Leadership and legitimacy in MENA

Authored by: Mark Sedgwick

The Routledge Handbook to the Middle East and North African State and States System

Print publication date:  November  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9780367358877
eBook ISBN: 9780429342486
Adobe ISBN:


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Legitimacy is important for MENA states, and it is not just a property of democratic states, as is sometimes supposed. A problem arises, however, when it comes to measuring legitimacy in non-democratic states, where standard instruments such as opinion polls cannot be used. This chapter proposes two complementary solutions to this problem. One is to break legitimacy down into its constituent parts, which makes it easier to ask whether or not a particular type of legitimacy can be plausibly claimed in a particular content. A variety of legitimacy that cannot be plausibly claimed is highly unlikely to be perceived, so no actual measurement is then needed. The other is to use the events of the Arab Spring (2011–12) as a way of illuminating what otherwise remains hidden, as these events helped show what forms of legitimacy different MENA states actually had. The chapter first breaks down the legitimacy of the nation-state into the legitimacy of the nation and of the state, and the legitimacy of the state into various parts. Four patterns of legitimacy are then identified, with the help of the events of the Arab Spring. Legitimacy, it is concluded, helps explain authoritarian resilience and state survival or collapse.

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