Political development and decay is one of the most studied topics in political science. The issue continues to occupy many political scientists and is also highly empirically relevant – not least in light of the recent uprisings in the Middle East. The question is whether democracy can and will make headway in this region, as it has been resistant thus far to the emergence of democracy. These societies are deeply ‘patrimonialised’; that is, the practice of patron–client relationships structures the interaction between state and society. This review essay discusses two recent books that cast new light on how countries can overcome such fundamental obstacles to democratisation as patrimonialism. Most recently, Fukuyama has offered a comprehensive reinterpretation of human history with The Origins of Political Order, but one that is broadly in line with the basic understanding in North, Wallis and Weingast's Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History. However, both contributions are difficult to apply to contemporary cases of democratisation. The objective of this review article is to sketch a starting point for such a contemporary analysis, which could also help us understand the prospects for democracy in the Middle East.
2011) The Origins of Political Order (Vol. 1). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.(
2009) Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History. New York: Cambridge University Press., and (