The turmoil associated with the Arab Spring in the region’s eight monarchies has received comparatively modest attention because, aside from Bahrain, the demonstrations were mostly small and nonconfrontational, there were few calls to overthrow the regimes, and states’ coercive powers were applied with relative moderation. Behind these generalizations, however, lies a more complex reality: the extent of the strife was quite different, as were state actions to counter them across the eight cases. What explains these disparities? This essay argues that the differences in the levels of unrest are largely illuminated by varying degrees of societal support for monarchical regimes, deep-seated societal cleavages, and the deficiencies of political mobilization. The variation in state responses, in turn, is mainly explained by divergent financial resources, the quality of political leadership, and external diplomatic, financial, and security assistance.

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