Will Arab Spring lead to democracy?

A new BPEA paper by Eric Chaney (pdf) suggests maybe not:

Will the Arab Spring lead to long-lasting democratic change? To explore this question I examine the determinants of the Arab world’s democratic defi…cit in 2010. I …find that the percent of a country’s landmass that was conquered by Arab armies following the death of the prophet Muhammad statistically accounts for this defi…cit. Using history as a guide, I hypothesize that this pattern reflects the long-run influence of control structures developed under Islamic empires in the pre-modern era and …and that the available evidence is consistent with this interpretation. I also investigate the determinants of the recent uprisings. When taken in unison, the results cast doubt on claims that the Arab-Israeli conflict or Arab/Muslim culture are systematic obstacles to democratic change in the region and point instead to the legacy of the region’s historical institutional framework.

Here is a good sentence:

…the fact that the Arab world’s democratic defi…cit is shared by 10 non-Arab countries that were conquered by Arab armies casts doubt on the importance of the role of Arab culture in perpetuating the democratic defi…cit.

And this:

Once one accounts for the 28 countries conquered by Arab armies, the evolution of democracy in the remaining 15
Muslim-majority countries since 1960 largely mirrors that of the rest of the developing world.


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