kinship and family

Neither peaceful demonstrations, not violent actions can be explained without keeping in mind that ‘revolutions cannot do without the word “justice” and the sentiment it arouses. (…) People feel that government is just or unjust, legitimate or illegitimate (…) by what it does. If its actions (…) violate their basic values, they may conclude, (…) that “a government without justice is a great robbery”’. [1] People’s views and perceptions are needed to understand both their relation to power (obedience, legitimacy among others) as well as the relations between foreign aid and legitimacy. Negative perceptions on their governments’ performance and their ‘illegitimate’ foreign alliances will lead to decreasing feeling of community between the masses and the elites as well as decreasing legitimacy of the regime. Even if measuring legitimacy is difficult, the Arab Barometer may help us understand how people think about their own obligations to obey. When (in 2010 or 2011, check Arab Barometer codebook) asked about the necessity of support to be provided to their governments (even if they do not agree with it), ca 40-60% of the respondents in most countries were ready to show (belief in the necessity of) obedience:

arab barometer wave II, q216


Michael C. Hudson, investigating the origins of legitimacy in the Arab world, points to the fact that “Islam was a complete social system; membership (…) created a certain brotherhood above the immediate ties of kinship. It also conferred a stability, an equilibrium, on society as a whole, even to the point of supporting the passive acceptance of wrongs committed by the ruler who nonetheless deferred (theoretically) to the sanctity of the Shari’a.” [2]

Sources and further reading: Arab Barometer, wave II (2010-2011, question 216):; other (see biblio data in earlier posts): [1] Citing Eckstein and Gurr (1975) Razi emphasizes that it is people’s “positive or negative judgment of what is perceived” about the behavior of the regime that must be investigated to know the level of legitimacy. If the majority of the population is more or less satisfied with the government’s performance and actions in areas of “identity, participation, distribution, equality and sovereignty according to the norms they believe in, there is no crisis of legitimacy.”  Razi, ‘Legitimacy, religion’, 70.; [2] Michael C. Hudson (1977): Arab Politics. The search for Legitimacy. New Haven: Yale University Press, p50.

Interactions between foreign aid flows, sources of legitimacy and components of regime stability are not widely researched, even if there is a thematically related, ongoing research programme (Legitimacy and Efficiency of Political Systems) at GIGA, the German Institute of Global and Area Studies, see:

The listed concepts have been interlocked, especially in the Middle East, by a fourth one, namely, democracy.Global democracy building has become the main focus of foreign aid from OECD countries and international organizations for the past two decades. However, Western donors have also had competing political objectives in the MENA (stability), even if aid could have played a meaningful role in building democracy in this region too. The question why and how these countries have resisted democratic changes, emerged more than twenty years ago, after the ‘end of history’. While there is a tradition that emphasizes the exceptionality of the region not fitting into the framework of any general theory, others doubt any exclusiveness as being a real explanatory variable. Accepting the notion that even MENA can be studied by lenses of social sciences, various factors arise to explain the ‘stability of authoritarianism’ as well as the lack of real liberalization and democratization. Salamey and Pearson suggest that a combination of various factors – international interests in ‘stability’ over democracy coupled with local authoritarian manipulation of colonial legacies, along with ethno-religious interests – played a decisive role. Those referring to cultural reasons focus on traditions and perceived incompatibility of Islam and democracy. Others formulating their views more cautiously emphasize: there is nothing in Islam that would contradict democracy at most its interpretations or applications are contrary to democratic development. Yet others emphasize the lack of modern institutions and strong civil society, point either to the significance of traditional family ties, or to the importance of military establishments as factors being responsible for preventing structural-institutional reforms in the Middle East. Authors concerned with economic structures and political economy are convinced that oil revenues, rents and the lack of domestic taxes explain the inadequate democratization. Even the un(re)solved status of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to some extent the very being of Israel has been cited as being the main source of oppression in the region and the main barrier of effective democratization.

Sources and recommended reading: Carl Brown, International Politics; Rex Brynen et al, eds Political liberalization and democratization in the Arab world. Vol. I-II. (Boulder, Colo.: L. Rienner, 1998); Halliday, The Middle East; Raymond A. Hinnebusch and Anoushiravan Ehteshami, The Foreign Policies of Middle East States (London: Lynne Rienner, 2002);Larry J. Diamond et al, eds Islam and Democracy in the Middle East. (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins Univ. Press; 2003); Shireen Hunter et al, eds. Modernization, Democracy and Islam (London: Praeger, 2005); J. Lebovic and W. Thomson, ‘An Illusionary or Elusive Relationship? The Arab-Israel Conflict and Repression in the Middle East’ Journal of Politics 68, no. 3 (2006): 502-518; Bernard Lewis, Faith and power: religion and politics in the Middle East. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010); Giacomo Luciani, ‘Oil and Political Economy in the International Relations of the Middle East’ in Louise Fawcett (ed): International Relations of the Middle East (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005/2013); T. Niblock, T and P. Wilson, eds, The Political Economy of the Middle East. Vol 1-6.(Northampton, MA: E. Elgar, 1999); Ghassan Salamé, ed, Democracy without democrats? The renewal of politics in the Muslim world. (London: I. B. Tauris, 1994); Mark Tessler et al, eds, Area studies and social science:strategies for understanding Middle East politics. (Indiana University Press, 1999); Michael C. Hudson, Arab Politics:The Search for Legitimacy(Yale University, 1977); Khalid Abou El-Fadl, ‘Islam and the Challenge of Democratic Commitment’, Fordham International Law Journal 23, no. 1 (2003): 7.; Imam Salamey and F. Pearson F, ‘The collapse of Middle Eastern Authoritarianism: Breaking the Barriers of Fear and Power’ Third World Quarterly 33, no. 5. (2012): 931-948, p. 932.