In this useful synthesis, Kamrava reviews the best empirical studies and theoretical analyses of political transitions in middle-income countries to illuminate the recent trajectory of the Arab world. The uprisings of 2011 marked a “critical juncture,” he argues, in which citizens called into question entrenched institutional arrangements. The possibility for revolutionary change was real, Kamrava claims. But he offers no all-encompassing explanation for why such change mostly failed to arrive. He argues that the era of larger-than-life leaders in the Arab world has ended and presents interesting data from a 2016 public opinion survey of Arab citizens that showed a strong preference for democracy and disillusionment with existing parliaments and parties. Overall, Kamrava sees the events of 2011 as more analogous to the start of the long period of democracy building that began in Europe in 1848 than to eastern Europe’s rapid transitions after 1989.
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