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Dialogues in Arab Politics 0th Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231109192
ISBN-10: 0231109199
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Editorial Reviews


"This is an interesting and valuable contribution to the debate about the nature of Arab politics." -- A.M. Ansari, CMEIS, University of Durham, "Journal of Islamic Studies"

"" -- A.M. Ansari, CMEIS, University of Durham, "Journal of Islamic Studies"

"" -- A.M. Ansari, CMEIS, University of Durham, "Journal of Islamic Studies"


This book offers a very different view from standard accounts of how to think about Arab politics and, by extension, how to think about international relations generally. Barnett argues that the international relations of the Middle East were not formed by the interests that each country and leader brought to the table. Rather, they developed out of conversations these leaders held over several decades and the symbols that arose out of these conversations. Dialogues in Arab Politics opens a new window into the dynamics of the international relations of the Middle East and gives us new insights into thinking about other forms of international relations as well.

(Joel S. Migdal, University of Washington)

Contrary to most analysts, who rely on classic balance-of-power explanations for Middle East international outcomes, Barnett argues that inter-Arab politics can best be understood as a constantly evolving conflict to define what Arabism means and how those meanings inform definitions of self-interest. No one interested in the international relations of the region can afford to ignore this book.

(Gregory Gause, University of Vermont)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (October 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231109199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231109192
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #594,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Dialogues in Arab Politics has a lot on the importance of norms and social structure in international relations. Michael N. Barnett analyzes the norms and social structure at a regional context. Like Stephen M. Walt's The Origins of Alliances Barnett takes his case from the Middle East. He examines three quarter centuries of the Arab politics from the constructivist perspective; hence he re-conceptualizes the history of Arab politics. In so doing, he insists on norms and symbols of Arab politics, normative fragmentation among Arabs, symbolic exchanges and social processes. He puts norms and identities as the critical variables in shaping state interests by examining the Arab politics in that process. He defines dialogues as the times the Arab states begin to discuss about the desired regional order. The discussion is circumscribed by norms of Arabism and sovereignty. Barnett defines Arabism as source of both Arab identity and interests. He also deems norm of Arabism as expression of their interests. Norms of Arabism have been also used as an instrument by one state in order to manipulate and/control the foreign policies of other Arab states. In this respect, norms can be both constraining as well as instrumental factors. Norms and identities have also greatly influenced the Arabs in their unification goal as well as their relations with the West and Israel. Pan-Arabism was relevant from the Baghdad Pact to the 1967 War and it declined its force after the 1967 war and it disappeared from the agenda by the end of the Gulf War. Then the norm of Arabism was replaced by norm of sovereignty in Arab politics. The normative shift eventually changed the foreign policies of the Arab states that they begun to focus on state interests not on Arab interests. Overall, Dialogues in Arab Politics makes a great contribution to the growing constructivist literature in recent years.
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Format: Paperback
A rewarding and thoughtful refutation of neorealist interpretations of Middle Eastern politics favoured by the likes of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. The central thesis is that Arab policies have been determined not by the need for alliances based on material resources and capabilities rather the key determinant of behaviour has rested on cultural values and diplomatic maneuvering required to accumulate social capital and approval. This approach, called "Constructivism" (and indirectly the author) was introduced to me by reading some of the more recent work of Zeev Maoz. Barnett picks an interesting set of watershed events and probes the actions and reaction of Arab leaders to them.

Barnett divides the Arab world's modern era into 5 distinct periods, marked by watershed events. Following the collapse of Ottomanism (1) under the San Remo Convention (1920) and the system of Mandates created by the League of Nations the horizons of political aspiration contracted from the Ottoman Empire to individual States. Arabism was offered up as a dream of destiny linked by common language. (2) Following WW II the Arab League was created in 1945 with the purpose of creating coordination and common policy but in fact each of the participants tried to define this in terms of their own needs and advantages.

(3) The third phase is noted by regional alliances such as the Baghdad Pact (1955 - later called CENTO) when Iraq and Jordan sign an treaty with Turkey, Pakistan and Great Britain (with the US as a silent sponsor) in order to deter the Soviet Union. This alliance with the West, done without the approval of the Arab League, brings harsh condemnation from other members of the League, especially Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia.
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