Comparative Politics of the Middle East and North Africa
- LAST REVIEWED: 04 May 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0044
- LAST REVIEWED: 04 May 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0044
Over the past decade, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has dominated global media headlines. From the 9/11 attacks to the invasion of Iraq and the Arab Spring, even casual readers have begun gleaning a basic understanding of the region. Yet within comparative political science, the subfield of Middle East politics has provoked a plentiful canon of scholarship devoted to advancing knowledge and building theory. By comparing the varying political and economic trajectories taken by the more than twenty MENA countries stretching from North Africa to the Mediterranean Levant, and from the Iran and the Persian Gulf to Turkey and Israel, analysts see the postcolonial epoch as a rich historical database ripe for hypothesis testing. Thus far, MENA specialists have thickened our social scientific understanding of political processes such as modern state formation, durable authoritarian rule, civil society participation, and the effects of oil wealth. Because every country save Israel is majority Muslim, the region has also enabled students to pore over the intersection of Islam and politics, such as the origins of Islamist mobilization and trends in public attitudes toward religion. As the post-9/11 revitalization of regional interest percolated from the public sphere into academic institutions, however, the study of Middle East politics changed in several ways, which rapidly expanding literatures in this regional field are beginning to reflect. First, many new students flocked to countries that had previously elicited sparse interest, such as Jordan, Tunisia, and Yemen; although well-trodden Morocco, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia remained the most popular sites of interest. Second, analysts chose to study empirical puzzles that affected multiple cases in a truly comparative fashion, rather than confining their interests within a single-country model of research, which dominated the MENA field for decades. Finally, researchers deployed a wider variety of analytic methodologies alongside the traditional use of language training and intensive fieldwork. Historical process-tracing, sophisticated quantitative analysis, and game-theoretic modeling have helped drive a new wave of explanatory study. As a result of these developments, the field has become more productive as well as more contentious, a trend that guarantees the continued contributions of MENA scholarship to comparative political science.
Regional overviews of MENA take one of two approaches. Some works such as Ibrahim and Hopkins 1997, analyze pressing theoretical dilemmas across historical time and regional space. They spend less time on the minute details of a country and more on the thematic substance of issues such as development and democracy. Other studies take the opposite tack by parsing out details of every country on a case-by-case basis; these studies often have less disciplinary jargon but can sometimes read like a collection of snapshots with little theoretical guidance. The most recent readers from American political scientists, such as Angrist 2013, Lust 2013, and Schwedler 2013, combine these rubrics to great success and remain the newest and most comprehensive texts. Whereas those primarily deal with domestic politics, Fawcett 2013 provides the definitive modern reader for the international politics of the region. Geographic coverage is not even, however. Some general readers emphasize the Arab world at the cost of non-Arab countries; Sharabi 1988 and Humphreys 2005, for example, give far-reaching overviews of both region and religion but primarily through the lens of the Arab experience. To be sure, Israel, Turkey, and Iran command their own subfields of study, but they still find space for discussion and analysis in most general works.
Angrist, Michele Penner, ed. Politics and Society in the Contemporary Middle East. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2013.
Revised to take into account the events of the Arab Spring, the second edition of this impressive anthology flanks theoretical discussions on topics such as civil society, political economy, and authoritarianism with selected country-level studies of the largest Arab countries, such as Egypt and Syria, as well as Israel, Turkey, and Iran. Each chapter is authored by a well-known researcher with field-based experience.
Fawcett, Louise. International Relations of the Middle East. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
In its third edition, this volume brings together three distinctive sections of research concerning the international dimensions of Middle East politics. Presents the history of the regional system, engages substantive issues such as the geopolitics of oil and conflict resolution, and touches upon contemporary issues such as the Iraqi conflict, US predominance, and the Arab Spring. In its latest update, more attention is devoted to issues of human security and substate violence.
Gasiorowski, Mark, ed. The Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa. 7th ed. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2013.
The seventh edition of this anthology consists entirely of essays that capture the political histories and modern development of almost every MENA state. Useful in presenting easily digestible snapshots for those needing to absorb information quickly. Updated, like most other textbooks, to capture the tumultuous events of the Arab Spring starting in 2011.
Humphreys, R. Stephen. Between Memory and Desire: The Middle East in a Troubled Age. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.
An eclectic collection of essays now in its second edition, this volume comments on the major geopolitical events, religious transformation, and economic struggles that punctuate the modern MENA. Targeted toward a multidisciplinary audience, the volume is steeped in historical context and eloquently written.
Ibrahim, Saad Eddin, and Nicholas Hopkins, eds. Arab Society: Class, Gender, Power, and Development. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1997.
The third edition of this anthology presents an exhaustive array of penetrating analyses on social issues. As per the title, the thirty contributed essays investigate topics such as the politics of poverty, booming demography, and gender struggles rather than formal institutional forces such as regimes and legal systems. Though not updated in over a decade, this volume has aged extremely well, not least because many of the enduring problems outlined here continue to draw the attention of governments and scholars alike.
Lust, Ellen, ed. The Middle East. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2013.
The thirteenth edition of this venerable textbook combines topical chapters contributed by regional experts with country profiles of most Arab states, as well as Israel, Turkey, and Iran. Full of tables and figures presenting relevant data. It is oriented toward classroom and reference use and is by far the longest introductory reader. The volume is frequently revised to take into account ongoing events.
Schwedler, Jillian, ed. Understanding the Contemporary Middle East. 4th ed. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2013.
Recently updated, this introductory book provides a more interdisciplinary approach to understanding regional dynamics than its peers. Rather than presenting country-based studies that explore exclusively political topics, the thematic chapters cover diverse topics like economic development, religious dynamics, gender issues, demography, and literature.
Sharabi, Hisham, ed. The Next Arab Decade: Alternative Futures. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1988.
Though more than two decades old, this anthology provides incisive predictions about regional affairs that still resonate today. Many prophecies made by the academic contributors held through the first decade of the 21st century, such as the endurance of authoritarian rule and laggard economic growth.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article
Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.
If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email email@example.com to express your interest.
- Advanced Democracies, Electoral System Reform in
- Advanced Democracies, Public Opinion and Public Policy in
- Advertising and Election Campaigns in the United States
- Africa, Comparative Politics of
- American Indian Politics
- Arab-Israel Conflict, The
- Arendt, Hannah
- Aristotle's Political Thought
- Arms Race Modeling
- Australia and New Zealand, Comparative Politics of
- Authoritarianism in Russia
- Bicameralism in Stable Democracies
- Big Data in Political Science Research
- Biopolitics and State Regulation of Human Life
- Brazilian Political Development
- Business-State Relations in Europe
- Campaign Finance in the Era of Super-PACS
- Canadian Foreign Policy
- Candidate Emergence and Recruitment
- Channels of Electoral Representation in Advanced Industria...
- China's One-Child Policy
- China-Taiwan Relations
- Chinese Communist Party
- Chinese Economic Policy
- Chinese Nationalism
- Civil Society in South Asia
- Civil War in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Civil-Military Relations in Asia
- Civil-Military Relations in Latin America
- Class in American Politics
- Comparative Capitalism Theory
- Comparative Industrial Relations in Europe
- Comparative Politics of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bis...
- Comparative Politics of Chile and Uruguay
- Comparative Politics of Federalism
- Comparative Politics of the Middle East and North Africa
- Congress, Defense, and Foreign Policy
- Congressional Reassertion of Authority
- Conservative Litigation Strategies and Groups in US Judici...
- Corruption in China
- Cosmopolitan Political Thought
- Crisis of European Integration in Historical Perspective, ...
- Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School
- Cuban Political Development
- Cycles of Protest
- Democracy and Authoritarianism in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Democracy and Dictatorship in Central Asia
- Democracy in Latin America
- Democratic Citizenship
- Democratic Consolidation
- Democratic Peace Theory
- Democratic Theory
- Democratization in Africa
- Democratization in Central America
- Democratization in Mexico
- Development of Survey Research
- Direct Democracy in the United States
- East Africa, Politics of
- Economic Voting
- Election Forecasting
- Election Laws in Democracies
- Electoral and Party System Development in Sub-Saharan Afri...
- Electoral Change in Latin America
- Emotion and Racial Attitudes in Contemporary American Poli...
- Environmental Governance
- Environmental Politics among Advanced Industrial Democraci...
- Ethnic Diasporas and US Foreign Policy
- Ethnic Politics
- Eurasia, Comparative Politics of
- European Social Democracy
- European Union, Politics of the
- Failed and Weak States in Theory and Practice
- Far-Right Parties in Europe
- Federalism in the United States
- Field Experiments
- Filibuster, The
- Gender and Electoral Politics in the United States
- Gender and International Relations
- Gender, Behavior, and Representation
- Global Inequality
- Globalization and the Welfare State
- Globalization, Health Crises, and Health Care
- Governance in Africa
- Governmental Responses to Political Corruption
- Gridlock and Divided Government in the U.S.
- Historiography of Twentieth-Century American Conservatism,...
- Hobbes’s Political Thought
- Hume’s Political Thought
- Hybrid Regimes
- Identity and Political Behavior
- Ideological Reasoning in Politics
- Immigrant Incorporation in Canada
- Immigrant Incorporation in Western Europe
- Immigration and International Relations
- Immigration Politics and Policy in the United States
- Impact of Campaign Contributions on Congressional Behavior...
- Implicit Attitudes in Public Opinion
- Income Dynamics and Politics in North America and Europe
- Income Inequality and Advanced Democracies
- Income Inequality in the United States, The Politics of
- Indian Democracy
- Indigenous Rights and Governance in Canada, Australia, and...
- Informal Practices of Accountability in Urban Africa
- Institutional Change in Advanced Democracies
- Intellectual Property in International Relations
- Interest Groups and Inequality in the United States
- Interest Groups in American Politics
- International Conflict Management
- International Criminal Justice
- International Law
- International NGOs
- International Political Economy of Illegal Drugs
- Internet and Politics, The
- Iran, Political Development of
- Israeli Politics
- Judicial Supremacy and National Judicial Review
- Judiciaries and Politics in East Asia
- Kant's Political Thought
- Labor Politics in East Asia
- Land Reform in Latin America
- Latin America, Democratic Transitions in
- Latin America, Environmental Policy and Politics in
- Latin America, Guerrilla Insurgencies in
- Latin America, Social Movements in
- Legal Mobilization
- LGBT Politics in the United States
- Liberal Pluralism
- Local Governments in the United States
- Machiavelli’s Political Thought
- Marx's Political Thought
- Mass Incarceration and US Politics
- Mechanisms of Representation
- Media Effects in Politics
- Media Politics in South Asia
- Minority Political Engagement and Representation in the Un...
- Modern Dynastic Rule
- Modern Elections and Voting Behavior in Europe
- National Interbranch Politics in the United States
- NATO, Politics of
- Negative Campaigning
- Neoclassical Realism
- New Institutionalism Revisited, The
- North America, Comparative Politics of
- Oil, Politics of
- Origins and Impact of Proportional Representation, The
- Outcomes of Social Movements and Protest Activities
- Partisan and Nonpartisan Theories of Organization in the U...
- Partisan Polarization in the US Congress
- Partisan Polarization in the US Electorate
- Party Networks
- Peace Operations
- Personality and Politics
- Plato's Political Thought
- Policy Responsiveness to Public Opinion
- Political Economy of Financial Regulation in Advanced Ind...
- Political Economy of India
- Political Economy of Taxation, The
- Political Geography in American Politics
- Political Obligation
- Political Parties and Electoral Politics of Japan
- Political Thought, Hegel's
- Political Thought of the American Founders, The
- Politics and Policy in Contemporary Argentina
- Politics of Anti-Americanism
- Politics of Class Formation
- Politics of Disaster Prevention and Management
- Politics of Financial Crises
- Politics of Foreign Direct Investment in South Asia
- Politics of Higher Education in the U.S.
- Politics of Internal Conquest in the United States and Can...
- Politics of Japan
- Politics of Natural Disasters, The
- Politics of North Korea
- Politics of Science and Technology
- Politics of South Africa
- Politics of Southern Africa
- Postcolonialism and International Relations
- Post-Communist Democratization
- Preferential Trade Agreements, Politics of
- Presidential Persuasion and Public Opinion
- Presidential Primaries and Caucuses
- Private Governance
- Public Opinion in Advanced Industrial Democracies
- Public Opinion in New Democracies and Developing Nations
- Public Presidency, US Elections, and the Permanent Campaig...
- Qualitative Methods, The Renewal of
- Race in American Political Thought
- Racial and Ethnic Descriptive Representation in the United...
- Regime Transitions and Variation in Post-Communist Europe
- Regional Integration in Latin America
- Regional Security
- Regulating Food Production
- Religion in American Political Thought
- Religion in Contemporary Political Thought
- Religion, Politics, and Civic Engagement in the United Sta...
- Rousseau's Political Thought
- Rule of Law
- Russia and the West
- Science and Democracy
- Social Policy and Immigrant Integration
- South Korea, Politics of
- Spectacle, The
- State Building in Sub-Saharan Africa
- State Formation
- State, The Nature of the
- Supreme Court of the United States, The
- Systemic Theories of International Politics
- Taiwan, Politics of
- Tea Party, The
- The New Right in American Political Thought
- Transitional Justice
- Transnational Private Regulation
- Turkey, Political Development of
- US Military Bases Abroad
- US Presidency, The
- Voter Turnout
- Welfare State Development
- Welfare State Development in Latin America
- Welfare State Development in Western Europe
- West Africa, Politics of
- Worker Politics in China
- Youth and Generational Differences in US Politics