Resilient Royals: How Arab Monarchies Hang On

Issue Date October 2012
Volume 23
Issue 4
Page Numbers 74-88
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No monarchy fell to revolution in the Arab Spring. What accounts for this monarchical exceptionalism? Analysts have argued that royal autocracies are inherently more resilient than authoritarian republics due to their cultural foundations and institutional structure. By contrast, this paper leverages comparative analysis to offer a different explanation emphasizing deliberate regime strategies made in circumstances of geographic fortuity. The mobilization of cross-cutting coalitions, hydrocarbon wealth, and foreign patronage account for the resilience of monarchical dictatorships in the Middle East. Without these factors, kingships are just as vulnerable to overthrow as any other autocracy—something that history indicates, given the long list of deposed monarchies in the region over the past half-century.