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Co-optation Reconsidered: Authoritarian Regime Legitimation Strategies in the Jordanian “Arab Spring”

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Abstract1In authoritarian polities, co-optation plays a crucial role for maintaining regime stability. While the practice of co-optation is well-studied, the concept itself has received less attention by scholars. This paper seeks to fill this conceptual gap by offering a new definition of co-optation and developing a typology of different strategies in the context of authoritarian rule. In this conceptualization, the targets of regime strategies play a central role, as their response to co-optation attempts is decisive for assessing success or failure. The contribution studies the well-known mechanisms of institutional-structural and material co-optation, complemented by traditional and identity-related co-optation to account for context-specific dynamics especially in Arab monarchies, but also beyond. The concept is applied to a case study of Jordan during the early phase of the Arab uprisings. The main finding is that most strategies to widen the regime base failed, while strategies to strengthen the regime base were successful.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Middle East Studies, German Institute of Global and Area Studies Hamburg, Germany,


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