All in the Family

Absolutism, Revolution, and Democracy in Middle Eastern Monarchies

By Michael Herb

Subjects: Middle East Politics
Series: SUNY series in Middle Eastern Studies
Paperback : 9780791441688, 352 pages, May 1999
Hardcover : 9780791441671, 352 pages, June 1999

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Table of contents

Figures, Tables, and Charts


A Note on Titles, Names, and Conventions

1. Introduction


Explanations for Revolution
Dynastic Monarchy
Rentier Income
The Educated (or New) Middle Class
Political Participation and Revolution
The Scope of the Study, Theoretic Approach, and the Cases Examined


2. The Emergence of Dynastic Monarchy and the Causes of Its Persistence


The Rise of the Arabian Dynasties
Norms within the Ruling Families
Marriage and Dynastic Monarchism
Consultation and the Mediation of Dynastic Rule
The Resolution of Disputes within the Dynasties


3. Arabian Society and the Emergence of the Petro-State


Ascriptive Status in Arabia
Elite Clans
The Merchants
The Rise of the Educated Middle Class
The Relative Decline of the Bedouin


4. The Dynasties: The Al Sabah and the Al Saud


The Al Sabah
The Al Saud


5. The Dynasties: The Al Thani, Al Khalifa, Al Nahayan, Al Maktum, and Al Said


The Al Thani of Qatar
The Al Khalifa of Bahrain
A Note on the Emirates
The Al Nahayan of Abu Dhabi
The Al Maktum of Dubai
The Al Said of Oman
Variations in the Capture of the Petro-States by the Dynasties


6. Strategies of Regime and Opposition in the Dynastic Monarchies


Saudi Arabia
The Emirates


7. Libya and Afghanistan




8. Five Nondynastic Monarchies




9. Dynastic Monarchism and the Persistence of Hereditary Rule


Dynastic Monarchy
Other Explanations
Rentierism, Revolution, and Resilience
The Composition of the Military
Tribe and Kin as Inclusionary Political Institutions
Foreign Powers
The Lessons of the Dynastic Monarchies


10. The Theory of the Rentier State and Constitutional Monarchy in the Middle East


The Theory of the Rentier State
When Parliamentary Liberalizations Succeed
The Flexibility of Monarchical Institutions in Accommodating Democratic Compromises
The Absolutisms and Western Policy
Monarchy and Political Development





A new and provocative argument about monarchism in the Middle East.


Michael Herb proposes a new paradigm for understanding politics in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. He critiques the theory of the rentier state and argues that we must put political institutions—and specifically monarchism—at the center of any explanation of Gulf politics. All in the Family provides a compelling and fresh analysis of the importance of monarchism in the region, and points out the crucial role of the ruling families in creating monarchal regimes. It addresses the issue of democratization in the Middle Eastern monarchies, arguing that the prospects for the gradual emergence of constitutional monarchy are better than is often thought.

Michael Herb is Assistant Professor in the Political Science department at Georgia State University.


"One of the most insightful and important contributions of the book lies in its well-articulated critique of the (simplistic) 'rentier state' theory, which attributes the resilience of Gulf regimes to their oil wealth and consequent ability to buy off the opposition. Such a critique is long overdue. The author's arguments and evidence to challenge the rentier theory should by themselves ensure that this book will receive much attention. "— Guilain Denoeux, Colby College

"…provocative and insightful …" — Middle East Policy

"…a well-written, concise analysis of Middle Eastern monarchies … deserves serious attention from scholars and policy makers interested in the Middle East or the stability of authoritarian states more generally. " — Political Science Quarterly