Asaf Hussain, Political Perspectives on the Muslim World (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984).
Political Perspectives on the Muslim World is intended to provide a comprehensive survey of the various theoretical approaches that social scientists have used to explain political affairs throughout the Islamic world. It includes one chapter each on the political modernization literature, studies of the “new middle class,” works that see the military as a modernizing force, class analysis, the dependency literature, elite studies and a number of other analytical perspectives. Each outlines the major assumptions and primary concepts of the approach, then summarizes the most significant study or studies that have adopted that perspective. Considered as a bibliographic essay, this volume is unique. It provides an introduction to the academic literature not simply about the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, but also about Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia. And it groups this literature into categories that facilitate comparisons among studies that fall under each of his separate analytic rubrics.
But Hussain explicitly avoids making any kind of conceptual connections across the various perspectives he discusses. He makes no attempt to evaluate different theories relative to one another, nor does he indicate the range of questions that might be addressed more adequately from one perspective than another. Consequently, readers will be tempted to conclude that the best way to deal with Saudi Arabia is in terms of the characteristics of its ruling elite rather than, say, in terms of class conflict, even though such a proposition is never demonstrated. It is therefore hard to know for whom the book was written. Experts in the politics of the Islamic world will be familiar with the works upon which Hussain relies, but will probably learn nothing new from his undertakings. Those new to the field are likely to perceive little more than a series of disjointed assertions about various Islamic countries, with no clear indication of how to appraise their relative utility.