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The Middle Eastern region is one of the major concerns of the modern world. The lack of stability associated with this area and the rise of terrorism observed in the last several decades attract the public attention and give rise to vigorous debates regarding the future of the region and the factors that resulted in the development of this undesired situation and emergence of multiple problems.
Being a strategically important region characterized by rich oil deposits, Middle East is the topic of discussion of numerous researchers who delve into the history of the emergence of modern states located there to outline how one or another aspect preconditioned the formation of the unique and complex environment that can be observed at the moment. The book State, Power, and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East by Roger Owen is devoted to this very issue.
In chapters two and three, the author cogitates about the growth of the single-party regimes and family rule in the region. Owen assumes that the rapid growth of state apparatus became an inevitable result of states independence (23). The need to maintain security by own forces, control all national territory, and the use of the local resources to promote particular economic programs and social welfare contributions to the evolution of the bureaucratic apparatus and its expansion (Owen 23).
At the same time, these needs were used to justify and legitimate regimes that were responsible for the development of a state apparatus along with its centralization (Owen 29). In such a way, a small number of people acquired an enormous power which resulted in the formation of single-party systems in the Middle Eastern Regions and their further development.
In the third chapter, the author continues the analysis of political patterns in the area. Owen states that the concentration of outstanding power in the hands of each ruling family resulted in their rise and becoming one of the most potent political actors in the area (39). Another factor that contributed to the growth of family regimes was their ability to control the oil industry and huge financial flows coming from the European region and other states interested in the development of the Middle East (Owen 40).
In such a way, money along with the extensive use of the development state apparatus provided leading clans with an opportunity to make their positions more powerful. A set of other factors like religions, local traditions, and mentality also resulted in the formation of the unique political environment that preconditioned the further development of states in the region.
The given readings contribute to a better understanding of the way the Modern Middle Eastern states have passed to create legal environments they have today. Cogitating about the background for these historical processes, Owen mentions numerous factors such as oil, religion, international discourse, and local peculiarities that should be considered because of their outstanding significance (41).
For instance, religion has always been one of the central concerns for the given area. Being states with the dominant Islam, new nations were not able to disregard it. However, the rise of single-party and family regimes coincided with the decline of the power of religion and its impact on domestic and foreign policy. Owens idea about ruling families inability to completely exclude religion from political life is supported by other authors (Bayat 67). At the same time, they managed to use traditional autocratic patterns to justify their power and explain the need for consolidation (Provence 77). Religious motifs provided leaders with an opportunity to make their positions stronger and later transform their states into secular ones.
Another idea suggested by Owen is that the transformation of the region by the pattern mentioned above became possible because of the rich history and powerful traditions. A hereditary right to rule established in the area was not new as kings of the past had already utilized the same approach (Owen 41). Using traditional beliefs, ruling families showed that centralization of power is critical for the promotion of social, cultural, and economic reforms to achieve high levels of development and prosperity.
Bayat states that these ideas found a broad response among the local population because of the successful historical periods with a single ruler possessing absolute power in his hand (91). Unconsciously trying to restore these patterns, people supported the transformation of their state into monarchies with power concentrated in the hands of ruling families and hereditary patterns of succession.
Revolving around this period of the Middle Eastern States formation, Owen admits multiple financial problems peculiar to the majority of new countries before the oil era. Specialists investigating these issue also emphasize the fact that the extensive use of oil deposits provided rulers with an outstanding opportunity for their empowerment, however, at the first stages of their states rise, ruling families had to look for ways to preserve their financial independence from import social groups (Bayat 76; Provence 81).
For this reason, they engaged in business activity. Provence states that it became another critical factor contributing to the centralization of power and its concentration in the hands of a limited number of people (101). Successfully managing their businesses, rulers spread their influence by providing their relatives with an opportunity to earn more money and make their positions stable (Owen 43). For this reason, not surprisingly, they managed to become leaders in the oil industry by using their wealth, power, and state apparatus. Leading role and the control of incomes from oil sales completely fastened these regimes and guaranteed their further rise.
Finally, the question of army and control over it became another issue important for ruling clans. Owen admits the fact that military support was critical for new rulers (45). This idea is supported by Bayat who assumes that the first task of new elites and dominant families was to gather support and ensure the absence of protests in the army (85). It became another factor that preconditioned the rise of monarchies in the region. The fact is that the concentration of power provides better opportunities for control. That is why the given pattern was used to ensure that armies headed by colonial commanders will remain loyal and support the rise of new states.
Altogether, the evolution of the modern Middle Eastern states in the second half of the 20th century was impacted by several factors. These include the powerful religion, local traditions, and the need to promote economic development. The combination of these aspects created the basis for the development of the single-party and family regimes and the emergence of rulers who concentrated power in their hands. It preconditioned the further rise of the region and formation of its political and cultural environment that attracted modern researchers interested in the area and its history.
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Bayat, Asef. Revolution without Revolutionaries: Making Sense of the Arab Spring. Stanford University Press, 2017.
Owen, Roger. State, Power, and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East. 3rd ed., Routledge, 2006.
Provence, Michael. The Last Ottoman Generation and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Cambridge University Press, 2017.