In their book ‘Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy’, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson (2009) argue that different political institutions differently allocate political power and resources, hence the understanding that authoritarian regimes are expensive to run. Engaging with this hypothesis of resource allocation in politics, one may find the Arab region an excellent environment to further critically discuss the relation between the economy and authoritarianism, including the point at which Arab dictatorships may become too expensive to sustain.
It is indeed highly challenging to afford running an oppressive regime, and even more challenging to sustain it for a long period. In this context, and given the ‘failure’ of democratisation in the Arab region, the sustainability of oppression appears to be a dynamic that needs further examination in this part of the world. In a region with strikingly different economic models varying from those characterized by rich resources and scarce labour, where regimes can afford an economic bargain with their societies in which welfare is exchanged for political freedoms (i.e., the Gulf States), and others characterized by limited natural resources and abundant labour (most other Arab states in varying degrees) that deem they cannot afford such a bargain and find it more affordable to expand their security apparatus.
Rowaq Arabi, a peer reviewed journal dedicated to human rights studies, is seeking research papers exploring topics pertaining to the economic sustainability of political oppression in the Arab region, highlighting the similarities and differences among coexisting models of authoritarianism, as well as internal and external support mechanisms. The journal calls for the submission of papers containing original research (in Arabic or English) drawing on interdisciplinary approaches in social sciences, humanities, and law. Papers of between 5,000 and 7,000 words should be submitted to email@example.com no later than midnight on 13 February 2023 (CET). The papers should be submitted in two files: an anonymised full manuscript with a 150-word abstract without the author’s name, and a separate file for the cover page including the paper title, author’s name, affiliation, and paper abstract. Both files should be submitted along with the author’s CV. The best and most relevant papers will be sent to blind peer-reviewing. Authors of approved manuscripts will receive financial remuneration upon publication. Papers that do not follow Rowaq Arabi’s style guidelines—available here—will not be considered for peer-reviewing.
Rowaq Arabi suggests the following inexhaustive list of research subtopics and welcomes other proposals salient to the main theme:
- The rentier economy as an anti-democratising force inside and outside the Gulf states.
- The political economy of the Qatar-Gulf crisis of 2017 and its aftermath, and how it influences today’s foreign policies of Arab states.
- The degree of (in)consistency in authoritarian development planning in the Arab region since independence.
- The differences in socio-political bargains of social contracts under authoritarianism; between past models of post-independence ‘developmental states’ and current neoliberal ones.
- Military economic empires as direct violators of human rights and indirect forces against democratisation.
- The role of business elites as beneficiaries of authoritarianism and supporters of its sustainability.
- Prospects of democratic transition in non-energy-exporting regimes under the legacy of highly corrupt and nontransparent large public sectors.
- Expanding the security apparatus rather than building social welfare infrastructure as an affordable authoritarian strategy for ‘stability’ and managing discontent.
- The impact of growing economic cooperation between Russia and China from one side, and Arab states from the other, on the rise of authoritarianism and violations of human rights in the region.
- Multinational corporations as human rights violators and supporters of Arab authoritarian regimes.
- How and why international financial institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and regional development banks support authoritarianism in the Arab region.
- The political economy of the World Cup and major sports tournaments in the Gulf. Are such tournaments steps toward ‘international liberal values’ or are they ‘whitewashing’ persistent human rights violations?
- Is the current global economic recession an obstacle against attaining political freedoms in the Arab region in the near future, or is it a window for concessions?
- The use of ‘economic collapse’ by authoritarian regimes and their beneficiary elites as fear-mongering propaganda against democratisation.
- The rise in human rights violations in relation to recent expansions in export-oriented cash crops agriculture and low-cost industrialisation, where economic growth in several Arab states continues to reinforce political authoritarianism.
- Are there viable alternatives in other parts of the Global South to the current political economies in the Arab region?
To read more about Rowaq Arabi, its history in print since 1996 and its ongoing online transition, in addition to its publication guidelines, please refer to this link.
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