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Vanderbilt University

Publication Date

Fall 2019

Program Name

Jordan: Geopolitics, International Relations, and the Future of the Middle East


Tribalism has been the fundamental organizational unit of Middle Eastern Society for thousands of years. Recently however, modern scholars have questioned the viability of tribalism in the burgeoning democratic systems of the region. This study weighs in on this debate, focusing specifically on how tribal loyalties influence the effectiveness of political parties, considered by political science researchers to be the most effective way for the people to impose their will on the government. Focusing specifically on Jordan, this research takes into account information collected from interviews with several prominent members of Jordanian political, social, and intellectual life, including the heads of several political parties and a tribal Sheikh, as well as existing research on both political parties and tribalism. It concludes that tribalism is not inherently at odds with democracy, and only hinders democratic systems, such as political parties, when tribal loyalties trump national ones.


Arabic Studies | Civic and Community Engagement | Islamic World and Near East History | Near and Middle Eastern Studies | Political Science | Politics and Social Change | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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