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Justice Interrupted: The Struggle for Constitutional Government in the Middle East Hardcover – April 15, 2013

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Justice Interrupted: The Struggle for Constitutional Government in the Middle East + The Modern Middle East: A History + A History of the Modern Middle East
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (April 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674073134
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674073135
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #569,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


A major work by an eminent scholar of the Middle East, Justice Interrupted provides a panoramic view of the region's struggle for justice and constitutional government over the past century and a half. Thompson offers powerful evidence that the pro-democratic aspirations of the Arab Spring have long roots. (Charles Kurzman, author of The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists)

Once again, Elizabeth Thompson delivers a first-rate book: original in approach, rich in content, yet readable in style. Rejecting superficial cultural stereotypes, Thompson articulates the importance of the common citizen and the social activist struggling for a more just society during a time of wrenching change. She is inspiring and brilliant, and I will recommend her new book enthusiastically. (Leila Tarazi Fawaz, author of An Occasion for War: Mount Lebanon and Damascus in 1860)

Thompson boldly tackles some of the thorniest issues in the making of the modern Middle East--constitutionalism, freedom, democracy, visions of justice from across the political spectrum--and lucidly demonstrates how they have been experienced and contested by a broad range of social actors. An urgent and accessible history of 'ideas in action,' Justice Interrupted is essential reading for anyone interested in the past, present, and possible futures of the entire region. (Max Weiss, author of In the Shadow of Sectarianism: Law, Shi'ism, and the Making of Modern Lebanon)

Thompson sees the thirst for justice and reform blossoming as long as 400 years ago, when the region was in the hands of the Ottoman Empire. In the generations since, bureaucrats, intellectuals, workers, and peasants have seized on the language of empire, law, and even Islam to agitate for rights and due process...Most intriguing, she finds elements of this constitutional liberalism even within fundamentalist Islamist movements that democratizers most worry about. These threads suggest a possible way forward, a way to build a constitutional, democratic consensus on indigenous if often overlooked traditions. Islamists and secular Arabs, it turns out, have found common ground in the past, even written constitutions together. The same could happen again now...It's easy to assume that religiously driven movements are all antidemocratic--and indeed, some have proven so in practice, like the ayatollahs in Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. But Thompson offers a more nuanced view, showing that many of these religious movements have internalized central elements of liberal discourse.
(Thanassis Cambanis Boston Globe 2013-08-18)

[This] study on the rise of constitutionalism in the Middle East swiftly dispenses with the facile explanations of the Arab uprisings, instead offering readers a comprehensive yet nuanced look at the lasting impact of efforts to enshrine and institutionalize the language of justice across the region during the last two centuries.
(Abdullah Al-Arian H-Diplo 2013-09-01)

Thompson’s portraits are lively, accurate and informative--a highly readable primer for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of Middle Eastern political history. (Lawrence Rosen Literary Review 2013-10-01)

About the Author

Elizabeth F. Thompson is Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John McLaren on December 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This book presents the history of an idea -- that governments must be made accountable to their people by being bound by just rules, by a constitution -- and in particular the history of this idea in the Middle East. The book ties together the biographies of political activists from the late 16th century to the present across the region to trace the idea. A pattern emerges: constitutionalism was an ideal that gained ground across the Middle East until the trauma of World War I and other 20th century disasters derailed it, but it is now unmistakeably making a comeback. The book is enormously readable for a non-expert reader like myself. I found that it profoundly changed the way I think about the Middle East.
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Justice Interrupted: The Struggle for Constitutional Government in the Middle East
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