The institution of the state in the Middle East, including even those territorial states whose roots go back only to the Western presence, are of much greater importance than recent scholarship would suggest. Furthermore, following the outbreak of the “Arab Spring” in the winter of 2010, which degenerated into widespread regional turmoil, questions of religious affiliation, family and clan, ethnic communal, and tribal identity generated renewed interest, especially in regard to their interaction with the institution of the state. The violence that erupted in 2010–11 destabilized the unity of some of the states in the region and led to the collapse of others. This article addresses four recent books that attempt to grapple with the nature of the state in the Arab world and the attenuation of the regional order in the Middle East.

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