Back to the future: the Arab uprisings and state (re)formation in the Arab world

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This article contributes to debates that aim to go beyond the “democratization” and “post-democratization” paradigms to understand change and continuity in Arab politics. In tune with calls to focus on the actualities of political dynamics, the article shows that the literatures on State Formation and Contentious Politics provide useful theoretical tools to understand change/continuity in Arab politics. It does so by examining the impact of the latest Arab uprisings on state formation trajectories in Iraq and Syria. The uprisings have aggravated a process of regime erosion – which originated in post-colonial state-building attempts – by mobilizing sectarian and ethnic identities and exposing the counties to geo-political rivalries and intervention, giving rise to trans-border movements, such as ISIS. The resulting state fragmentation has obstructed democratic transition in Syria and constrained its consolidation in Iraq.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-334
Issue number2
Early online date26 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • State formation
  • Democratisation
  • Contentious politics
  • Arab uprisings
  • Iraq
  • Syria
  • ISIS


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