Inside the Arab State

Part of the Georgetown University, Center for International and Regional Studies, School of Foreign Service in Qatar series
June 2018 9781849049399 288pp


Inside the Arab State offers a comprehensive examination of contemporary Arab politics before and after the 2011 uprisings.

Mehran Kamrava examines a broad range of political, economic, and social variables that have shaped conceptions of power, the functions and institutions of the state, the rise and evolution of social movements, the eruption of civil war in some countries and fragile polities in others, and evolving civil–military relations before and after the 2011 uprisings. Beginning with an analysis of politics, and more specifically political institutions, in the Arab world from the 1950s onwards, the book traces the challenges faced by Arab states, and the wounds they inflicted on their societies and on themselves along the way. And at the crux of the book are the 2011 uprisings, states’ responses to them, and efforts by political leaders to carve out new forms of legitimacy, as well as the reasons for the emergence and rise of the Islamic State.

Power, and an increasingly narrow conception of it in terms of submission and conformity, remains at the heart of Arab politics, popular protest and movements for change notwithstanding. The 2011 uprisings changed much in the Arab world, but even more has stayed the same.


Inside the Arab State is a top pick for understanding the Arab state and politics.’ — Middle East Quarterly

‘An important book for understanding Arab politics and, in particular, the internal dynamics affecting the behaviour of many of the Arab states.’ — Bustan: The Middle East Book Review

‘A major contribution to the study of Arab politics, Mehran Kamrava’s Inside the Arab State strikes a rare balance: theoretically rigorous yet accessible; panoramic but also rich in detail. It jettisons many of the usual tropes of the region in favour of a sophisticated argument that weaves together institutions, state-society relations, and the processes of contestation. A must-read for scholars, students and informed policymakers.’ — Frederic Wehrey, Senior Fellow, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, author of The Burning Shores: Inside the Battle for the New Libya

‘An ideal primer for students and scholars seeking to grasp institutional continuity and change in the contemporary Arab world.’ — Jason Brownlee, Professor, Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin

‘An impressive accomplishment. In this concise and accessible account, Mehran Kamrava provides a sophisticated and nuanced survey of major trends in contemporary Arab politics. Offering a deeply informed and unsparing perspective on state dynamics and state-society relations in the years prior to and following the uprisings of 2011, Inside the Arab State is an essential guide to the challenges confronting Arab politics in the 21st century.’ — Steven Heydemann, Ketcham Professor of Middle East Studies, Smith College

‘Unlike some specialists, Mehran Kamrava has ranged widely in his pathbreaking analyses of the Middle East, taking on subjects as diverse as Iranian intellectual life, the plight of the Palestinians, and the emergence of small hydrocarbon giants like Qatar. In this book he steps back to capture the big picture of the evolution of politics in the region, from postcolonial nationalism to the heartbreaking failures of the Arab Spring youth revolts. This is essential reading, from one of our keenest observers of the region.’ — Juan Cole, Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan; author of The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East


Mehran Kamrava is Professor of Government at Georgetown University in Qatar, and Director of the Iranian Studies Unit at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies. His books on Iranian and Middle Eastern affairs include Inside the Arab State and Triumph and Despair, both published by Hurst.  

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