The relationship between state and society in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is constantly changing. Not only did they violate internal orders based on old social contracts, often exacerbating the impact of regional dynamics. There was an outbreak of widespread protests and social unrest that shook the Middle East in 2011 (Colombo et al., 2018). Still, relations between the state and society were also an object of constant, more or less visible, challenging and reforming in countries that were not affected by the Arab uprisings. Communities tend to reinvent themselves, articulate new identities, needs, and requirements, and change their relationship with government institutions and actors in sometimes powerful ways.
In recent years, the politics of the states of the Middle East has been oriented mainly towards rethinking collective and pluralization. The dynamics of identity and its impact on relations between the state and society have become a popular topic on the social and political agenda, especially at the stage of openness and democratization launched by Turkey’s accession to the European Union.
Examining the changing patterns of relations between state and society in the MENA region through the feature of collective identities proves to be a helpful exercise, both theoretically and empirically. On the one hand, it allows to counterbalance notable, but necessarily partial, state-oriented analyzes of domestic politics in the Middle East and North Africa. On the other hand, this makes it possible to investigate the relationship between identity politics at the individual level and macro-political institutional design.
Analysis of case studies indicates two opposing trends: pluralization and polarization of collective identities. The tendency towards strengthening polarization leads to even greater conflict within society. However, the polarization of identity also has mixed features: although the state took into account the opinion of the people, a large number of cases of influence were still exerted by participants in the influential business (Colombo et al., 2018). For example, Tunisia has only partially devised more effective strategies to make state and society complementary players, acting through dialogue and compromise. Thus, the state tries to rely on the identity of the society.
Colombo, S., Campelli, E., Caruso, F., & Sarto, R. A. D. (2018). New trends in identity politics in the Middle East and North Africa and their impact on state-society relations. MENARA Working Papers.