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VII. The Middle East's democracy deficit in comparative perspective

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Chapter Summary

The Middle East’s democracy deficit is a product of the patterns of political and economic development in the region. It is not because the region is predominantly Islamic or is somehow afflicted by purportedly undemocratic cultures. Assumptions about the inherently undemocratic nature of cultures such as Islamic and Confucian ones are fundamentally invalid. The key to understanding democratic transitions lies instead in the nature of state-society relations rather than the nature of society’s norms and values in themselves. Of the multitude of explanations given for the Middle East’s democratic deficit, three deserve further examination: the role, if any, of culture in keeping authoritarianism alive; the political and economic factors that have curtailed the powers of those calling for democracy; and the nature and potential role of civil society. This chapter examines the Middle East’s democracy deficit by looking at each of these three factors from a comparative perspective.

Keywords: authoritarianism; civil society; democracy; democracy deficit; democratic transition; Middle East



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