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date: 18 October 2018

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores the history of civil society in the Middle East. It suggests that the fate of civil society in the region has been closely tied to the political regimes in place and their transformation, or lack of it, over time, a fate crucially affected by the strong autocratic features that have characterized the exercise of state power in most of the region. It argues that in most Arab states and Iran, authoritarian rule and strong non-voluntary forms of social organization continue to impose significant limits on independent associational life and the strength of public spheres.

Keywords: civil society, Middle East, political regimes, state power, Arab states, Iran, authoritarian rule, social organization, associational life, public spheres

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