Beyond the ‘Pragmatism-Radicalism Dialectic’ in the Study of Local Politics
Since the mid-1990s, two dramatically distinct imaginations of ‘the politics of the local’ have preoccupied research on the Middle East at the intersections of political sociology, anthropology of the state, urban planning/geography, and comparative politics. This interdisciplinary research community (in which I include myself) has maintained two contradicting normative commitments. One posits the local as a pragmatic supplement to the state (providing public goods and mediating spaces of small-scale contestation in the context of regularized and unaccountable, authoritarian and neoliberal rule). Another posits the local as a radical alternative to dominant order (a potentially redistributive and substantive democratic dynamic which animates fullness of agency among ‘local’ or ‘poor’ people).
KeywordsCollective Action Middle East Local Politics Normative Commitment Muslim Brotherhood
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