The issue of socialism and populism in the Middle East is a controversial one. Socialism or radical regimen is a system where people in the authority impose transformation on the society rather than allowing the citizens to initiate and implement it. On the other hand, populism regimen is democratic in nature and it considers the views of the people. Socialism and populism regimens are important for the development of a country. This is because they control political, social, and economic activities of a country. Many people regard the political system in the Middle East as radical because of the leadership style. On the contrary, Ayubi argues that the political regimen of the Middle East is not completely radical but a combination of socialist and populist systems, which operates smoothly to enhance the economic growth of the various countries.
To begin with, Ayubi states that the definition of socialism is diverse, thus, one cannot say that a system is radical unless it fits in all the descriptions (197). For instance, socialism is an ideology and a structure. As an ideology, it involves a political and social movement while as a structure it does not have a predetermined theory. Concerning ideology, socialism developed in the Middle East because of the people concerned about economic sphere and mechanisms for mobilization as well as political control. Additionally, socialism as a structure developed because people adopted the system as a method of hastening political growth and decision-making process. This means that the adoption of socialism enhances economic growth.
According to Ayubi, various aspects of socialism and populism were in the ruling system of the Middle East. In Egypt, socialism was not a proposal for people to follow but a line of thinking for the formulation of policies (Ayubi 200). As a result, the public dominated all the economic activities apart from agriculture and retail. On the other hand, in Syria the introduction of socialism was political during a union with Egypt when land reforms as well as nationalization of foreign and domestic companies took place. Finally, In Syria, the private sectors used to dominate but the government issued a social decree, which nationalized all the private companies. Therefore, an integration of populism and socialism enhances economic development of a country because each of them operates under a principle that favors the welfare of the public.
Furthermore, this chapter shows that majority of the countries that claim to use the populist policies have political systems that are between the authoritarian and the totalitarian (Ayubi 203). Therefore, their leadership revolves around the authority, the political parties and the people. For instance, the mobilization of the people in the society was partly charismatic, ideological and organizational. In the event where the boss was the leader, the people had no say. On the contrary, the organization leadership provided room for discussion. This shows that authoritarian and totalitarian is imperative for the economic development of a county. For instance, an authoritarian system ensures that policies exist and people adhere to them. On the contrary, totalitarian system ensures that people are free to make decisions. This freedom always acts as a motivating factor towards the economic development of a county.
Additionally, populism manifests itself as a symbol and as a socio-economic sphere (Ayubi 207). The socio-economic sphere operates under the principle of social welfare. As a result, the leaders strive to incorporate politics into economics via a collaborative relationship with the workers and the expertise while maintaining a political demand. On the other hand, the symbol sphere requires that people respect the boss and it is more of socialism than populism. For example, the socio-economic sphere allows people to engage in economic activities if it benefits them and the whole nation. On the contrary, the symbol sphere requires that people respect the leaders and follow their commands. These two spheres can lead to economic development if the leader cares for the welfare of people. This is because a caring leader always has plans that benefit people.
The argument that the Middle East political regimen is a combination of a socialist and populist system, which operates smoothly to enhance the economic growth, has various strengths. To begin with, many countries like Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen adopted the combination and called it coalition (Ayubi 209). For example, in Egypt, the political regimen had a socio-political component whose definition was corporate in nature. This means that the system had various groups that represented people according to their contribution to the nation. For instance, the peasants, the lecturers as well as the students had their representatives. This assured the various groups of people that whenever they voiced out complain, it always reached the right people.
Additionally, many countries had authoritarian practices, which limited their expansion of social base and as a result, they succumb to democracy (Ayubi 220). In countries like Tunisia and Algeria, the interest-centered and the culture-centered groups that were completely authoritative had to consider the people’s views. This is because they represented the people and for them to know their needs, they had to mingle with them. This facilitated the economic growth of the country because people always work hard when they know that they are valued and respected.
Furthermore, the absence of socialist forces to resist the populist regimen symbolized the acceptance of a coalition. This was imperative because it ensured that all the activities towards the economic development of a country were on the road to achieving the aspiration of the nation. For example, most of the Arab political regimens were populists in nature (Ayubi 208). The populism gave them a chance to practice democracy, thus, facilitating a smooth running government. As a result, it was easy for the country to grow economically, politically and socially.
The introduction of land reforms led to economic growth of various countries in the Middle East (Ayubi 219). According to the chapter, the introduction was through socialism because the government did not consult any person before the introduction of the land reforms. On the other hand, it was populism because the land became public and many people were able to access and practice economic activities of their choices. This is because the land reform was a social justice with an objective of eliminating power from the proprietors. As a result, agrarian revolution, which led to the growth of industries as well as agriculture, was the overall developmental strategy.
On the other hand, the argument has some weaknesses. According to Ayubi, many populist leaders took the socialist terminology seriously (201). This means that their authoritative nature predominated, thus, interfered with the economic growth of the country. This is because the society did not have any place in the political system yet they were the ones who worked hard to build the nation. For example, the leaders took away the public properties for nationalistic and political-security reasons. This means that the public did not have control over the land, thus, a lag in the economic development.
Although Ayubi argues that the combination of populism and socialism is important for economic growth, some Arab countries are populist yet economically developed. This mean populism alone can facilitate economic growth of a country, hence, amalgamation with socialism is not necessary. This is because populism allows the society to control properties, thus, people are free to engage in economic development activities (Ayubi 216). For instance, populism does not only concentrate on social growth but also economic development. As a result, populism permits the formulation of policies concerning trade unions, agriculture as well as political movements.
Furthermore, socialism alone can result in economic development of a country because the rules and regulations governing it are sensitive to the growth of a nation. Ayubi states that socialism developed because of the people’s concern about economics and mobilization (217). Although socialism does not give people chances to choose what they want, it always initiates projects that facilitate the economic growth of a country. Additionally, it mobilizes people to implement activities that are sensitive to the national economic development. Therefore, socialism alone can still facilitate fiscal advancement of a country.
Ayubi argues that the combination of socialism and populism in the Middle East facilitates smooth running of the nation yet the two regimens conflict each other (211). This is because a disagreement usually occurs when two systems with different principles operate under the same umbrella. For instance, a country may want to join a trade union at a particular time but because its political regimen is both populism and socialism and it ens up suspending that decision yet it is important for the economic growth of the country. This is because the supporters of populism may want to seek the people’s decisions while the opponents want to proceed with the implementation of the verdict. As a result, a conflict may arise leading to abolishment of the decision of joining the trade union, thus, interfering with economic development.
Lastly, the contradictory nature of populism policies makes it hard for one to distinguish a country that is operating on both socialist and populist principles. This is because socialistic principle states that people have no say and they have to follow what the leader says. On the other hand, authoritarian policy of populism states that the authority is powerful and people have to obey it. Therefore, it is hard to say that a country that operates on both populism and socialism has the best economic development activities than one, which relies on a single regimen.
In conclusion, the argument that the political regimen of the Middle East is not completely radical but a combination of socialist and populist systems, which operates smoothly to enhance the economic growth of the various countries is partially true. This is because of the various evidences and strengths that the argument has. For instance, the diverse definition of socialism makes it hard for one to classify a country as a socialist or populist. Additionally, any form of political regimen always strives to improve the social, economic and political situation of a country. Lastly, the operating policies of populistic regimen complicate the determination of a country that operates on both regimens. Therefore, a clear definition of populism and socialism must exist before one declares a system that is best for the development of a county.
Ayubi, Nazih. Over-stating the Arab State: Politics and Society in the Middle East. New York: IB Tauris Publisher, 2008. Print.