Middle East Monarchies: A Configurational Comparison of Breakdown and Survival since 1945

Dr. André Bank
Dr. Thomas Richter
2012 - 2015
Fritz Thyssen Foundation

Dr. Anna Sunik, University of Heidelberg, Germany (team member)

Dr. Roy Karadag, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies (InIIS), University of Bremen

Dr. Stephan Hensell, Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kriegsursachenforschung (AKUF), University of Hamburg

Jun.Prof. Thomas Demmelhuber, University of Hildesheim



Research Questions

While monarchical rule was for a long time considered a political anachronism (Huntington’s king’s dilemma), the survival of authoritarian monarchies in the Middle East into the twenty-first century now has to be recognised as a political reality. The research project thus addresses the following questions:

  • Under which conditions do authoritarian monarchies in the post-colonial Middle East, contrary to Huntington’s dictum, reproduce themselves?
  • Which general and case-specific explanations concerning the successful survival and/or breakdown of monarchies in the region can be identified?
  • Which general and theoretical conclusions can be made regarding the dynamics and trajectories of other authoritarian regimes?

Contribution to International Research

Although recent quantitative authoritarianism research has identified monarchies as the most durable subtype of authoritarian regime (Hadenius/Teorell), the historical conditions for the reproduction of such regimes since 1945 have not been investigated systematically. The existing literature focuses only on single cases and has produced mainly particularistic and to some extent contradictory explanations for the breakdown and survival of authoritarian monarchies. Thus, the project breaks new ground in the fields of comparative politics and Middle Eastern studies by attempting to systematically explain both monarchical survival and breakdown, by including a number of key explanatory conditions (external support, rents, family participation, legitimation, repression) and taking into account their interplay, and finally, by comparing all these aspects over the longue durée of over six decades.

Research Design and Methods

Based on the systematic collection of existing, international secondary literature, the project undertakes a configurative, QCA-based comparison of all Middle Eastern states between 1945 and 2011. This systematic procedure offers the possibility of identifying explanatory factors that go beyond the previous research and simultaneously constitutes a precondition for developing an explanatory theoretical model regarding the survival and breakdown of authoritarian monarchies.

Preliminary Results

The systematic, configurational comparison of all 13 monarchies in the Middle East after 1945 indicatesthat there are three - and not just two, as is commonly held - crucial pathways to regime survival: A first trajectory covers five Gulf monarchies (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE) which are characterised by high rent income and the participation of the royal family in decision-making. The second trajectory, consisting of the Jordanian and Moroccan monarchies, stresses the interplay of externalstrategic support and strong religious legitimacy claims domestically. The third trajectory is of a hybrid nature in that it displays features of the first (high rent income) and second trajectory (legitimacy claims); it covers the Sultanate of Oman as well as North Yemen before monarchical breakdown in 1962.