Ryan, Curtis R. Jordan in Transition: From Hussein to Abdullah.
The book presents an account of transition in Jordan since the April 1989 upheaval. Curtis begins with a brief overview of Jordan's political history since its founding in 1921. He examines the four dramatic transitions in Jordan's politics: the 1989 political liberalization and democratization, economic adjustment, the signing of a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, and the 1999 succession from king Hussein to his son king Abdullah II. It is also the tale of survival of the Jordanian monarchy since Jordan's policies intended "not just to ensure the security of Jordan as a state, but also to ensure the survival of Jordan as a Hashimite monarchy" (p. 82).
Although the book focuses on the four transitions, which Curtis contends to be principal issues in understanding Jordanian politics, and presents a somewhat extensive account of those events, the brief historical overview of Jordanian politics presented earlier in the text alone is insufficient for those unfamiliar with the history of the region in general and Jordan in particular. More history is required to explain those transitions. In particular, the democratic experience of the 1950s and the impact of the 1987 Palestinian Intifada on Jordanian politics, especially the annulment of the 1952 Union with the West Bank, which, in effect, relinquished Jordan's claim to the West Bank, need to be more emphasized.
Be that as it may, the author demonstrates knowledge of the inner workings of Jordanian politics. He points out that the conclusion and form of political change resulted, among other things, from bargains held between the various Jordanian elite forces. He observes the weakness of the party system in Jordan, which one might argue is caused by the regime responding to crises in the form of managing troubles rather than authentic desire for change. Additionally, the author discusses the role of the tribal and clan ties or social structure generally in the electoral process. Such ties might also be responsible for the weakness of the party system. The power of the tribe and clan will always be reinforced by the electoral process and regulations as long as the regional unit, not the party, is the basis of elections.
The author noted that although "Jordan did indeed change greatly ... some of that political liberalization and reform has either stalled or backslide in the last several years" (p. 40). Therefore, one would argue that the four essential transitions and/or events to understanding Jordanian politics appear to be attempts by the monarchy and its loyalists to manage local, regional, and global effects. The monarchy's goal is to survive rather than establish an authentic democratic system.
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|Publication:||Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2005|
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