Exploring the surprising strengths and weaknesses of the Arab state

Table of contents

Table of Contents 

Introduction: Making Sense of the Arab State
By Steven Heydemann and Marc Lynch
Section One: Dimensions of Stateness
1.    Seeing the State or Why Arab States Look the Way They Do
By Steven Heydemann
2.     Understanding State Weakness in the Middle East and North Africa
By Raymond Hinnebusch
3.    Rethinking the Post-Colonial State in the Middle East: Elite Competition and Negotiation within the Disaggregated Iraqi State
By Toby Dodge
4.    Legibility, Digital Surveillance, and the State in the Middle East
By Marc Lynch
Section Two: Dimensions of Regime-ness
5.    What We Talk About When We Talk About the State in Postwar Lebanon
By Bassel Salloukh
6.    The “Business of Government:” the State and Changing Patterns of Politics in the Arab World
By Lisa Anderson
7.    Palace Politics as Precarious Rule: Weak Statehood in Afghanistan
By Dipali Mukhopadhyay
Section Three: Contesting Stateness: Society and Sites of Resistance 
8.    State Capacity and Contention: A View from Jordan
By Jillian Schwedler
9.    Water, Stateness, and Governance in Jordan: The Case of the Disi Water System
By Sean Yom
10.    Conclusion: The Specter of the Spectrum: States in all their Riotous Heterogeneity
By Dan Slater
List of Contributors


No region in the world has been more hostile to democracy, more dominated by military and security institutions, or weaker on economic development and inclusive governance than the Middle East. Why have Arab states been so oppressively strong in some areas but so devastatingly weak in others?  How do those patterns affect politics, economics, and society across the region? The state stands at the center of the analysis of politics in the Middle East, but has rarely been the primary focus of systematic theoretical analysis.

Making Sense of the Arab State brings together top scholars from diverse theoretical orientations to address some of the most critically important questions facing the region today. The authors grapple with enduring questions such as the uneven development of state capacity, the failures of developmentalism and governance, the centrality of regime security and survival concerns, the excesses of surveillance and control, and the increasing personalization of power. Making Sense of the Arab State will be a must-read for scholars of the Middle East and of comparative politics more broadly.

Steven Heydemann is Ketcham Chair in Middle East Studies and Professor of Government at Smith College and a Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.
Marc Lynch is Professor of Political Science at The George Washington University. 

Making Sense of the Arab State is an exemplary volume that offers readers the conceptual tools for understanding recent trends in state development in the Arab world. This is a highly original contribution that should be widely read.”

- Lisa Blaydes, Stanford University