Political Commitment under an Authoritarian Regime: Professional Associations and the Islamist Movement as Alternative Arenas in Jordan

  • Pénélope Larzillière Institut de recherche pour le développement


How does political commitment develop when actors are confronted with authoritarian processes? Under a liberal authoritarian regime, even the creation of democratic institutions may mean authoritarian stabilization (contradicting classical transition theories) rather than open an arena for political protest. However, alternative contentious arenas may appear, where resourceful organizations can be partially transformed into a basis for protest with challenging frames of reference. In the Jordanian case, the professional associations (in contravention of corporatism theory) and the Islamist social movement have thus gained oppositional capacity. However, apart from repression, their own economic and social roles, and their integration in the regime frame and limit the kind of political commitment they can lead. Ambivalence arises between challenging and integrated positions and when alternative arenas become so integrated in the regime that they lose their contentious role, radicalization
processes appear. Both cases underline the versatility of political arenas and their relational characteristics. These political arenas are also the places where alternative ideologies are produced. At that level, the Islamist movement has a very specific position as a hegemonic ideological producer with no hegemonic power and position. The case thus supports an analytical separation between power position and ideology and confirms the need for less state-centred definition of ideology.
Focus: (De)Radicalization