The State in North Africa

After the Arab Uprisings

Part of the CERI/Sciences Po. series
January 2020 9781787382961 221pp
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Ever since independence, revolts and riots in North Africa have structured relations between society and the state. While the state has always managed to restore order, the unexpected outbreak of the Arab Spring revolts has presented a real challenge to state stability. Taking a long-term historical perspective, this book analyses how public authorities have implemented policies to manage the Maghreb’s restive societies, viewed at first as ‘retrograde’ and then as ‘radicalised’.

National cohesion has been a major concern for post-colonial leaders who aim to build strong states capable of controlling the population. Historically, North African nations found colonial oppression to be the very bond that united them, but what continues to hold these communities and nation-states together after independence? If public interest is not at the heart of the state’s actions, how can national loyalties be maintained? Luis Martinez analyses how states approach these questions, showing that the fight against jihadist groups both helps to reconstruct essential ties of state belonging and also promotes the development of a border control policy. He highlights the challenges posed by fragile political communities and weak state instruments, and the response of leaders striving to build peaceful pluralistic nations in North Africa.


The State in North Africa offers readers a strong regional and empirical foundation in the topic and a broad account of statehood that has been somewhat overlooked.’ — Times Higher Education

‘Martinez, one of France’s most reliable analysts of North Africa, has crafted a succinct overview of politics on the Mediterranean’s southern shore since the uprisings that rattled the Arab world in 2010–11.’ — Foreign Affairs

‘An insightful political history of the states of North Africa from independence to the turmoil of the present day, shedding much-needed light on the crucial factors that challenge their national cohesion and development. A welcome addition to the debates about Arab politics after the uprisings.’ — Frédéric Volpi, Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Edinburgh

‘As the state’s authority and legitimacy in the region diminishes, Martinez’s convincing and incisive analysis argues that only recognition of North African nations’ social diversity and plurality can help in reclaiming its role.’ — Francesco Cavatorta, Associate Professor of Political Science, Université Laval

‘Timely, apposite and excellent. Martinez, a leading scholar of the region, highlights the role of nation-building as the key preoccupation of Maghrebi states since independence, succinctly describing their respective pasts and the challenges to come. Essential reading for students of the region.’ — George Joffé, Research Associate, London Middle East Institute, SOAS University of London

‘Martinez presents an insightful and timely political history of North African countries that sheds light on the very fragile structure of states in the region … a valuable resource for experts and students of North Africa.’ — Middle East Journal

‘[Luis Martínez] has gathered a glittering array of facts and insights about four countries—Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, and Algeria—and presents them here accompanied by extensive footnotes for the benefit of specialists on these countries.’ — CHOICE journal


Luis Martinez is a Senior Research Fellow at CERI Sciences Po in Paris. He has been Visiting Professor at Columbia University, New York (2000–2001) and at the University of Montréal (2007–2008).  A political scientist and a specialist on the Maghreb and the Middle East, his books include The Algerian Civil War, 1990–1998The Libyan ParadoxThe Enigma of Islamist Violence (co-edited with A. Blom and L. Bucaille), and The Violence of Petro-Dollar Regimes: Algeria, Iraq and Libya.

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