chapter  1
27 Pages

The Fate of Constitutionalism in the Middle East

Constitutional government is usually-and rightly-said to originate in western Europe, where it is the distant-and quite unforeseen-outcome of the militarization and barbarization which overtook, after the ninth century, the settled and prosperous lands of the western Roman empire. Constitutional government may be described as limited government, or as a government of checks and balances, or as representative and responsible government; again it may be associated with the existence of various powerful and substantial interests in society which other interests are powerless permanently to suppress, and which the government is not in a position to destroy. But however constitutional government is described, and whatever the particular social structure with which it may be associated, we may safely say that it is far removed from, if not antithetical to, what usually obtains in 'oriental despotism' where the ruling institution is subject to no control by the subjects and where, to use Wittfogel's formulation, the state is stronger than society.