Caliphates, dictatorships, and monarchies have been successful forms of government within the Middle East and Arab culture for centuries because they are designed around the basic patron and client relationship. The patron provides the client with security, goods and services, commerce, and a community structure. In return, the client provides the patron with adoration, political support or loyalty, taxes, and ruling authority. It is a hierarchical structure in which everyone is aware of everyone’s place based on his or her influence to the patron. Revolutions and military coups are often driven by the patron failing to provide for their client in some manner.

Basic Patron and Client Relationship

Democracy in the Middle East is often labeled a failure because of corruption within the government. Baksheesh or payments are labeled as corruption but it is an Arab cultural norm. Baksheesh can be paid both ways; patron to client and client to patron. The patron and the client relationship rely on this norm to be a mutually beneficial relationship. Additionally, democracy is usually introduced as the new form of government following the removal of a dictator such as in Egypt, Iraq, and Libya. When a dictator is removed from power, the hierarchical system is thrown upside down. The former client that assumes power after a dictator has fallen often doesn’t remain in power for very long because they lack the financial or social structure to successfully continue. Without the ability to provide the basics, the new patron will lack the authority to remain in power. This has been continuous cycle throughout the history of the Middle East. Even with the influence and interference of foreign nations, the patron and client relationship will continue to drive government structures in the Middle East. This is one of the primary reasons why movements like the Arab Spring fail and democracy fails to take hold.


Image Credits- The Daily Beast