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Studies 28 July, 2019

Remarks External Factors Democratic Transition Study

Azmi Bishara

Azmi Bishara is the General Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS). He is also the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. A prominent Arab writer and scholar, Bishara has published numerous books and academic papers in political thought, social theory, and philosophy, in addition to several literary works, including: Civil Society: A Critical Study (1996); On the Arab Question: An Introduction to an Arab Democratic Statement (2007); Religion and Secularism in Historical Context (3 volumes 2011-2013); On Revolution and Susceptibility to Revolution (2012); The Army and Political Power in the Arab Context: Theoretical Problems (2017); Essay on Freedom (2016); Sect, Sectarianism, and Imagined Sects (2017); What is Salafism? (2018); The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Daesh): A General Framework and Critical Contribution to Understanding the Phenomenon (2018); What is Populism? (2019) and Democratic Transition and its Problems: Theoretical Lessons from Arab Experiences (2020). Some of these works have become key references within their respective field.

As part of a wider project chronicling, documenting, and analyzing the Arab revolutions of 2011, Bishara has also published three key volumes: The Glorious Tunisian Revolution (2011); Syria's Via Dolorosa to Freedom: An Attempt at Contemporary History (2013) and The Great Egyptian Revolution (in two volumes) (2014). Each book deals with the revolution’s background, path, and different stages. In their narration and detail of the revolutions’ daily events, these volumes constitute a key reference in what is known as contemporary history along with an analytical component that interlinks the social, economic and political contexts of each revolution.

Although this article generally acknowledges the priority of internal factors, it discusses the conditions for bringing back the external factor in certain cases, especially after the collapse of a despotic regime in a dependent state. The article discusses American foreign policy, refuting the thesis that the US became a supporter of democratic transformation after the Cold War, and makes the point that the “democratic realism” that guided American policy in the Middle East is a continuation of Cold War policies with new enemies.

International and regional external factors impeding democratic transformation in an Arab country are less prevalent if the country is less important in geostrategic terms, especially concerning the Arab Israeli conflict and oil production. This is one of the most important differences between the Egyptian and Tunisian experiences.

This paper was published in Almuntaqa, the peer-reviewed English-language journal dedicated to the social sciences and humanities and the full article is available for free to read or download on Jstor.