Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East  -     By: Shadi Hamid
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Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East

Oxford University Press / 2014 / Hardcover

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Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 380
Vendor: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2014
Dimensions: 9.30 X 6.20 X 1.00 (inches)
ISBN: 0199314055
ISBN-13: 9780199314058

Publisher's Description

In 1989, Francis Fukuyama famously announced the "end of history." The Berlin Wall had fallen; liberal democracy had won out. But what of illiberal democracy--the idea that popular majorities, working through the democratic process, might reject gender equality, religious freedoms, and other norms that Western democracies take for granted? Nowhere have such considerations become more relevant than in the Middle East, where the uprisings of 2011 swept the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups to power.

In Temptations of Power, Shadi Hamid draws on hundreds of interviews with leaders and activists from across the region to advance a new understanding of how Islamist movements change over time. He puts forward the bold thesis that repression "forced" Islamists to moderate their politics, work in coalitions, de-emphasize Islamic law, and set aside the dream of an Islamic state. Meanwhile, democratic openings in the 1980s--and again during the Arab Spring--pushed Islamists back toward their original conservatism. With the uprisings of 2011, Islamists found themselves in an enviable position, but one for which they were unprepared. Groups like the Brotherhood combine the features of both political parties and religious movements, leading to an inherent tension they have struggled to resolve. However pragmatic they may be, their ultimate goal remains the Islamization of society. When the electorate they represent is conservative as well, they can push their own form of illiberal democracy while insisting they are carrying out the popular will. This can lead to overreach and significant backlash. Yet, while the Egyptian coup and the subsequent crackdown were a devastating blow for the Islamist "project," obituaries of political Islam are premature.

As long as the battle over the role of religion in public life continues, Islamist parties in countries as diverse as Egypt, Tunisia, and Jordan will remain an important force whether in the ranks of opposition or the halls of power. But what are the key factors driving their evolution? A timely and provocative reassessment, Hamid's account serves as an essential compass for those trying to understand where the region's varied Islamist groups have come from and where they might be headed.

Author Bio


Shadi Hamid is a senior fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He serves as vice-chair of the Project on Middle East Democracy and is a contributing writer for The Atlantic. Hamid lives in Washington, D.C.

Editorial Reviews


Selected by Foreign Affairs as one of the "Best International Relations Books of 2014"


Named one of Foreign Policy Association's "Ten Most Important Books of the Year"


Featured in the Wall Street Journal's "10 Must-Read Books on the Evolution of Terrorism in the Middle East"


"[An] excellent study..." -- New York Review of Books


"Temptations of Power by Shadi Hamid...provides a timely exploration of what allowed a group like the Muslim Brotherhood to succeed after the 2011 uprising in Tahrir Square - and why it failed so spectacularly." -- Financial Times


"This is an important book...There is much to commend Hamid's narrative, which is delivered with an all-too-unusual combination of care and verve." -- Journal of Democracy


"One of the best books I read this year" -- Joost Lagendijk, Today's Zaman


"The Islamists are a confounding political phenomenon, and Mr. Hamid is acute on the paradoxes they present... he is to be commended for delivering complicated news to no one's liking--not the Brothers, not their modestly hopeful fans in the West, and not their fire-breathing enemies either." --James Traub, Wall Street Journal


"The best book I've ever read on political Islam and the Arab spring." --Peter Beinart, author of The Crisis of Zionism


"Shadi Hamid has an almost oracular knowledge of the Middle East. His analysis of the rise and fall of the so-called 'Arab Spring,' which he distills in this excellent and eminently readable book, has been frighteningly accurate. This is mandatory reading for anyone interested in the past, present, and future of Islamism across the Middle East." --Reza Aslan, author of Zealot and No god but God


"In this first draft of history, Shadi Hamid advances a bold, counterintuitive thesis about the Muslim Brotherhood's trajectory: that political repression before the Arab Spring forced moderation, and electoral victory in its aftermath brought on illiberalism and failure. Even those who disagree will have to take on Hamid's arguments about the centrality of ideology. Required reading for anyone who cares about the future of Islamism, liberal democracy, and the Arab world." --Noah Feldman, Bernis Professor of International Law, Harvard Law School


"Who are the Islamists? What are the boundaries of their politics? And what decides whether they moderate or grow extreme? These are questions of great importance, which Shadi Hamid addresses in Temptations of Power with clarity and erudition. Hamid relies on his intimate experience with Islamist politics to provide an expansive picture of religious and political issues that are shaping the future of the Middle East. This book is a welcome contribution to the debate on the future of Islamism, one that all those interested in Middle East politics should read." --Vali Nasr, author of The Dispensable Nation


"Foreign policy experts have long had a blind spot regarding political Islam, failing to understand or appreciate the complex interplay between a deeply rooted vision of a purer society and the competing demands of democratic legitimacy and constitutional liberalism. Temptations of Power leaves us no excuse for continued ignorance. It is a nuanced, carefully researched, and engaging analysis that draws on history, culture, political theory, and theology to illuminate contemporary politics across the Middle East and North Africa." --Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America Foundation


"Like Hamid, I find it far easier to narrate than to explain the rapid pace of change. I had the sense that the to-and-fro of daily political struggles in which non-Islamists became suspicious of the Brotherhood and grew paranoid, in which the Brotherhood lapsed into its own paranoid attitudes, and in which state institutions resisted (ultimately extremely successfully) the Brotherhood's rise may have been a more powerful factor than any ideological factors. Hamid shows the movement as being flat-footed and ill-prepared for the challenges facing it." --Nathan J. Brown, Director of Middle East Studies, George Washington University


"Many observers have explored the question of whether Islamist moderation is tactical or sincere. Hamid's answer is clear: it is tactical...Looking to the future, Hamid takes a clear stand: 'Liberalism cannot hold within it Islamism.' Liberal secularists and Islamists, he writes, hold 'irreconcilable worldviews.'" -- Foreign Affairs


"Rigorously researched. . . clear prose and an engaging tone." -Sociology of Islam


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