After the Arab Spring – Democratic Aspirations and State Failure.

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Learn why the hope and excitement of the Arab Spring are gone, why so many Arab states are falling apart, why the youth are so frustrated, why there are so many refugees, and what can be done about it.

The so-called Arab Spring appeared to end decades of exceptionalism and bring the Arab world back into the mainstream of global developments. The rebellions promised the return of politics and the reassertion of popular sovereignty against their corrupt and geriatric leaders. Much hope and flowery language greeted the young men and women who deposed their leaders and tried to build new, better societies.

Today, the Arab world is in deep crisis. Of the 22 member states of the Arab League, at least five have essentially collapsed: Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Syria exist only in name today, as their territories have fallen to competing, murderous armed groups. In the remaining countries, the old autocracies have reasserted themselves. The repression at home is now worsened by regional conflict on an unprecedented scale, and the resulting frustration has led to the biggest refugee flows in recent memory. What went wrong?

This course offers an overview of the structural shortcomings of Arab states and societies, which help us understand why the democratic awakening did not happen but instead “has given way to civil wars, ethnic, sectarian and regional divisions and the reassertion of absolutism.” This raises the obvious and renewed question whether there is something inherent in the Arab, and by analogy Muslim, condition that makes them special. Does this condition make this part of the world impervious to generally observable trends towards greater accountability, popular participation in political decision-making, greater generation and fairer division of economic wealth? Join this course to find out!


Constitutional Struggles in the Muslim World by Dr Ebrahim Afsah, M.Phil., MPA/ Essay number 2.



Definition of under-performance.

There is no doubt that institutions are the rules of the game in a society or, more formally, are the humanly devised constraints that shape human interaction. In consequence, they structure incentives in human exchange, whether political, social, economic or military. Institutional change shapes the way societies evolve through time and hence is the key to understanding historical change.
That institution affects the performance of economies is hardly controversial. That the differential of under-performance of the Muslim states, economies over time is fundamentally influenced by the way institutions evolve is also not controversial. Yet neither current economic theory nor biometric history shows many signs of appreciating the role of institutions in economic performance because there as yet has been no analytical framework to integrate institutional analysis into economics and economic history.

The role of institutions.

The factors contributing to economic growth in developed and developing states is a topic that is hotly debated amongst economists. One thing that is for certain is that the strength and functionality of a state’s institutions plays a vital role in the Muslim states whether or not the policies set forth by the leaders of the state will be successful. There seems to be no other explanation for the lack of development in certain countries in which good economic policy reforms have been applied, other than they did not possess the quality institutions necessary to support such reform. Before attempting to analyze the relationship between quality institutions and economic development I feel it is important to address the issue of defining what it is that constitutes an institution that is invaluable to economic growth. It would be impossible to make a logical case for the necessity of strong institutions in a developing economy if there was not first a definition set forth defining what that is. It is difficult to argue the purpose of something if there is no definition of what that something is. The problem that arises when attempting to come up with a universal definition for institutions is the variety of ways that institutions can function. A form of institution that functions a certain way in one country may not necessarily function the same in another. It is therefore extremely difficult to establish a set of institutions that are necessary for the development of an economy when different countries are run in ways that dictate the need for different institutions to be emphasized and to serve varying functions. Because of the fact that different institutions serve different functions in different countries, it is my conclusion that there can be no set standard that defines what institutions are necessary for the development of a states’ economy.

Reasons for this negative trends.

Despite the disparity in the levels of development that have occurred, there is evidence to suggest that some countries have experienced an accelerated rate of catch up. It is my belief that this rapid acceleration of some formerly underdeveloped states is a result of them applying policy reforms and strengthening institutions that they have seen to be successful in already developed states. It has taken decades, even centuries, for today’s developed states to establish the policies and institutions they have in place today.

Exceptions from this general trend and their recipe for relative success.

After the fall of the U.S.S.R., the communist leaders were removed from office and new leaders assumed control. This caused the Islamic states that were experiencing this transition to walking a fine line of reducing autonomy while still retaining enough power to implement and enforce the new policies. One of the most critical tasks of the new governments was to establish a rule of Islamic law.

The role of political Islam or Islamisation campaigns.

This involved creating certain critical institutions: revising or rewriting the constitution to establish civil rights and freedoms, creating a separation of powers between branches of government, revamping judicial bodies and high courts, generating electoral laws and regulating political parties, and doing all of this in such a way as to generate support among the majority of actors in society.
These Islamic countries looked to the most developed states (United States, Western Europe) as a guide for their own political system. A critical part of the transition towards becoming a liberal democracy was for states to alter or replace any existing constitution that had so long been ignored by the communist rulers. A good constitution is a cornerstone upon which the laws of a country are built. The new constitutions had to be designed in a way so as to ensure the freedoms and liberties of the people of that country as well as to keep the political rulers in check. This establishment of Islamic laws that were intended to actually last and be adhered to require the strengthening of the judicial system. Under communist rule, the laws of a country could simply be changed when they conflicted with the will of those who governed, thus rendering the judicial system practically non-existent. Strengthening the judicial system was necessary in order to uphold and interpret the laws of the new constitution.


These Islamic institutions all had to be implemented in such a way as to generate support among the majority of actors in their society. However, not all of the post-communist states have fared the same. Some states have managed to develop more rapidly and successfully than others and some have become “more free” than others. One reason behind the varying amounts of success experienced by post-communist countries in their attempts to become democratized is their geographical location. The farther Islamic states are from Western-Europe, the less strong the pro-democratic pull seems to be. Another reason for this is that this was the first time in history that Islamic states had attempted to make the transition out of communism and into capitalism. This meant that there was no model in existence for the post-communist countries to follow. They simply saw the institutions, and functions thereof, which had proven successful in the economic development of previously established liberal democracies and did their best to replicate them. Those post-communist countries that have shown the greatest improvement in their levels of political rights and civil liberties since the fall of the Soviet Union stand as evidence that strong institutions are at the core of successful economic development.

1- Institutions institutional change and economic performance by Douglass C. North.
2- Videos, Dr. Ebrahim Afsah, 1.7 , 9.4.

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Constitutional Struggles in the Muslim World by Dr Ebrahim Afsah, M.Phil., MPA/ Essay number 1.


“The past is a foreign country.” David Lowenthal


There is no doubt that there could be many discussions and talks on the nature of Iranian modernity. This subject requires an independent discussion. Several implications and terms have been used to introduce Iranian modernity in contemporary time. Traditionalism, economic independence, fundamentalism, dogmatism, emulation, secularism, religious reform and others are among terms which have been used by the Iranian intellects and politicians to express new Iranian situation. It seems that the entire terms mentioned above have been aiming at the contextual elements of the Iranian modernity. If so, the Iranian modernity is not a pure and integrated issue; but is in fact a mixed and historical matter with several peaks. The main peaks are religious-trends and anti-religious thoughts, westernization and anti-western ideologies. What we are discussing is the result of mixing all these elements and categories.

Question 1

After World War II, most of the social and political thinkers have thought that the only way of developing the third world countries is following by the Western countries. This idea has internalized by governors by making a new planning and managing of the development institution and train the people. Because of dismissing the internal factors such as human resources and cultural matters this plan has failed. Therefore, many of the developing thinkers have changed their ideas and criticized modernization paradigm. The paradigm changes from the traditional view which focuses on a general and unify plan to the new one (Hage, 1980, Wallarstine, 1989, and Berman, 2000). They have supposed the idea that each country can develop based on its social, cultural, and economic circumstances. Berman has emphasized on different versions of modernization in all of the world. On the other hand, the only way of seeing this process theoretically right is to focus each culture and society based on its experiences. In terms of the history of modern era in Iran, relationship with European societies in the 19th century gave a new appearance to the domestic activities of the country in political, cultural and economic respects and made Iran a country different from both its own past and other countries of the region.

Question 2

On the other hand, The challenge is becoming acute in the wake of the recent upheavals and transformations that have been ongoing, arrival of military technology, industry sets, new trade and banking system, modern knowledge and science, establishing some new institutions such universities and schools, new ways of training and education, communication means, books publication, photography industry, social and cultural evens such as social movement in Qajar regime and later Constitutional Revolution in 1905 and followed it by the Iranian/ Islamic Revolution in 1979 were all effective in the development of the new environment in Iran. This new era has been defined by social scientists and Intellectuals as modern era (Azadarmaki, 2001)

Question 3

Each one of the above-mentioned elements had have a different role in changing the Iranian traditional world to new, developing a modern world. This shows that Iran is a society in the international context not isolated part. Iran has gotten the modern position through the international society. Hence, it is not true to say that Iran is out of the international and global space because of dual relationships. It should say that there is common and mutual relationship between Iran and Western countries and cultures over time. The main idea in different levels (individual, local, institutional, national, and international ones) the society get modern.
To nominate event(s), time or space for starting position of Iranian modernity is very hard. Because there is less common sense among Iranian intellectuals on this matter. Some believe the role of printing books and literature as to be higher than technology (Bahar, 1299 (1920)) while those who defend materialistic development believe technology as to be more important than cultural and literacy renovation. Nevertheless, this paper is not trying to identify the difference of views in this area. In terms of the above theoretical view, we are concerned to discuss and identify the new situation of Iran within the framework of global modernity not Western modernity. Hence, the main question is as follow: “What is the nature and characteristics of Iranian Modernity?”. If we want to have a perfect understanding on this situation, we should work on a broad framework which many questions can be raised:
Is Iranian modernity a suitable term in expressing the new situation of Iran?
Within what processes the Iranian modern experience have formed?
What are the characteristics, specifications and elements of Iranian modernity?
Who have been the main builders, administrators and refiners of Iranian modernity?
Is Iranian modernity acquirable, examinable with capacities to be empirically examined or, if it is a subject just to be sensed?
Based on our main aim in this paper, among the above questions, we are going to work on the following question: “What is the nature of the new situation of Iranian society. Emphasizing on “present” as reality is the main idea which many Iranian intellectuals, artists, movie makers, writers, and politicians have focused and started their thought and activities on. For example, Iranian movie makers labeled their works based on Iranian not nobody or savaged and backward people. They have dogged their everyday social life and make movies on it. The results of emphasizing and understanding “the present time and situation” has been developed based on their experiences in the present. The Iranian modernity is emotional, sensational and humanitarian. The Iranian modernity is a mixture (national and global) phenomenon.


In discussing on the concept of Iranian modernity I have been depended on the following assumption: any society in the contemporary world has its own way of development and modernization. It is not true that all of the societies follow the way of development and modernization which Western countries have done. Each society can be developed based on its social and cultural circumstances. Therefore, any society is somehow in some levels of modernization and have its own modernity.

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