Book reviews

Authoritarian Apprehensions: Ideology, Mourning, and Judgement in Syria by Lisa Wedeen (Chicago University Press, 2019) in Middle East Report (November 2020)


In the English-speaking world, political scientists have largely asked two kinds of questions about the ongoing tragedy in Syria. How was a popular uprising able to gain traction in such a tightly controlled authoritarian system? And how has the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Asad managed to survive a widespread uprising, armed rebellion and assorted international pressures while engaging in a scorched-earth war that has destroyed much of the country? In this elegant and provocative meditation on the conflict, Lisa Wedeen expands the conventional focus on the structures of Syrian politics to encompass the lived realities through which those structures are apprehended and experienced. [More]

Civil War in Syria: Mobilization and Competing Social Orders by Baczko, Dorronsoro & Quesnay (Cambridge University Press, 2018) in The Middle East Journal (fall 2018)

“Love is like war,” Lebanese novelist Jabbour Douaihy once wrote. “We only know how it starts, and nobody knows how it will end.”1 Historical sociologists would retort that we don’t even know that much: Prediction is impossible; and trying to work out the beginning is as good as it gets.

More than a straightforward description of its origins, Adam Backzo, Gilles Dorronsoro, and Arthur Quesnay’s book, Civil War in Syria, is an ambitious attempt to clarify the mechanisms that drove the start of the Syria conflict and to explain the specific military and civilian trajectories subsequently undertaken during the civil war. [More]