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Reviewed by:
  • Autoritarismes démocratique et démocraties autoritaires au XXIe siècle: Convergences Nord-Sud. Mélanges offerts à Michel Camau, and: Démocraties et authoritarismes: Fragmentation et hybridation des régimes
  • Clement M. Henry
Autoritarismes démocratique et démocraties autoritaires au XXIe siècle: Convergences Nord-Sud. Mélanges offerts à Michel Camau, ed. by Olivier Dabène, Vincent Geisser, and Gilles Massardier. Paris: La Découverte, 2008. 334 pages. 26 euros paper.
Démocraties et authoritarismes: Fragmentation et hybridation des régimes, ed. by Michel Camau and Gilles Massardier. Paris: Editions Karthala, 2009. 363 pages. 29 euros paper. 26 euros e-book.

While mainstream American political science still fixates on distinctions between “democratic” and “authoritarian” regimes and chastises Arabs and others for persisting in their “enduring” authoritarianism, French colleagues have moved on to contest the distinction. The first set of essays reviewed here is designed to relativize the differences between the two types of regime and suggest a certain convergence between North and South, as established democracies become less so, their decision-making processes fragmented into undemocratic enclaves of co-opted experts and special interests, whereas the authoritarians open up to the “hymns of good governance” intoned by the World Bank, the IMF, and the European Union, not to mention the United States. In light of this collection of essays offered to Michel Camau, he and Gilles Massardier take the further step of exploring how the fragmentation of decision-making associated with decentralization, globalization, and policy expertise may help to explain a “hybridation” of regimes, blurring distinctions between democracies and their authoritarian counterparts.

The heart of the original distinction lay in the “limited pluralism” identified by Juan [End Page 316] Linz as characterizing “authoritarian” as distinct from pluralistic democracies and totalitarian autocracies. However, but in their introduction to the first book, Geisser, Dabène, and Massardier claim that this sort of pluralism is no longer limited to a particular kind of regime but rather—as an effect of globalization—is “probably today the political fact that is most widely shared in the real world” (p. 25). Geisser reminds us that in his original formulation Linz was trying to define authoritarian regimes such as Franco’s Spain as midway between Cold War conceptualizations of totalitarian versus democratic regimes but that these idealizations of regime types are ever more removed from political and social reality. “Democratic globalization,” moreover, often results in “authoritarian consolidation” (p. 7). Authoritarianism, however, seems to be a residual category, the opposite of democracy which, however, also admits of various definitions and qualifications. Perhaps, at least for this reviewer, authoritarian regimes are best defined by their lack of authority.

Nine of the 13 chapters in this volume deal with the Middle East and North Africa, including two on Turkey. Ahmet Insel regards Turkey as unstable—caught between two antagonistic forms of authoritarianism. Emre Öngün examines the extent to which its affiliation with the European Confederation of Trade Unions protects Turkey’s Confederation of Public Employees Trade Unions (KESK), a trade union for civil servants founded in 1995.

As for the Arab countries, Eric Gobe compares the trompe l’oeil of neo-corporatism in Algeria, Egypt, and Tunisia, where trade unions out of touch with their rank and file do not appear to be particularly efficient transmission belts for their respective authorities. He mentions more freewheeling trade-unionism in Morocco only in passing, but Frédéric Vairel offers a rich menu of this country’s opposition forces and their uses in “an authoritarian situation.” Lamia Zaki presents a detailed case study of sub proletarian squatters getting organized in a Casablanca bidonville not far from where others came who had launched a major terrorist operation killing 40 people in 2003. She suggests that the authorities’ traditional neglect of the bidonvilles may be a strategy of control that backfired. Her study concerns a young Moroccan political entrepreneur who was also a contractor and used nine of his workers to build—clandestinely at night—about 120 meters of illegal sewers in the Carrières Centrales of Casablanca in the two months leading up to the communal elections of 1997. Not only did he get elected but then sought to...


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