The new legitimation crises of Arab states and Turkey

Philosophy and Social Criticism 40 (4-5):349-358 (2014)

Seyla Benhabib
Yale University
The Arab Spring uprisings that led to the downfall of erstwhile authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya heralded the end of a state system introduced into the Middle East and North Africa by imperialist powers after the First World War. Characterized by an authoritarian model of modernization and secularization from above, these regimes are challenged by the rise of political Islam and its ideology of a transnational ‘ummah’. Islamist parties that have come to power in Egypt and Tunisia, however, have proven remarkably unsuccessful in stabilizing governments and writing new constitutions. Are democracy and a religious revival compatible? What will replace the spent legitimacy of these regimes across the region? The legitimation crises of the Arab world have transnational dimensions as well as being influenced by the politics and attitudes of diasporic populations in Europe who need to contend with a different model of church–state relations referred to as ‘the Protestant model of religion’. Contemporary Turkey, which was often pointed to as a successful model of the synthesis of Islam with a pluralist representative democracy, is itself in the throes of another legitimation crisis in the aftermath of the Gezi Park protests which took place in the summer of 2013. What does all this bode for the region?
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DOI 10.1177/0191453714529770
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