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The cultural-economic syndrome: Impediments To democracy in the Middle East

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Chapter Summary

The explanations for the democracy gap between the Middle East and the other world regions are either cultural or economic. The cultural explanation refers to historical legacies, especially to the dominant role of Islam in Middle Eastern societies, whereas the economic explanation for the democracy gap emphasizes oil wealth as the main barrier to democracy. This chapter explores both the cultural and the economic explanation and proposes that their interaction in the Middle East is especially detrimental to democracy. As theoretical reflections suggest and empirical analysis demonstrates, there actually exists a cultural-economic syndrome. In Muslim states without oil wealth, economic modernization usually takes place sooner or later, and its effects, complemented by globalization and the diffusion of liberal and democratic ideas associated with it place democratic reforms on the political agenda.

Keywords: cultural-economic syndrome; democracy; economic modernization; historical legacies; Islam; Middle East; Muslim states; oil wealth



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