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Reviewed by:
  • Egypt after Mubarak: Liberalism, Islam, and Democracy in the Arab World
  • Robert Vitalis (bio)
Egypt after Mubarak: Liberalism, Islam, and Democracy in the Arab World, by Bruce K. Rutherford. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008. ix + 260 pages. Bibl. to p. 278. Index. $35.

So far, the autocrat who has governed modern Egypt longest is its "founder," the Albanian mercenary Mehmet 'Ali Pasha. After serving in the expeditionary force sent to repel the invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1805 Mehmet Ali went on to rule as the empire's vassal or wali for the next 43 years. Nine of his descendants would succeed him, variously, as walis, khedives, sultans, and nominally sovereign kings, until a clique of military officers overthrew the dynasty and declared Egypt a republic in June 1953. None of the progeny of Mehmet 'Ali, however, ruled as long as the current incumbent, the ex-air force general Husni Mubarak, who is approaching his 28th year in power. And now Egyptians face the prospect that the President will seek to hand power over to his son, Gamal, dusting off a succession model last seen in Cairo in 1936, when King Farouk inherited the throne from his father, Fuad.

As Colgate political scientist Bruce Rutherford's new book suggests, Egyptian democrats might instead prefer that Mubarak revive one or more institutions of the same so-called liberal constitutional era that worked to check, rather than enhance, autocratic rule. It was a time when the press was freer than it is now, and when business, labor, and professional associations operated outside stultifying state control, the Parliament mattered, and parties contested for power through meaningful elections. As Rutherford shows, it is no accident that the most resilient counter to authoritarianism today is an Egyptian judiciary with roots in that same period. Somewhat more surprising, the weightiest opposition force in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, has moved closer to the liberals. The Brotherhood also has its origins in the 1920s, but as a movement with an ambiguous relationship at best to the constitution ("The Qur'an is our constitution" was one of its original slogans). According to Rutherford, the Brotherhood's vision of Islamic governance today parallels liberalism's respect for rule of law, a circumscribed role for the state, and respect for at least some basic rights. Business leaders pushing for a deepening of market reforms might be counted as allies of a sort to the judges and the Brothers, and these partially converging ideological tendencies represent one possible and —Rutherford hedges his bets —slow path away from autocracy, although not necessarily to democracy.

Rutherford frames Egypt after Mubarak as a contribution to two fields. One is to political science and its study of "hybrid" authoritarian systems. The other is to debates in Egypt and neighboring countries about the resiliency of Middle Eastern autocrats and what, if anything —short of invasion —can and should be done to bring their rule to an end. Hybrid regimes are those in which autocrats govern but do so while maintaining [End Page 503] a semblance of parliamentary life. Egypt is one case among many inside and outside the Middle East. Rutherford says political scientists have "long" been concerned with this type of regime, at least as far back as Juan Linz's "classic" work Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes (2000) and analysis of the "long-lived" example of Mexico and Malaysia. It was the contrast between, as they were viewed then, the pure one-party states of Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, and Portugal and the multiparty style authoritarian orders of Hungary, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Latvia, and Lithuania that drove the original theorizing by the professors of political science back in the 1930s. This was long before Rutherford's own teachers began their careers, thus facilitating the discipline's regular reinvention of research programs.1 Rutherford criticizes the newest scholarship and its puzzling over what turns out to be an old problem for its seemingly single-minded focus on election dynamics and, consequently, its failure to analyze when particular hybrid systems emerged and how the historical context constrains the course of change. The criticism may be somewhat valid; however, it is excessively broad and, as those who...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-3461
Print ISSN
0026-3141
Pages
pp. 503-505
Launched on MUSE
2009-07-23
Open Access
No
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