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

in Middle East Law and Governance
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Abstract1

In 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.

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

in Middle East Law and Governance

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  • 2

     See e.g. Jennifer GandhiPolitical Institutions under Dictatorship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2008) Ellen Lust-Okar Structuring Conflict in the Arab World. Incumbents Opponents and Institutions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2005) Jillian Schwedler Faith in Moderation. Islamist Parties in Jordan and Yemen (New York: Cambridge University Press 2006) Jason Brownlee Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization (New York: Cambridge University Press 2007) Joshua Stacher Adaptable Autocrats. Regime Power in Egypt and Syria (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press 2012) Michael Herb "Princes and Parliaments in the Arab World" The Middle East Journal 58 no. 3 (2004): 369–384 id. All in the Family. Absolutism Revolution and Democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies (Albany: State University of New York Press 1999).

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    Albrecht and Schlumberger‘Waiting for Godot’ 382.

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    Steven Heydemann ed.Networks of Privilege in the Middle East. The Politics of Economic Reform Revisited (New York: Palgrave Macmillan2004).

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    Benedict AndersonImagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso1983).

  • 57

    In February 2011a survey conducted by the Center for Strategic Studies showed that 85% of the population considered economic issues to be Jordan’s most serious problem (33% rising prices 25% unemployment 19% poverty 8% the general economic situation) in contrast to only 1% who thought political reform to be the most pressing issue. See Center for Strategic Studies Istitla‘ li-l-Ra’i al-‘Amm hawla Tashkil Hukumat al-Sayyid Ma‘ruf al-Bakhit (al-Thaniya) [Public Opinion Poll on the creation of Ma‘ruf al-Bakhit’s second government] February 2011 (Amman: Center for Strategic Studies University of Jordan).

  • 74

    In 2012current spending further increased by fifteen per cent to over 7 billion jd (Ibid.). Resources for mass spending mainly came from outside the country. Both the usa and the Gulf states played a crucial role having a vital interest in preserving stability in Jordan; see Bank Richter and Sunik Durable Yet Different 169.

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