Civil Society and Democratization in the Arab World: The Dynamics of Activism, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Civil Society and Democratization in the Arab World

The Dynamics of Activism, 1st Edition

By Francesco Cavatorta, Vincent Durac


178 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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The transition paradigm has traditionally viewed civil society activism as an essential condition for the establishment of democracy. The democracy promotion strategies of Western policy-makers have, therefore, been based on strengthening civil society in authoritarian settings in order to support the development of social capital -to challenge undemocratic regimes.

This book questions the validity of the link between an active associational life and democratization. It examines civil society in the Arab world in order to illustrate how authoritarian constraints structure civil society dynamics in the region in ways that hinder transition to democracy. Building on innovative theoretical work and drawing on empirical data from extensive fieldwork in the region, this study demonstrates how the activism of civil society in five different Arab countries strengthens rather than weakens authoritarian practices and rule. Through an analysis of the specific legal and political constraints on associational life, and the impact of these on relations between different civic groups, and between associations and state authorities, the book demonstrates that the claim that civil society plays a positive role in processes of democratic transformation is highly questionable.

Offering a broad and alternative vision of the state of civil society in the region, this book will be an important contribution to studies on Middle Eastern politics, democratization and civil society activism.


"Cavatorta and Durac have produced an interesting study that re-examines the assumed connection between an active civil society and democratization… their argument is worthy of consideration by scholars and students of Middle East and North African politics, Islamist socio-political movements, and comparative politics." - Christopher Anzalone, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University; Journal of Islamic Studies, vol 23, no 1, January 2012

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Civil Society in the Arab world 2. Associational Life under Authoritarian Constraints 3. Algeria 4. Morocco 5. Jordan 6. Yemen 7. Lebanon 8. The Dynamics of Civic Activism in the Arab World

About the Authors

Francesco Cavatorta is Senior Lecturer in International Relations and Middle East Politics at the School of Law and Government, Dublin City University. His research interests lie in processes of democratisation in the Arab world, the political role of Islamist movements and civil society activism. He has published his research in a number of journals and has previously authored a book on failed transition in Algeria.

Vincent Durac is a Lecturer in Middle East Politics and Politics of Development in the School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin. He is interested in political reform, the role of civil society and the impact of external actors on the Middle East He is also a visiting lecturer in Middle East Politics at Bethlehem University in Palestine.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Middle Eastern Politics

This series is concerned with recent political developments in the region. It will have a range of different approaches and include both single authored monographs and edited volumes covering issues such as international relations, foreign intervention, security, political Islam, democracy, ideology and public policy.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Middle East / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies