Efforts to account for the turmoil and instability that has characterised the MENA region since 2011 routinely stress the cumulative effects of poor governance on the part of states characterised as weak or fragile. This presentation offers an alternative approach. Drawing on insights generated by research programmes on limited statehood and contested orders, it argues that states in the MENA region are neither weak nor fragile, but ‘fierce’. In MENA, authoritarian state builders viewed states as instruments of regime survival. They produced specific forms of limited statehood in which governance was organised around combinations of clientelism and redistribution that exchanged selective benefits and collective goods for compliance, loyalty, and legitimacy. Emphasising the importance of regime type for understanding forms of limited statehood in the MENA region, this presentation explores historical trajectories of state building and their effects on governance and contestation. It examines the interactions between limited statehood, governance, and contestation to account for the mass protests of 2011, and the resilience of most MENA regimes in the face of popular uprisings.
- Steven Heydemann (Smith College of Northampton, Massachussetts)