hussein and McMahon.

The most notable of these letters was the one dated on 24 October, 1915. In this letter, McMahon declared British support for the establishment of an independent Arab state in the territories covering Greater Syria (excluding the portions located to the West of Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo), most of Iraq, as well as the Arabian Peninsula (except Aden).39 But all of these letters were to no avail, as in May 1916 Britain secretively signed the so called Sykes-Picot agreement with France. The agreement divided the Arab East into areas of direct and indirect control under France and Britain, and consequently, completed colonial control over the whole of the Arab world.

The post-War San Rimo peace conference in 1920 formally recognized mandatory rights of Britain to Palestine, Iraq, and Transjordan, and of France to Syria, and Lebanon. The legitimacy of these mandates was secured by the ratification of the League of Nations in July 1922. Once they assumed their rule over the region the colonial powers sought to create a new geographical, economic, and political reality adequate to their own knowledge and needs. The aim was to weaken the Pan-Arabism scheme in favour of the Western-based national state scheme.

The Post-Colonial Arab State: A state against Society


The above-mentioned historical overview shows clearly that the Arab state, in the Western sense, was the outcome of two interrelated variables: the dissolution of the last Islamic empire (Ottoman Empire) and the subsequent rise of Western colonial hegemony in the region. Among the most notable impacts of the colonial era was the imposition of artificial borders, and the significant reform in the socioeconomic infrastructure of the region. As Ayubi observed, the colonial powers were “…the most instrumental in drawing up boundaries in roughly their present form, in redirecting economic relations away from the Middle East and towards defining - often very artificially - the units that were to be singled out as distinct states”40

The new borders were, therefore, the geographical manifestations of more profound changes in the basic premises of the political economy. The most notable of these changes, Samir Amin argues, resulted from the colonial policy of redirecting the economy, in particular the agriculture sector, to the needs of international economic system. Most of the colonial powers, Amin asserted, sought to privatize the system of land ownership, and consequently, redistributed land among those who exhibited readiness to cooperate, mostly among tribal Sheikhs and urban notables. 41

All related sectors necessary for promoting agricultural commercialization were developed: railways were built, roads, irrigation networks were established or improved, and credit institutions emerged. In addition, some forms of parliamentary democracy were advanced, but the access to political life remained confined to special stratum within the society; tribal sheikhs, urban notables (in the Arab East mainly), and the aristocratic class (mainly in Egypt).


When Arab states gained independence after the Second World War, a large number of them tended to eliminate the economic and political legacy of the colonial era (e.g., the life of the semi-parties). This trend was obvious in countries like Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Iraq, and Syria, in the period of 1950s-1970.42 In these countries, where the nationalists (e.g., the Free Officers in Egypt, National Liberation Front in Algeria, the Ba’ath in Syria and Iraq, the regime of Habib Bourguiba in Tunisia) replaced traditional tribal Sheikhs and semi-aristocratic classes in power. The nationalists were driven by a desire to promote economic development for the welfare of the people and so adopted a state-led import-substitution scheme.

Large scale industrialization programs, therefore, were advanced, and hence, bureaucracy was expanded so that the state would be able to assume control over economy.43 To meet the increasing demand of the expanded bureaucracy for civil servants, education was encouraged, and made available to lower classes. While the state assumed control over the industrial sector, it tended to assume control also over the agricultural sector.

Without exception, all countries in this case brought a considerable amount of agricultural land under state control as a means to break away from the unfair colonial distribution of land, which enabled about 1% of the population in Egypt to control 70% of the cultivatable land, and 3% of Iraqi landowners to control about 66% of the agriculture land, and one Syrian family to control 36 villages!44


The nationalists did not only seek to break away from the economic arrangements of the colonial era, but also from the political arrangements as well. Once they assumed power, they set up a single-party regime, and made their party the only legitimate institution (e.g., the National Union and later the Arab Socialist Union in Egypt, the Neo-Destour in Tunisia which was renamed Parti Socialist Destourien “PSD” in 1964, National Liberation Front in Algeria, and the Ba’ath in Syria and Iraq) for political participation. All other political parties were dissolved, or declared illegal. Other forms of horizontal associations like the functional associations (agricultural associations, women’s associations, industrial association, and so forth) were either co-opted within the regime, or, in case they challenged the regime (through opposing the hegemony of the single party over the political life) declared against the national interest.45

The appeal to national interest was one tool among so many other tools used by these nationalists to preserve their regime. The most important of these tools is the military. Having arrived at power mostly through military coups, most of these nationalists sought to prevent the development of the military outside of their control, in order to prevent a possible counter-coup.46 The method to achieve this goal was the carrot policy. Through this policy, they permitted generals and other members of the military to enter civilian economic and political life, and consequently, promoted common interest between technocrats and generals who forged alliances with each other in support of the status-quo (the single-party regime). In so doing, they kept the military at their disposal, and furthermore, mobilized it to serve their oppressive policy toward society.

In Gulf Countries, and unlike the above-mentioned countries which experienced single-party rule in the period of 1950s-1970, family rule dominated. The root of this rule is dated back to the last decade of the second half of 19th century, when Britain succeeded in occupying Aden in 1839, and thereafter started to assume gradual control over the main traffic through world trade routes. With this control, Britain was able to impose the capitalist mode of trade over long-distance trade, the latter of which had dominated the region for hundreds of years. Though the introduction of the capitalist mode of trade was received with opposition by some dynasties, other dynasties tolerated this development, and consequently were promoted to power under the protection and tutelage of Britain.47


The state emerged, therefore, as the outcome of the interaction between two variables: the withdrawal of long distance trade in favor of the capitalist mode of trade, and second, the alliance of Britain with some cooperative dynasties. These dynasties are the ones which assumed rule over Gulf countries, since then until the present day. Concerning Saudia Arabia, it can be claimed that the emergence of the state there was the outcome of the alliance between religion and chiefdom. Unlike other Gulf countries in which tribal chieftains depended on trade as major source of revenue, Saudia Arabia’s tribal chieftains depended on pilgrims as the main sources of revenue.

When the founder of Saudia Arabia Abdel Aziz Ibn Saud was born in 1882, the area was under control by the Rashid clan, the main rival of the Saud clan; which experienced weakness in the early 19th century due to the fragmentation of its main ally, the Wahabi Islamic reform movement founded by Muhammad Abdel El Wahab in 18th century. In 1906, Ibn Saud managed to defeat the Rashid clan, and consequently, removed the main obstacle in his way to build his kingdom. Ibn Saud’s remarkable war skills were backed by his success in introducing himself as a religious leader when he founded the Ikhwan (Brotherhood) movement as a renewed version of the Wahabi movement. In so doing, Ibn Saud succeeded in gaining other tribes’ loyalty, and hence, was able to extend his control over the whole of Saudia Arabia by 1934.48

Together with the Gulf sheikhdoms, alongside Moroccan and Jordanian Monarchs, Ibn Saud adopted a family rule characterized by “a great concentration of highly personalized power, a marked reluctance to permit the existence of political parties, trade unions or similar organizations (except in Morocco), limited social mobilization and a basic commitment to private economic enterprise”.49


In essence, thus, the family regime which emerged in the Gulf countries, Saudia Arabia, Jordan, and Morocco, did not differ from the single-party regime which emerged in the Arab East, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt in 1950s-1970. Both regimes extended state control over the economy, abrogated the development of any horizontal associations far from their control, monopolized access to political power, and expanded the size of the central government apparatus (e.g., the bureaucracy). Despite this, both of them used different tools to preserve their regime.

While the single-party regimes in the Arab East, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt relied upon the myth of “national security”, coupled with military and intelligence services to preserve their regime, the Gulf Sheikhdoms and Arab monarchs relied upon the myth of noble family lineage, noble deeds, and descent from Prophet Mohammad (Morocco and Jordan are good examples) to preserve their regime.

Alongside the claimed noble lineage and other subjective factors, the Gulf Sheikhdoms and Arab monarchs managed to develop a clear mechanism of succession, and consequently, kept intra-family rivalry at minimum. In addition to this, all of them kept control over the main and sensitive positions in the state. Members of these families occupied positions like Minister of Defense, Foreign Minister, Minister of Interior, and so forth. Furthermore, most of them forged alliances with the main traditional elements in society (big tribes for example) that have traditionally been reluctant to any form of modern horizontal associations (political parties, functional associations, and so forth) and hence, had interests in the ongoing political arrangements (the family rule).50


With the oil boom in the 1970s, these families (excluding the Hashemite and Alawi families in Jordan and Morocco respectively) were endowed with additional resources in support of their rule. Through oil revenues they were able to limit, even end altogether, their dependence on citizens as a source of revenue (through taxes), and consequently, they could assume full autonomy from society. At the same time, oil revenues enabled these families to buy off the allegiance of their citizens through providing them with the necessary public goods and services (education, health, security, social security, infrastructure, and so forth) without asking for any taxes (or asking for minimum taxes). This promoted a situation where citizens, as Hazem Beblawi argues, are:

“…far less demanding in terms of public participation. The history of democracy owes its beginnings, it is well known, to some fiscal association (no taxation without representation). The government’s budget in the oil states remains a one-sided document, an expenditure programme, a promise to spend money and distribute benefits to the population with virtually no levy on them in terms of taxes or similar impositions.”51


States in Gulf Countries and Saudia Arabia emerged, thus, as a typical model of a Rentier state. Here we are talking about a state in which the government’s main function is to allocate revenue accruing to it - not because it shared in producing this revenue, but because it leased or rented its territories to foreign productive forces to produce this revenue. Though all states perform or seek to perform an allocative function, allocation for Gulf States and Arabia, Giacomo Luciani asserts, “…is the only relationship that they need to have with domestic economy…”52

In this sense, the high per-capita income and the welfare features of these countries do not indicate real growth in the productive capacity of society, rather, it indicates a state tendency (the ruling family in our case) to corrupt society through distributing favors and benefits as a means to gain allegiance, and accordingly, to remain in power. While this policy promotes citizens’ economic prosperity, it leaves questions related to democracy and the public’s access to political power unresolved. In these countries, Ferrel Heady asserts,


“…political activity is severely curtailed. Competitive politics is usually not permitted. Political parties and associational interest groups with diverse programs are not tolerated or are weak. On the other hand, the political elite does not attempt to mobilize the mass of the population in any official political movement, and little interest is shown in articulating a political ideology. A political attitude of acquiescence and conformity in the community suits the dominant elite, and it is not inclined to invite trouble by pushing hard for programs to…stimulate political awareness.”53

The effect of oil revenues was not limited to the politics of Gulf States and Arabia only, but extended to the politics of oil poor countries like Egypt for example. The rise of the petrodollar, coupled with the internal pressure the Egyptian government encountered after 1973’s war to promote economic reform, were two factors, among other factors, which promoted the Egyptian departure away from state-led development (as it was the case in 1950s-1970), and towards the policy of infitah (open-door economic policy) since 1974 onward.54

Within the context of this policy, President Sadat of Egypt promulgated hundreds of laws and regulations that sought to encourage foreign and local investment, minimize state intervention in economic enterprise, create private financial institutions, release bureaucratic restrictions, and create free zones. Due to these laws and regulations, huge sums were invested in Egypt by oil-rich Arab countries, and other loans were granted to Egypt by the International Financial Institutions (e.g., World Bank, IMF), European countries, and the US. These funds, which were used in investment projects, sought to promote the productive capacity of the country, and hence, produce economic growth.


It is not the aim here to discuss the reasons for why this goal remained unattainable, but it is worth mentioning that the absence of legal certainty caused by frequent changes in laws, coupled with the lack of coordination between various bureaucratic levels, alongside the denial of investors’ access to information, led to a situation where only 32% of all projects approved by Egyptian government (or the national investment authority which was created by the government for authorizing investment projects) had started operation by the end of 1978. These projects, mainly service projects (tourism, banking, housing, and so forth), employed only 11% of the labour forces that were supposed to be employed by the approved projects.55

The fact that most of these projects were of a services nature led to a serious shortage in the basic products (wheat, sugar, and so forth), and promoted the creation of semi-monopolistic merchants, who, taking advantage of the infitah, and supported by corrupted bureaucratic system, created black markets, and pushed basic products’ prices to unprecedented levels. This development promoted the creation of a commercial bourgeoisie. Interestingly enough, this bourgeoisie, which benefited most from the infitah, managed to develop a common interest with the old technocratic-generals alliance which was, as we have seen, the group which benefited most under Nasser rule (during 1950s-1970). The three groups (technocratic, Generals, and commercial bourgeoisie) succeeded, therefore, to enrich themselves at the expense of the disadvantaged majority of population 56

The integration of upper elements of Nasser regime into the new system was accompanied with the disintegration of the lower elements (grassroots) of the same regime. The Arab Socialist Union, which mobilized the grassroots elements under the Nasser regime, was disintegrated into three separate parties.57 Furthermore, the real opposition parties (the new Wafd, and the Progressive Party for instance) were placed under strict watch, and denied many rights (e.g., right of association and publication). Meanwhile, moderate opposition parties were created (e.g., Al Amal party) to offer mild criticism for the regime. To ensure support for these arrangements, President Sadat opened channels for private-sector interest groups (which had an interest in the status quo of infitah) to affect the major policy decisions, notably through the specialized committees of the people’s assembly and the public role assigned to the three representatives of major businessmen’s associations who were placed on the board of the national investment authority.58


This misleading political openness did not hide the real state of affairs of the mode of government in Egypt. In short, the President of Egypt remained the most important political actor (as it was the case of the one-party regime in 1950s-1970). He, for instance, stood above all the political institutions of state. He monopolized the country’s key decisions, and most importantly, his term in office was for life, unless he was forced to leave his office by a coup or death. Alongside this was the fact that the opposition was not permitted to develop in an effective manner. Furthermore, human rights issues remained a serious problem as Sadat promulgated Law Number 2 of 1977, which declared a state of emergency that provided a punishment of life imprisonment for “illegal assembly” or strike.59 The case of infitah might serve as evidence showing the lack of correspondence between economic liberalization and democracy in the third world countries, and in the Arab world in particular.

In Tunisia the attempts to promote the private sector since 1971 onward was not accompanied with some form of political relaxation to incorporate the resultant interest groups without discrimination. In other words, Borugouiba, whose term in office became a life term since 1971 onward, remained the main political actor, and stood above all the political institutions. In a similar fashion to the socialist period, the commercial agricultural bourgeoisie, which was considered the historical ally of Borugouiba, remained the most politically franchised group. This fact brought the state into conflict with society, in particular with Tunisian workers employed in private sector projects since 1971 onward.

These workers, as a conscious interest group consolidated during the second half of the 1970s, were directly affected by state policies, in particular the policy of lowering wages to attract foreign investment. Consequently, this interest group pressured for political representation so that it could influence major decisions of state policy. When the state became aware of this group’s demand, it blocked all of their channels to political power. Wide scale demonstrations, therefore, broke out throughout 1977 and early 1978. The State responded with further oppressive measures against these workers and their institutions (labour unions), and their allies (the students and the disadvantaged peasants). Many of the labour union leaders, workers, and students, were either detained or shot to death.60


The demonstrations in Tunisia were one sample of a series of demonstrations which erupted in the Arab world in protest of the policy of economic liberalization, in particular the IMF-negotiated structural adjustments programs. In Egypt, for instance, the dramatic increase in the prices of the basis products led to wide-scale demonstrations in 1977. Morocco experienced similar unrest in response to the cut of government expenditure in 1980, 1981, and 1984. The pattern was repeated in Tunisia in 1984, Sudan in 1985, Algeria in 1988, and Jordan in 1989.61

These demonstrations protested not only the policy of economic liberalization, but also the social injustice and lack of democratization associated with this policy. Without exception, Arab rulers were unwilling to answer these fundamental questions notwithstanding their willingness to revise some features of the policy of economic liberalization, like Borugouiba’s revocation of prior price increases in 1984, and Hosni Mubarak’s slowing down of the pace of economic liberalization in Egypt in 1980s.

In essence, therefore, the Arab state emerged irresponsive to people demands & pressure exerted by society. This left its legitimacy as appropriate ruler of society very much questionable. To defend itself, Arab state tended to enforce its security laws with a heavy hand. The security forces, in particular the intelligence (Mukhbarat), carried out a strict watch over intellectuals, professional associations, trade unions, the press and so forth. This trend was patently clear in countries like Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Tunisia (all of which experienced single-party rule in 1950s-1970) in the 1980s.62 Interestingly enough, while the state in these countries relied mainly upon force to keep its immunity from public pressure, the state in the Gulf Countries and Saudia Arabia relied (as we have seen above) mainly upon the petrodollar, and to a lesser extent, force, to assert its immunity. In both cases, the state emerged unresponsive to the input or interests of various social groups when articulating public policy, and consequently left the majority of the population unable, or too weak, to influence its policies or to have access to political power.


The reluctance of Arab states to permit wide scale political participation, coupled with the lack of social justice, were the main factors which enabled Islamic fundamentalist movements to assume wide constituencies in the Arab world from 1980s onward. These movements started to appear on the scene since 1967 in response to the defeat of the Arab world in 1967’s war, and the resultant collapse of the Pan-Arabism scheme. Nonetheless, these movements remained unable to assume wide support, and hence, to play influential role in the Arab politics.63

The failure of the Arab state to promote social justice and democracy in 1970s, coupled with the success of Ayatollah Ali Khomeini in seizing power and establishing Islamic state in Iran in 1979, were the factors which enabled these movements, with their call for social equity, to claim wide constituencies in the Arab world, and thus, to emerge as an influential variable in Arab politics. In the late 1970s, and during the 1980s, most of the Arab countries would witness the rise of Islamic associations. These associations, which peacefully protested the Westernization of the Arab world, enjoyed footholds in universities, professional associations, charitable organizations, and so forth. Alongside them were the Islamic underground organizations set up around the same period.

These underground organizations pursued a radical policy as they called for the violent overthrow of the Arab rulers as means to establish an Islamic state. Inspired by Sayed Quttub, the member of Muslim Brotherhood who was executed by Nasser regime of Egypt in 1966, most of these organizations believe, as Quttub did, that the proper function of the government is to enforce the Islamic legal codes.64 These movements, therefore, touched very fundamental issues relating to the role of the Arab state as an appropriate ruler of society. In this sense, they constituted a serious challenge to the Arab rulers. To deal with these movements, Arab rulers pursued policies that ranged between co-optation and to oppression. In the 1970s, President Sadat of Egypt enabled these movements to enjoy some sort of freedoms and released hundreds of them. But quickly he abandoned his liberal policy when he became aware of their growing power since the late 1970s onward. He arrested hundreds of them in 1981. Hafez Al Asad adopted the same oppressive policy when he oppressed the disturbances of Hama in 1982 at a cost of around 10,000 causalities among the Muslim Brotherhood’s members. The same line was followed in Kuwait when the government launched large-scale wave of arrest against them in 1985.65


In response to these measures, the military wing of these of Islamic movements assassinated Sadat in 1981, and made an unsuccessful coup attempt against Numeiri regime in Sudan in 1985. Thereafter, the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak refused to allow their party to be represented in various state organs (e.g., parliament), and pursued an iron-fisted policy toward their military wing. The same trend can be noticed in Sudan and Jordan in 1980s and 1990s.

In Tunisia and Syria, the iron-fisted policy was pursued in respect of both wings. Both regimes refused to permit the political wing of these movements to run in elections. Leaders of the Tunisian major Islamic organization (the Mouvement de la Tendance Islamique) thus, had to suffer the detention or deportation before their movement was formally dissolved in 1990s. The same thing can be said about the Syrian Islamic Movement, of which most leaders were either detained or exiled by the regime.66

The Arab state policy toward Islamic movements might reveal the overall policy of this state toward society in 1980s and 1990s. Continuously, the Arab state seeks to assert its rule and to enhance its legitimacy. Toward this end, it tends to undermine the emergence of any real opposition. Political parties in this context either are denied access to real political power (Tunisia and Syria’s policy toward Islamic movements) or are used as an instrument in the hands of state to enhance its legitimacy (Sudan and Egypt’s policy toward the same movements). In the meanwhile, the Arab state tends to assume hegemony over civil society (e.g., professional associations) and undermines basic human rights (e.g., right to freedom of expression). In so doing, the Arab state is backed by the security forces, in particular the intelligence. The Arab state, Ayubi notes, “is a fierce state that has frequently to resort to raw coercion in order to preserve itself…” 67


While Arab state does so, it failed to achieve economic development, and hence, left the majority of its citizens economically deprived. Access to wealth in the Arab world is associated with access to the levers of state power. Given the fact that access to levers of state power is confined only to special social stratum (e.g., Hashemite family and their supporters in Jordan, Saud clan and their supporters in Saudia Arabia, the Ba’ath supporters in Syria), the Arab state emerged as instrument in the hands of specific social groups to achieve economic gains.

Rethinking the Arab State

By means of this discussion it becomes clear that the current Arab state is the most enduring legacy of the colonial era. But this is not to say that all Arab states were a direct result of colonial imposition. Some of these states were a direct imposition (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq), while others were an indirect result of capitalist penetration (Egypt, North African countries, Gulf States and Saudi Arabia). But no doubt all of them came into being within the context of integrating the Arab world into the international capitalist system, and thus were born as tributaries.

The fact that the Arab state is connected with the colonial era left a negative impression of the relationship of this state with its people. The concept of centralization of political power is a new phenomenon, which was experienced only, as has been shown, during the colonial era. Thus, the state in terms of a central authority that monopolizes the right of issuing binding rules over a territorially defined population is not accepted without question, as it brings back memories of colonial administration. Accordingly, the legitimacy of the Arab state as the appropriate framework for solving the crucial issues of society is questionable.68


In addition, Arabs still conceive of themselves as one nation with the same history, language, culture, and ethnic background. This perception found its political expression very early on with the attempt of Sharif Hussein during the First World War to separate from the Ottoman Empire and to establish an independent Arab state. But with the ratification of the mandate system by the League of Nations in July 1922, the Pan-Arab project had receded and each Arabic country, from that year onward, would face its fate alone.

However, the idea of Arab unity had not disappeared, and once again it found its institutional expression with the establishment of the League of Arab states in 1945, and found its unprecedented political expression with the rise of Jamal Abd El Nasser to power in Egypt in 1953 and the following Egyptian-Syrian unity in the period of 1958-1961. But the Israeli-Arab war in 1967 and the defeat of Nasser's regime in that war weakened the Arab unity project and raised, instead, regionalism. With the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, the Arab unity project totally collapsed and regionalism strongly prevailed. Despite this check, the appeal to Arab unity has not been stilled; on the contrary, until the present time it has many supporters.

Arab unity ideology, or Pan-Arabism, is not the only super-state ideology that marks the Arab world. Alongside this ideology is Islam. The majority of Arabs are Muslims. The call for an Islamic state that governs according to Islamic codes is another basic feature of Arab politics. This appeal emerged after the 1967 defeat, a defeat that was to be understood in terms of Pan-Arabism ideological failure to face the historical challenges encountered by Arabs. In the 1970s, the appeal gained strong momentum due to the failure of the Arab state to realize social justice, and the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. The historical origin of this appeal is to be found in the Muslim Brotherhood movement that emerged in 1928. Starting in Egypt, this movement moved across different Arab countries, and formed a serious threat to the secular state in the Arab world.


For example, the origin of the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas, which forms the most serious challenge to the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) rule is to be found in this earlier movement. By adopting Islam as the ideological framework for governing the relationship between people and the political authority, this movement offers a challenging alternative to the secular framework of the nation-state. Simon Bromley asserted that the ideologies of Islam and nationality are by definition exclusive: it is not possible for them to coexist.69 While the concept of nationality implies loyalty to a territorially defined population, Islam overlaps territories and asserts ideological and religious linkage at the expense of the political and legal linkage of nationality.

The tribal social formation which dominated the Arab world offers another challenge to the nation state. As mentioned elsewhere, this formation does not imply the traditional Marxist correspondence between the economic mode of production and the ideological superstructure. Thus, and despite the retreat of the tribe as a form of social production, tribal culture remained another basic aspect of Arab politics. In contrast to the nation-state, which stresses loyalty to a territorially defined population and asserts formal and impersonal criteria as bases for status, the tribe gives primacy to kinship criteria, stresses loyalty to a narrow community that shares the same blood lineage, and asserts informal /personal criteria as bases for status.70

Thus, the homogeneous population, with the exception of Egypt, as a pre-condition for the nation state is absent from the Arab world. Not only this, but also the economic foundation necessary for the nation state is absent. Reinhard Bendix asserted the development of capitalist relationships as a pre-condition for the nation state. According to Bendix, the emergence of capitalist society with its focus on formal contractual relationships is the factor which allowed the individual to conceive of his liberty in terms of being part of a wider political community, and thus appearing as a self-standing entity in legal and political relationship with the political authority.71


As regards the Arab world, we have noted how the colonial powers circumscribed the bourgeoisie in the agricultural sector. This bourgeoisie was denied any access to industrialization (except for some isolated social groups that invested in sectors derived from agricultural commercialization: finance, communication, commerce, and so on). After independence a specific model of industrialization emerged: “import-substitution model”. Within the context of this model, the Arab state assumed the role of the bourgeoisie, and pursued industrialization through a dependence on foreign aid and capital (Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Algeria, and Tunisia, in 1950s-1970 are good examples).

In so doing, the Arab state led the bourgeoisie and emerged as a capitalist state. Nevertheless, the Arab state emerged as a capitalist state not in the Marxist sense which is based on social stratification; rather, in the sense of “state-led industrial projects.” To put it in different terms, the Arab state tended to assume hegemony over the economy. Though the period of the 1970s and 1980s witnessed a general trend in the whole Arab world toward economic liberalization, the bourgeois class which emerged was self-interested but was very much connected to state. This was so much so that it hindered the development of an independent and strong bourgeois class, and hence, impeded the development of inter-state capitalist relationships in the Arab world.

The above-mentioned conditions (Pan-Arabism, Islam, tribal culture, weak capitalist relationships) created a situation in which the individual has a multitude of loyalties. On the one hand, he belongs to a specific tribe, and on the other he belongs to the Arab nation and Muslim community, and maybe to a given class. Thus, the individual came to be defined always in reference to a wider community. As a result, the concept of “individualism”, in the sense of the individual as separate entity in his own right, had not emerged. This led to a situation where the state as an outcome of “Locke’s social contract” is unknown, and thus liberty as a legal and contractual right of an individual is also unknown.72


At another level this multitude of loyalties of the individual made it difficult for an Arab state to morally penetrate the identity of its people and to restructure it according to new premises. The Arab state finds huge difficulties in getting its people to obey its rules and in absorbing and mobilizing them within a state-based moral framework. This normative foundation of state power or what Michael Mann calls the “infrastructural power” is lacking in the Arab world.73 The state is lacking the capability of securing the loyalty of individual citizens over their pre-existing forms of tribal or super-state-ideological loyalties.

This situation created the potential of what Theda Skocpol, relying onCharlesTilly’sconception of revolution in his Mobilization to Revolution, calls the “Multiple Sovereignty”, 74 where the state encounters forces that claim the moral right to rule the society (the Islamic fundamentalist movements for instance). Thus, political conflict in the Arab world came to revolve not around the content of specific policies, whether social or economic, as in the case of Europe, but around fundamental issues related to the very essence of the state as appropriate ruler of society.

As a result of this situation, the Arab state appears in continuous attempts to assert its rule and to enhance its legitimacy. Thereby, it tends to undermine the emergence of any real opposition. Political parties in this context either are denied access to real political power or are used as an instrument in the hands of the state to enhance its legitimacy. This implies that political parties in terms of vehicles for public participation are either weak or absent from the Arab world. This is understandable, given the weak and dependent Arab bourgeoisie. This character of the Arab bourgeoisie denies it the ability to organize itself on the grounds of well-defined economic and social demands that can be channeled to state institutions, and thus politically expressed by a given state policy.


The state's attempts to enhance its legitimacy touch the administrative system. It is the administrative system which is used as a mechanism for mobilizing people and enhancing the state's legitimacy. By such action the state politicized the administration and thus undermined the traditional democratic separation between politics and administration which implies an implementation role for the state's bureaucracy. This separation is not well developed in the Arab world. The politicization of administration was achieved through the state’s diffusion of networks of patronage-client relationships.

Even the building of military administration takes place within the context of a state's attempts to enhance its legitimacy. The state tends to be highly selective in recruiting military personnel. Usually, they are drawn from specific tribes, sects, and loyalists to the President (Egypt, Syria, and Iraq). In some other cases, such as the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia, the military is placed under direct supervision of the ruling family’s members. In some extreme cases, such as Jordan, the military is placed under direct supervision of the King, who assumes the role of commander-in-chief.75

To conclude as to the Arab state, it seems that this type of statehood tends to assume complete hegemony over society by assuming the role of patron with regard to the economy and by politicizing the bureaucracy as well as the military. Furthermore, it seems that this state tends also to assume ideological hegemony by co-opting civil society and absorbing it within state ideology. Though this helps it to assume autonomy from popular will, it simultaneously brings its legitimacy into doubt in terms of its capacity to gain the voluntary compliance of its people. Accordingly, terror and violence emerge as a prominent aspect of the Arab state's relation to its society.


These are the main features of the Arab state that was born within the context of the colonial hegemony in the region. Now the question which might arise, as far as Palestine is concerned: did Palestinians undergo a different historical experience from that of Arabs, and if they did, what are the main characteristics of this experience and how will this contribute to the current process of state building?

Unlike most of the Arab countries, Palestinians were confronted from the very beginning by the ambition of another people (the Jews) who sought to uproot them from their land and to establish their own state. By the Palestinians' unfortunate lot, the mandate writ backed such ambition when it included the Balfour declaration (which stipulated a British support for a Jewish national home in Palestine- as we will see later) in its preamble and thus granted such ambition international sanction. This grant blocked all Palestinian attempts to enjoy any access to state institutions, in particular the national level institutions (e.g., parliament). Despite this, Palestinians were permitted to take part in the local level institutions (municipal and rural councils) under the Mandate.

In tracing the historical development of Palestinian state building, therefore, I will highlight the development of the Palestinian access to the national and local level institutions of state functions under various foreign powers that ruled Palestinians since the nineteenth century up to 1993, when the Oslo treaty was signed and enabled Palestinians, for the first time in their history, to enjoy their own Para-state institutions (Cabinet, parliament, Bureaucratic system-“national level institutions of state functions”). Mainly, I will focus on the Ottoman, British, Jordanian, Egyptian, and Israeli era. My aim is to find out how these initial conditions were translated into the Para-state institutions provided by the Oslo process.

Footnotes and Endnotes

3  Bo Strath & Rolf Torstendahl. “ State Theory and State Development: States as Network Structures in Changes in European Modern History”, in Rolf Torstendahl (ed.,). State Theory and State History. London, Newbury Park, & New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1992, p.12.

4  Ibid. See also Charles Tilly. “ Reflections on the History of European State Making. In Charles Tilly (ed.,). The Formation of National States in Western Europe. Princeton & London: Princeton University Press, 1975. See also Charles Bright & Susan Harding (eds.,). Statemaking and Social Movements: Essays in History and Theory. U.S.: The University of Michigan Press, 1985.

5  Reinhard Bendix. Nation-Building & Citizenship: Studies of Our Changing Social Order. New Brunswick/US & London: Transaction Publishers, 2ed edition, 2002, Pp.39-96.

6  Theda Skocpol. States & Social Revolutions: A comparative Analysis of France, Russia & China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979, Pp.24-28.

7  Max Weber. The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. Talcott Parsons (eds.,), New York: Oxford University Press, 1947, Pp.8-86.

8  James Martin. Gramsci’s Political Analysis: A Critical Introduction. Basingstoke: Macmillian Press, 1998. P.66.

9  quoted in Roger Simon. Gramsci’s Political Thought. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1982, P.71.

10  Paul M. Sweezy. Modern Capital and Other Essays. New York & London: Monthly Review Press, 1972, Pp.8-9, 34.

11  Tilly op.cit.

12  Ibid., P.70.

13  Skocpol op.cit., P.29.

14  Michael Mann. States, War and Capitalism: Studies in Political Sociology. Oxford UK & Cambridge USA: Blackwell Publishers, 1988, P.4.

15  Joel S. Migdal. Strong Societies and Weak States: State-Society Relations and State Capabilities in the Third World. Princeton & New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1988, P.19.

16  Strath & Torstendahl op.cit., Pp.12-37.

17  Bright & Harding op.cit., P.4.

18  Joel Migdal. “The State in Society: an approach to Struggle for Domination”. In Joel Migdal & others (eds.,). State Power and Social Forces: Domination and Transformation in the Third World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, Pp.8-34. See also Migdal op.cit, Pp.10-41.

19  Tilly op.cit., Pp.34-35.

20  Bright & Harding op.cit., P.4.

21  Migdal . Strong Societies, op.cit.,Pp.18-19.

22  Strath & Torstendahl op.cit., p.15

23  Skocpol op.cit., P.30

24  Mann op.cit., Pp.5-30.

25  Bendix op.cit, Pp.39-48, & Bertrand B. & Pierre B. The Sociology of the State. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983, Pp. 6-10, 79-85.

26  Tilly op.cit., Pp.28-29.

27  Richard Tapper. “Anthropologists, Historians, and Tribespeople on Tribe and State Formation in the Middle East”. In Philiph S. Khoury & Joseph Kostiner (ed.). Tribes and State formation in the Middle East. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990, P. 68.

28  Steven C. Caton. “Anthropological Theories of Tribe and State Formation in the Middle East: Ideology and the Semiotics of Power”, In ibid. Pp85-103.

29  Khaldoun Al-Naqeeb. Society and States in the Gulf and Arab Peninsula: A different Perspective. London: Routledge, 1990, Pp.6-21.

30  Nazih N. Ayubi. Over-Stating the Arab State: Politics and Society in the Middle East. London & New York: I.B. Tauris Publishers, 1995, Pp.24-30.

31  Albert Hourani. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age: 1798-1939. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970, Pp.1-7.

32  For excellent assessment on these empires see Ayubi op.cit., Pp55-80.

33  Resat Kasaba. The Ottoman Empire and The World Economy in Nineteenth Century. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1988. Pp54-55.

34  For example, these treaties set 5% as tariff on import, and 12% as tarrif on export. See Sevket Pamuk. The Ottoman Empire and European Capitalism, 1820-1913: Trade, Investment and production. Cambridge: Cambridge Universiry Press, 1987, P.20.

35  Huri Islamoglu-Inan (ed.,). The Ottoman Empire and the World Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987, Pp.47-62.

36  For discussion over the Ottoman reform and its ramifications see Moshe Ma’oz. Ottoman Reform in Syria and Palestine 1840-1861: the impact of the Tanzimat on Politics and Society. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968.

37  For excellent assessment over the “Young Turks” revolt see the first three chapters (Pp.20-70) of A.L. Macfie. The End of the Ottoman Empire: 1908-1923. London & New York: Longman, 1998.

38  George Antonius. The Arab Awakening: The Story of the Arab National Movement. Lebanon: Hamish Hamilton, 1976, Pp.109-112.

39  Appendix “A” (Pp.413-427) in Ibid .

40  Ayubi op.cit., P. 86.

41  Samir Amin. The Arab Nation: Nationalism and Class Struggles. London: Zed Press, 1978, Pp.25-30.

42  Roger Owen. State, Power & Politics in the Making of Modern Middle East. London & New York: Routledge, 1992, Pp.32-52.

43  In Egypt, for instance, the number of civil servants increased from 350,000 in 1952 to 1,200,000 in 1970. And the number of ministries and public organizations increased from 15 to 28, and from 0 to 46 respectively during the same period. .See Nazih N. Ayubi. The State and Public Policies in Egypt Since Sadat. Reading: Ithaca Press, 1991, P.108. The same trend can be noticed in Tunisia as the number of civil servants shifted from 12,000 in 1955 to 80,000 in 1960. See Lisa Anderson. The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya: 1830-1980. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986, Pp.235-236.

44  Khaldoun Al-Naqeeb. “Social Origin of the Authoritarian State in the Arab East”. In Eric Davis and Nicolas Gavrielide (eds.). Statecraft in the Middle East: Oil, Historical Memory and Popular Culture. Miami: Florida International University Press, 1991, P. 51 & Simon Bromley. Rethinking Middle East Politics: State Formation and Development. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994, P.131.

45  Anoushir Van Ehteshami & Emma C Murphy. “Transformation of the Corporatist State in the Middle East.” In Third World Quarterly, Vol. 17, No.4, 1996, Pp.753-755.

46  Ibid., Pp.755-756.

47  Al-Naqeeb. Society and States in the Gulf , op.cit., Pp.47-64.

48  James A. Bill & Carl Leiden. The Middle East: Politics and Power. Boston, London, Sydney, & Toronton: Allyn & Bacon, Inc., 1974, Pp.124-133. See also Joseph Kostiner.”Transformation Dualities: Tribe and State formation in Saudia Arabia”. In Khoury & Kostiner (ed.), op.cit.,Pp. 226-233.

49  Owen op.cit., P.56.

50  See Ibid., Pp.56-63.

51  Hazem Beblawi. “The Rentier State in the Arab World”. In Hazem Beblawi & Giacomo Luciani (eds.,). The Rentier State. London: Croom Helm, Vol. II, 1987, Pp.53-54.

52  Giacomo Luciani. “ Allocation vs. Production States: A Theoretical Framework”. In ibid., P.70.

53  Ferrel Heady. Public Administration: A Comparative Perspective. New York, Basel, & Hong Kong: Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1996, 5th edition, Pp.333-334.

54  Ayubi. The State and Public Policies, op.cit., Pp.9-20.

55  Ibid., P.46.

56  See chapter three (Pp.53-85) in Ibid.,

57  Ehteshami & Murphy op.cit., P.761.

58  Owen op.cit., P.144.

59  Bahgat Korany, Paul Noble, & Rex Brynen (eds.,). The Many Faces of National Security in the Arab World. Houndmills: The Macmillan Press, 1993, Pp.269-270.

60  Anderson op.cit., Pp.231-250.

61  Ehteshami & Murphy op.cit., Pp.766-768.

62  Korany, Noble, & Brynen (eds.,), op.cit., Pp.270-273.

63  William L. Cleveland. A History of the Modern Middle East. U.S.: Westview Press, 2ed edition, 2000, Pp.410-430.

64  Ibid., Pp.430-435.

65  Korany, Noble, & Brynen (eds.,) op.cit., Pp.284-285.

66  Owen op.cit., Pp.178-188.

67  Ayubi. Over-Stating, op.cit., P.3

68  Migdal. Strong Societies, op.cit., Pp.36-37.

69  Bromley op.cit., Pp.90-94.

70  For excellent assessment over tribal and other informal groups politics see James A. Bill & Carl Leiden. The Middle East: Politics and Power. Boston, London, Sydney, & Toronto: Allyn & Bacon, Inc., 1974, Pp.58-92.

71  Bendix op.cit., Pp.66-126

72  Peter Laslett (ed.,). Locke: Two Treaties of Government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

73  Mann op.cit., Pp.5-30.

74  Skocpol op.cit., Pp.10-11.

75  Owen op.cit., Pp.197-213.

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