Act Three: Return of the Modernized "Moslem"

By Pete W. Moore
Submitted to Session P2844 (Change and Continuity in Middle East Politics, 2011 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
All Middle East;
Democratization;
The theme of this paper is no surprise. Are the Arab uprisings of 2011 opening acts in a return engagement for modernization theory? Already there are voices arguing “successful” Human Development indicators in Tunisia and Egypt support the claim that economic liberalization and growth wrought consequential social mobilization. Noting that events are far from over in Egypt, Tunisia or the wider region, this paper will offer an initial probe into the question of modernization and political change in the Arab World.

The first section of the paper will briefly review the state of the art in political economy approaches to classic modernization theory. How are socio-economic factors expected to connect to political change? Second, taking all of the Arab states as cases, the paper will canvass the relevant quantitative socio-economic measures which are often deployed to support modernization claims. Where do the Arab states stand in terms of development thresholds? Finally, and most tentatively, the paper will explore how development patterns expressed in the data sets comport or not to dynamics in Egypt and Tunisia. And, assuming some Arab states will not succumb to the 2011 contagion, what then do these two cases suggest about those other Arab cases?

This last effort will be based upon the secondary literature, and while neat conclusions are unlikely, new questions and research directions will be offered.