Rex Brynen et. al. Political Liberalization and Democratization in the Arab World. (1994), vol.1, Chapters by Anderson and Hudson.

Hudson (1994) The Political Culture Approach to Arab Democratization: The case for bringing it back in, carefully.


Summary:discusses the use of political culture in studies of the Arab world, and argues that its (careful) use is required.


Important Insight: the experiments in liberalization, even democratization, occurring in several countries (e.g. Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco) cannot be adequately explained without invoking political culture. Despite its conceptual untidiness and empirical difficulties, political culture is an important variable; it cannot be reduced to other factors such as economics, institutions, or externalities; it is necessary for helping explain how authoritarianism is losing its legitimacy. The political culture concept, then, must be brought back in – but carefully. We need, and can develop, more sophisticated, less biased formulations of political culture(s) in Arab politics that will help us understand the possibilities and limits of alternatives to authoritarianism.

*thus far, writers on political culture in the Arab world fall into two categories: the reductionist approaches  – with their generalizations that Arab Muslims have a political culture that permits no public sphere and that is anti-democratic; and the empirical approaches – which are underdeveloped

*the key question is therefore how to deal empirically with civil society and political culture in general.




Anderson (1994) Democracy in the Arab World: A critique of the political culture approach.


Important Insight: the nature of the political regimes in the Arab world, like those elsewhere in the world, can best be understood as reflections of the political economy of the countries in question, particularly the character of their integration into the world economy. This is not to say that values and attitudes do not play a role in politics. Obviously they do, but we must consider far more carefully how best to assess when and where they have their impact.


*rather than simply survey the attitudes and behaviour of the population in question, most analysts begin with an effort to explain the absence of something desirable – democracy – by the presence of something undesirable – in this instance, ‘bad attitudes’. Perhaps, however, this lacuna is more appropriately attributable to the absence of other desirable traits – full national sovereignty, for example, or greater economic prosperity – rather than the presence of some kind of congenital defect.

*there are two mistakes here and together they compound the problems they separately create. The result are self-fulfilling prophecies rather than carefully reasoned or carefully researched arguments.

**first, as we have seen, accounting for what is absent, while not impossible, is extremely difficult and requires very rigorous specification of the feature whose absence is to be explained.

**second, when that feature is something so simultaneously intricate and value-laden as democracy, that requirement for rigour is almost guaranteed to be relaxed in the face of the complexity and desirability of the phenomenon itself.