Monarchies versus Republics in the Arab Spring : a social identity approach for understanding leader fragility and mass mobilization

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2020-09-08

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Russell, Peter Daniel

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Abstract

This report targets a specific pattern in the outcomes related to the Arab uprisings in 2011 and uses them to make a broader argument about the psycho-social dynamics of autocratic rule and resistance. It asks, what explains the broad trend of the 2011 Arab uprisings that saw the leaders of Arab republics pushed out of their positions of power, while monarchies were left largely unscathed? Common institutional, structural, and strategic explanations for the varying stability of Arab regimes across type elide a crucial mechanism of autocratic strength related to legitimacy, affect, and the varying patterns of social identity in the Arab world. Utilizing recent research in psychology, leadership, and identity studies, this report argues that monarchies were largely able to prevent and manage mass opposition because of the affective position they inherited and maintained through a pattern of historical continuity and modern development that better suit the monarchies of the Middle East. Further, I argue that this variation along regime-type reflects a broader shift in the political dynamics of the Middle East, with behavioral and ideational factors taking on a greater relevance to understanding the stability of autocratic regimes.

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