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Consociational Democracy and Peripheral Capitalism in Late-Modernising Societies: A Political Economy of Lebanon

MAREI, FOUAD,MOHAMED,GEHAD,MOHAM (2012) Consociational Democracy and Peripheral Capitalism in Late-Modernising Societies: A Political Economy of Lebanon. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Following the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri in 2005, Lebanon witnessed vigorous debate over the nature of its political system raising the question of whether it is based on consociation between confessions or consensus and balance of power between political factions. Lebanon has traditionally alternated between several extremes: from ‘the happy phenomenon’, a liberal example of self-perpetuating prosperity and ‘the only Arab democracy’ to a haven for warlords and the scene for recurring political impasses and violence. Underpinning these extremes, however, is the national myth that Lebanon is the ‘Switzerland of the East’. Whether this refers to its mountainous geography, freewheeling capitalism, salience of the tertiary sector or the politico-cultural cantonisation of the country is the subject matter of this research.

This study explores political economy and political culture in Lebanon by locating the confessional subcultures within the theoretical framework of ‘hybrid modernities’. The research presented in this study, hence, aims to make sense of the perennial cycles of conflict and political impasses which have scarred modern Lebanese history. This is done by critically examining the intersections between consociationalism as a political superstructure, peripheral capitalism as a political economy and confessionalism as a political paradigm. The theory of ‘hybrid modernities’ is utilised in an attempt to redefine ‘modernity’ as an inclusionary and dynamic process whereby multiple socio-cultural projects are continually constructed and reconstructed through negotiation and conflict, hence, producing a hybrid order. Conflict is, therefore, interpreted as a mechanism of redistribution and negotiation between multiple subnational centres as opposed to a modality of state-society relations.

Accordingly, the vulnerabilities of modernity and the unintelligibility of its constellations are mitigated not through bureaucratic universalism and the logics of the market, but through asymmetric relations of power between zu‘ama (patrons) and their ’atbā‘ (clients). The pervasiveness of political patronage, therefore, is not a relic of pre-modernity but a ‘modern’ and adaptive response to the disarticulations of Lebanese capitalism. Patron-client dyads capitalise on and reinforce social relations within vertical segments, hence, modernising and instrumentalising ‘the confession’. Social change, therefore, emanates from the subnational periphery (the confession) and targets the subnational and, eventually, the national centre.

In responding to the aims and objectives of this study, ethnographic research was conducted to explore the intersections between the disarticulations of late developmentalism in Lebanon and the social construction of ‘imagined communities’. Focusing on the triangulation of consociationalism, peripheral capitalism and confessionalism as the political modus operandi in Lebanon and the Shi‘a as a subnational ‘imagined community’, this research explores the intersections between political economy and political culture in the production of multiple hybrid modernities within the multicentred Lebanese system. This is achieved by examining the political economy dynamics of the social construction of ‘the Shi‘a’ as well as the ontological worldviews and modus vivendi which underpin its socio-cultural project. In this context, Hezbollah is conceptualised as the ‘cohesive core’ of a social movement which articulates its own authenticated modernity and produces social change through a dynamic and bidirectional process facilitated by the party’s monolithic non-state welfare sector, civil society, media and the ulema.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Lebanon; Hezbollah; Political Islam; Islamist; political economy; peripheral capitalism; patronage; clientelistm; modus vivendi; consociationalism; democracy; modernity
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Government and International Affairs, School of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:02 Apr 2012 14:11

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