Sectarianism and governance in Syria

Raymond Hinnebusch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


How does the multi‐sectarian make‐up of multi‐sectarian states affect governance, most notably the variation between democracy and authoritarianism, and how does the latter impact on sectarianism? This paper examines the literature on identity, especially sectarianism, and how it affects the formation of different kinds of governance, as well as the literature from Historical Sociology on how institutions affect identities, specifically sectarian ones. From this, the paper devises a framework of analysis which is used to guide an understanding of the interaction between governance and sectarianism in the case of Syria. The paper traces their interaction over time, showing how the salience of sectarianism varied sharply under different forms of governance. It examines (1) whether Syria's sectarian structure was responsible for the pre‐Ba'thist failure of democracy; (2) how Ba'thist populist authoritarianism both generated and contained sectarianism while post‐populist authoritarianism stimulated it and consequently destabilized the state; and (3) how the instrumentalization of sectarianism shaped civil war, obstructing democratic transition and mass revolution and generating more sectarian exclusivist governance in both regime‐ and opposition‐controlled areas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-66
Number of pages26
JournalStudies in Ethnicity and Nationalism
Issue number1
Early online date12 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2019


  • Sectarianism
  • Governance
  • Authoritarianism
  • Democratisation
  • Syria


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