Journal articles


Daniel Neep. (Forthcoming in November 2021). ‘“What have the Ottomans ever done for us?” Why History Matters for Politics in the Arab Middle East in International Affairs 97,6.

Scholars of Middle East politics have been reluctant to explore how the long nineteenth century has shaped the region’s political development. The reason for this neglect, I argue, is a common understanding of Ottoman decline and failed modernization, which suggests that the story of modern politics in the Middle East commences with colonial partition after the First World War. But what if political scientists are getting the story wrong? In this article, I argue that our background assumptions about the political development of the Middle East reflect outdated understandings that historians themselves have long left behind. Drawing on this revisionist Ottoman historiography, I show that key dynamics in Middle East politics today—such as state-building and sectarian identities—originate not in the era ushered in by the Sykes–Picot Accord, but in the transformations of the long nineteenth century. By overlooking the evolution of late Ottoman politics and their historical legacies, political scientists risk misdiagnosing key dynamics in the region’s political development. ‘Bringing the Ottomans back in’ highlights to policy-makers the importance of the extra-institutional dimensions of statebuilding in the Middle East, and opens up new vistas for research in comparative–historical political science.

Daniel Neep. (2018). ‘Narrating Crisis, Constructing Policy: Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in Syria’ in New Political Economy 23,4, pp.495-511.

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            During crises, ideas play a decisive role in shaping radical paradigm shifts in economic governance. However, not all crises immediately produce such ‘great transformations’. Why do some ideas result in incremental rather than abrupt change after crisis? To identify mechanisms potentially explaining this variation, I conduct an exploratory process tracing of an understudied case of incremental institutional change: post-independence Syria. Competing political actors in Syria converged on identical policy responses to crisis despite their very different interpretations of its causes. Although power oscillated between these increasingly bitter rivals in the early 1950s, their ideational consensus on economic issues nevertheless led to a decade of steady institutional change that transformed previously fragile government institutions into powerful vehicles of statism. I derive from this analysis the potential causal significance of two new variables – crisis narrative and crisis response – and hypothesise that their configuration can explain variation in post-crisis patterns of institutional change. Ideas can explain not only the new direction of economic governance after crisis, but also the speed and scale of its movement.

Daniel Neep. (2017). ‘State-Space beyond Territory: Wormholes, Gravitational Fields, and Entanglement’ in Journal of Historical Sociology 30,3, pp.466-495.

           Neo‐Weberian historical sociology and political science establishes that territory is a defining feature of the modern state. Drawing on insights from political geography, I argue that ‘territory’ is not a pre‐existing physical location, but an effect produced by state practices and technologies. The spatial fetish of territory, moreover, distracts analytical attention from the equally important non‐territorial dimensions of the state. To map these new and unfamiliar dimensions, I propose three analogies from the study of physics ‐ wormholes, gravitational fields, and quantum entanglement ‐ as powerful conceptual devices with the potential to reorient social scientists towards a fuller understanding of state‐space.

Daniel Neep. (2013). ‘War, State Formation, and Culture’ in International Journal of Middle East Studies 45,4, pp.795-797.

            Despite the insights of historical sociology for understanding the impact of wars in the Middle East, one issue has remained inexplicably neglected: the actual violence that is perpetrated by the state-in-arms. In the state-formation literature, it matters whether warfare is fought with trebuchets or Tommy guns, cannons or kalashnikovs only if these different means of violence produce greater military efficiency against competitors, or if they produce varying institutional configurations of state-society relations. The broader cultural, discursive, and semiotic contexts in which violence is situated are largely irrelevant to such accounts. This lacuna is curious: despite the increased attention paid to culture even in mainstream political science over the last two decades, the literature on state formation continues to conceptualize state violence as a purely materialphenomenon. How, then, might we incorporate “culture” into the study of war and state formation? This article suggests a way forward.