Copyright © 2004 International Development Options
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Volume Three Winter 2003-Spring 2004 Numbers 3-4.
THE ENDURANCE OF AUTOCRACY: EXPLAINING STABLE AUTHORITARIANISM IN ARAB STATES
Sean L. Yom
Karl W. Deutsch Fellow
Department of Government
Published online: February 10, 2017
Enduring authoritarianism in the Middle East and North Africa region constitutes an intriguing puzzle for comparative political scientists: it is the only region in the world that has resisted the Third Wave of democratization. In explaining the so-called “Arab gap,” many argue that these states are simply exceptional to democracy because they lack its cultural, structural, and religious prerequisites. This crude perspective is flawed. Democratization does not require any such preconditions. Autocracy has endured simply because authoritarian regimes have been able to withstand repeated challenges and pressures from below. I expound the discrete factors that cause this resilience of the state, which are the ambivalence of civil society, the state’s coercive resources, and the absence of transnational support for democratization. These factors generate a political environment in which elites can afford to repress democratic impulses and ignore calls for systematic political change.