The Arab Spring’ as a challenge to the Weberian analysis of Islam
Keywords:Max Weber, patrimonialism, Arab Spring, Islam
The purpose of this paper is the application of some Weberian conceptual categories to the contemporary Islamic world. The reconstruction of Weberian thought on the religion of Muhammad seems to retain some heuristic capacity: although modified over time, the organization of Islam gave rise to dynasties with charismatic political leadership who constituted patrimonial-sultanistic forms of power, with their own armies and personal bureaucracy. Characteristics of this type can be traced in the Maghreb and Mashriq countries, where there was an almost exclusive monopoly of power by the state and the prevalence of personal relationships over institutions. A political form that Weber described in terms of neo-patrimonial societies, with a strong role of the charismatic figure of the leader, a society conceived as a collection of groups and not individuals, a centralization of power by the state, and a private and clientelistic management of economic resources by ruling elites. The Arab revolutions of 2010 can be read as a struggle against this neo-patrimonialist model in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Syria. More than a decade after the outbreak of the revolutions, the purpose of this paper is to examine whether indeed these countries have overcome those obstacles to modernization and development identified by the German sociologist in Islamic societies.
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