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Villes, pratiques urbaines et construction nationale en Jordanie

 | 
Myriam Ababsa
, 
Rami Farouk Daher

Première partie. Villes et construction nationale / First Part. Cities ant Nation Building

Cities, Urban Notables and the State in Jordan

Villes, notables urbains et État en Jordanie

Philippe Droz-Vincent

Résumé

Dépassant les analyses traditionnelles de l’État jordanien soutenu par les tribus bédouines, Philippe Droz-Vincent analyse dans cet article la manière dont le régime jordanien est parvenu à s’immiscer au sein de la société via ses principales familles. Tout en reconnaissant l’importance du phénomène tribal, l’auteur s’intéresse à la formation des sociétés citadines depuis la fin de l’Empire ottoman.

À partir de la création de l’Emirat de Transjordanie, et le développement de l’éducation secondaire au lycée de Salt, des intellectuels jordaniens commencèrent à demander la jordanisation de l’administration qui intégrait à leur sens trop de fonctionnaires palestiniens et syriens. Les jeunes gens éduqués des familles de Salt, Irbid et Kerak, fâchés de leur exclusion de l’administration, créèrent des partis politiques de mouvance panarabe dans les années 1920, puis plus diversifiée dans les années 1940. Après la guerre israélo-arabe de 1948, l’arrivée des réfugiés palestiniens, mais surtout de toute une classe moyenne éduquée palestinienne permit le renforcement du pouvoir des villes, tout particulièrement d’Irbid. Cette nouvelle classe moyenne avait une composante militaire très importante, opposée à la présence dominante des officiers britanniques dans l’armée. Le roi Hussein, tout en décrétant l’état d’urgence en 1957, se mit à recruter de jeunes technocrates issus des grandes familles citadines, profondément nationalistes. Ce sont eux qui entreprirent les programmes d’industrialisation du pays et de canaux de grande ampleur dans la vallée du Jourdain. En pleine union syro-égyptienne, ils furent les fervents défenseurs d’une Jordanie indépendante.

L’État jordanien a ainsi eu l’habileté de se constituer tout un système de loyauté et de patronage via sa bureaucratie, qui, à son tour, a renforcé la structuration de la société autour de grandes familles liées au Palais. Le régime a utilisé ce même système de patronage pour intégrer les Frères musulmans. Mais en ce début du xxie siècle la Jordanie n’est plus un pays dominé par des familles, des tribus et des clans. Une nouvelle sphère publique a émergé, plus politisée et idéologisée, dans un contexte d’appauvrissement de la société et de radicalisation islamiste.

Texte intégral

This chapter draws heavily on field research for a book published in French by the author (Droz-Vincent, 2004). I thank an anonymous reviewer for his/her contribution in the peer-review process and the editors for their help in completing this chapter, but I should be the only one to be blamed for the end-result.

1The “making of Jordan”, to borrow an expression from the historian Mary C. Wilson (Wilson, 1989), is usually related to the role of Bedouin tribes in the Hashemite state-building experiment. Indeed, some Bedouin tribes and their prominent role in the Jordanian army are an essential component of the Hashemite regime. The “unification” of the country, to borrow the “nationalist” vision of official Jordanian history (Musa, 1996), was also accomplished thanks to another essential factor, namely British financial and military support. The growing body of works on Jordan has added other factors: Abdullah’s and Hussein’s political skills in managing their polity; their carefully designed relations with the Zionist movement, and then with Israel; and the West Bank vs. East Bank (and subsequently Palestinian vs. Transjordanian) social and political divide in Jordan. The end-result is a fragmented vision of “the making of Jordan” and the enduring “resilience” of its regime, with studies usually highlighting a single explanatory factor (Tell, 2001)

  • 2 There is a plethora of studies coming on the one hand from the students of the historian Mohammed A (...)

2I offer a more cohesive explanation by focusing on the building of the Hashemite regime and its enduring resilience in the wake of the establishment of a Transjordanian state in the 1920s. Understanding the regime is a good way to “contextualize” the above factors and to explain how they play their above-mentioned role, namely how they interact and gradually “construct” the Hashemite regime and its ability to remain in power. It is also a good way to position the regime relative to its social underpinnings, continuing the long term insights which come from a new historiography that delves into the social history of Jordan.2 According to Max Weber, a political regime is based on a certain amount of (legitimate) coercion and (institutionalized) repression. Yet, the social history of the country has to be addressed to understand how the regime entrenches itself. Jordan is a socially composite territory, whose artificiality is exemplified by the straightforward drawing of its borders. In this chapter, I shall concentrate on cities as “social springboards” for elites and I shall deal with their relations with the emerging, then stabilized, Hashemite regime (part 1). The Jordanian social fabric has also been subjected to destabilizing social trends whereby urban notables with Ottoman roots have been engulfed (and transformed) by “new middle classes” endowed with “modern” professions, with a military component (officers in the army) (part 2). The consolidation of the regime entails social engineering capabilities whereby the regime has incorporated large parts of its society in its statist sphere (part 3). The ensuing mutual relations are essential to understand the regime’s durability, which is very different from a “mechanical” model of state/society relations based on a static and simplified dichotomy between an (authoritarian) regime and a potentially vibrant (“civil”) society (part 4).

1. The past as a prologue: Jordanian social fabric, with special emphasis on its urban component

3The Ottoman social background is of prime importance to understanding the emergence of the modern Middle East. This feature stems not only from the consequences of the Ottoman Empire’s post-World War I collapse for the drawing up of “national” borders in this strategic region where “imperialist” Western powers (Great Britain and France) were active. It is also the consequence of Ottoman social history, whose imprint was felt long after the empire’s collapse. The city is an essential site of politics in the Ottoman Empire. Empires are traditionally more concerned with cities rather than with rural peripheries, which are often neglected areas or areas left to their own dynamics - see for instance the Ottoman neglect of the Arabian Peninsula, except for the Hijaz region with its proto-urban tradition and holy cities, and the subsequent rise of Wahhabism in central Arabian wadi(s) (Nejd). An empire rules by asserting its control on cities, therefore reinforcing their prosperity and their importance (Barkey, 2008; Mantran, 1988)

4In a seminal article “Ottoman Reform and the Politics of Notables” (Hourani, 1968), Albert Hourani stressed the importance of the urban scene to understand political developments in the Middle East. This urban locus of politics has given rise to an important social stratum: families of urban notables with an inherited social influence who have grown up in cities under Ottoman tutelage. As stressed by Hourani, we find the politics of notables “in its purest form” in Syrian cities and more generally in the Levant. Urban notables were not military rulers in the Mamluk tradition (who dominated in Cairo, Mosul or Baghdad as auxiliaries for the Ottoman centre), nor were they a form of decentralized or “outsourced” authority endowed with a high level of autonomy. The “politics of notables” arises when urban notables gain access to authority (as Ottoman representatives in the Arab provinces) and when they retain some social power of their own.

  • 3 For Syria, see Khoury, 1987 and 1983; for Palestine, see among others, Khalidi, 1998: and Doumani, (...)

5With the advancement of Ottoman reforms (or Tanzimat), which led to a reaffirmation of the Ottoman state in the Arab periphery in the 19th century, urban notables took on important roles and invested themselves (and their families) in administrative positions.3 They became essential go-betweens between Ottoman rulers and Arab societies. Urban notables also took control of large areas of agricultural land with the reaffirmation of the Ottoman system of power, which involved the registration of agricultural lands by the state apparatus, hence by the social elites who were in close contact with the Ottoman bureaucracy. This social trend led to the emergence of great landed families in Syrian “agro-cities” or in Palestinian cities. Urban notables became social (and political) actors.

6The Transjordanian landscape is different from its Syrian and Palestinian counterparts in terms of size and social strength. The tribal constituency has retained its crucial importance (Bocco, 1996). Transjordanian cities were few in number and weak compared with Syrian or Palestinian cities and acted less as social fabric than Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Jerusalem, Nablus, Hebron etc., where the city gave birth to a vibrant politics of notables. Transjordan came under Istanbul’s authority in name alone during the second half of the 19th century (Rogan and Tell, 1994; Mundy, 2000). The settled population lacked the power to gain control over surrounding regions, as towns remained small and powerless against the Bedouin tribes’ military might. The residents of Salt negotiated access to surrounding farmlands with tribes, but Salt did not own land and did not dominate its periphery; the region of Irbid was an extension of the grain-producing plains in the Syrian Hawran, but the settled peasants (fallahun) lived in an insecure environment threatened by Bedouin tribes and Irbid remained an inhospitable village that lacked a well-established tribal organization; Karak was more part of a “Khaldounian world” submitted to the dynamics of the badia desert (Lewis, 1987) and to the rise of rural solidarity groups (asabiyyat), than the kind of social world described by Hourani: in the 18th century, the Majali family from Hebron established itself in Karak by using tribal alliances and counter-alliances. In the strict sense, the politics of notables was absent from Transjordan. Transjordan was indeed a “frontier of settlement” to borrow an expression from the historian Eugen Rogan (Rogan, 1991; Shuqeyrat, 1992). For the politics of notables to emerge in the full sense of the term, specific conditions are needed in terms of political processes, internal sociology and modes of production (especially patterns of agriculture, sources of revenues etc.) to constitute the city as an autonomous social structure (under Ottoman tutelage). Notables without a hegemonic city cannot foster a politics of notables in the fullest sense of the word.

7However, important changes were taking place in the late Ottoman Transjordanian social landscape. As explained by Hourani, urban politics (and its actors, the urban notables) has to be understood as “a mode of political action”: “around the central core of this independent power [i.e. the political influence of the notables] they can, if they are skilful, create a coalition of forces both urban and rural. But this process does not necessarily end in one notable or one party of notables drawing all the forces of society into its coalition. In such political systems there is a tendency towards the formation of two or more coalitions roughly balancing one another” (Hourani, 1968). Hence, the politics of notables should be understood as a dynamic model whereby cities gained political status in the late Ottoman Empire under reforms (Tanzimat). Cities became a social fabric, a beacon for social and political activities as the political centre reaffirmed its weight in the Arab provinces. This holds true not only for core Ottoman regions such as Syria (with Damascus, a former imperial capital) and Palestine (with Jerusalem, a holy city), but also, later, in the Eastern bank of the Jordan River at the turn of the 20th century. In Transjordan, the Ottoman centre established an administrative structure and military outposts and reinstated the authority of the state (primarily a security state) in this “frontier of settlement”. The balance of power between the formerly absent Ottoman ruler and the tribes grazing cattle in the area shifted dramatically.

8With the reaffirmation of the Ottoman state and the ensuing state of prosperity, new lines of communication (and economic domination) were established between agricultural villages and administrative centres (Salt, Irbid, Karak etc.) and between nascent cities and other regional centres (Irbid and the Hawran or Haifa, Salt and Nablus). In Salt, a new elite emerged, coming from tribal/landowning families and merchant families, as Salt became the chief trading centre in the Balqa region (Abu Jaber, 1989; al-Tarawneh, 1992). In Irbid, families like the Tell, Hijazi, Irshidat, Daqlamouni, Sharaireh, Khreis and Abandat began to establish themselves in certain quarters and to buy land (Abu al-Chaar, 1995). Their ties were reinforced with “Greater Syria” - if we take this term in its geographic sense, al-Sham in Arabic, which has nothing to do with the foreign policy of the independent Syrian state. The “tribes” of Karak settled in the city and developed links with the Ottoman administration (Gubser, 1973). In this area, which was characterized a few decades previously by an unstable settled population, every time a tribesman came to settle, he was at the same time in a process of urbanization and the tribal hierarchy manifested itself in the city (Jaussen, 1948). Hence, a nascent (and incomplete) politics of notables was born in Transjordanian cities.

9The clearest proof of the newly-born urban activism in Transjordan was the immediate rise of “local governments” in the area in September 1920, after the Ottoman Empire’s collapse, with the support of H Samuel, the British High Commissioner for Palestine. As the Colonial, Foreign and War Offices in London debated the future status of the area, powerful families [the Majali and Hussein al-Tarawneh in al-Karak, Mazhar Raslan in Salt, Ali Khulqi al-Sharaireh (a native Transjordanian who had participated in the Arab revolt) in Irbid] led these emerging governments. They failed to assert their “regional” authority (the region of Ajloun for instance witnessed the creation of six different governments), but were representatives of an emerging trend. This experiment in autonomy represents the first process of socialization of Transjordanian elites in politics and the first time Transjordanians held positions of power in their own region. This is the complex socio-political landscape in which the state of Transjordan came into existence in April 1921, with the creation of the first government under Amir Abdullah.

2. The turbulent process of “political development” in Jordanian cities

10The 1920s were a pivotal decade to understanding the emerging pillars of the new regime. This period also opened three decades of trial (and error) for the nascent Hashemite regime, compared with the long and stable reign of King Hussein (1953-1999). They were difficult times, as they cost the life of the Hashemite regime’s founder and paved the way to threatening instability for young King Hussein. The Jordanian social landscape is complex; a far cry from the image of a “traditional” (tribal) society loyal to a modernizing Hashemite King. The tribal constituency - Bedouins constituted almost half of the Transjordanian population when Amir Abdullah settled in the area - became vitally important in the construction of the Hashemite state (Bocco, 1996). At the same time, Jordan, like other regions of Greater-Syrian (in the geographic sense of the term) “social outlook”, had a legacy of nascent urban politics under Ottoman dominion that acted as a bed-rock for nascent social changes.

11Amir Abdullah, a native of the Hijaz region educated in Istanbul, had little knowledge of Transjordan before he came to the area. The Prince was very isolated at the beginning of the experiment to build a Hashemite state in what was known in British papers as Transjordania or what was named in Abdullah’s discourses as Sharq al-Urdun or Mantaqa al-Sharq al-Arabi. He benefited from the aura of “the Great Arab revolt” (launched in 1916 by his father, Sharif Hussein of Mecca), which was the first Arab autonomous political movement after four centuries of Ottoman rule, and also from Transjordanian support for his family’s leadership during the Arab revolt (Abu Nowar, 1989). After Winston Churchill met with him in March 1921, Abdullah accepted the British conditions (that he did not disturb the French colonial mandate in Syria and that he acquiesced to British policy in Palestine) and therefore received British financial subsidies and British advisers on administrative matters.

  • 4 On the Sharifian elite, see the Iraqi model in Batatu, 1978..

12Syrians, Iraqis, Hijazis and Palestinian immigrants - who inaugurated the tradition of the so-called “King’s Palestinians”, namely Palestinians working for the Palace in Jordan - helped him build his nascent state. The Hashemite regime’s main tool was the Arab Legion, which was set up in October 1923 with the help of Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick G. Peake and served primarily as an internal police force. With the arrival of John B. Glubb from Iraq in 1930, a new British policy was adopted, aimed at establishing an elite force within the Arab Legion. Glubb organized the incorporation of Bedouins in the army and thereby transformed the military identity of the Arab Legion (Massad, Joseph, 2001). Note that the Arab Legion became an essential tool for building the Hashemite state and helped to incorporate Bedouins in its sphere (Abu Diye, 1987). As a complementary move, Amir Abdullah adopted a tribal policy of co-optation aimed at attracting around him some of the Transjordanian emirate’s main social forces. Tribal leaders received generous patronage posts, privileged access to the Palace and were granted a good deal of independent power within their own affairs through the continuation of the customary tribal law. The main pillars of the Hashemite state were the Palace, the embryonic administrative structure (a kind of “Sharifian elite” linked to the Hashemite family with no basis of power in the country),4 the army, tribal leaders and a small merchant class that benefited from its proximity with the Palace to get privileged access to contracts and licenses (Amawi, 1991), along with the essential British financial and military support.

13As further proof of an emerging urban constituency in Transjordan, urban notables (along with some tribal Sheikhs) began to resent the fact that few (native) Transjordanians gained access to high-ranking governmental positions. They had applauded the spread of Arab and Greater-Syrian (in the geographic sense of the term) national ideals: Amir Abdullah had proclaimed himself deputy king of Syria, and his stated goal after his brother Faysal’s defeat in July 1920 was to take Syria back from the French Mandate. Transjordanian elites began to profess a local/Transjordanian nationalism (wataniyya): Amir Abdullah ruled with the help of Syrian and Palestinian leaders from the anti-Ottoman pan-Syrian al-Istiqlal party who had fled Syria after the establishment of the French Mandate, and only a few native Transjordanians were co-opted. Amir Abdullah’s policy thwarted an essential feature of the politics of notables: their demand for representative positions and more posts in the bureaucracy as well as for the establishment of a more representative form of government. This feature was deeply resented by urban Transjordanians advocating for “al-Urdun lil-Urduniyyin” (“Jordan for the Jordanians”, a slogan coined by the poet and political activist Mustafa Wahbi al-Tall). Political parties were established; General National Congresses were convened and professed to speak for the country (the second took place in Irbid and was hosted in the Tall family’s guest house/madafa). The notables in Salt also resented the Amir’s choice of Amman as the country’s capital; Amman was a small village on the Hijaz railway compared to their city that was the home of the only secondary school in Transjordan (Thanawiyya Salt), a door towards Beiruti or Damascene universities. As Amman became the country’s political centre, the members of old Salti families resented their subsequent exclusion from power and the relegation of their city to the position of a second-class town.

14The young educated generations in Irbid, Salt and Karak also raised criticism against Abdullah’s government and against their exclusion from governmental positions. They became increasingly politicized. Local politics in Irbid became tied to the nationalist wave that was spreading in Damascus and Beirut. Most of the secondary school teachers in Salt graduated from the American University of Beirut and instilled in their student’s minds a sense of Arab nationalism, anti-imperialism and anti-Zionism. King Abdullah developed a “special relationship” with the Majali family in Karak, yet other families like the Tarawneh were at the forefront of the opposition to his rule and stirred nationalist demonstrations. These social and political demands were met with King Abdullah’s autocratic form of government, whose high-level positions were quasi exclusively staffed by three Palestinians (Tawfiq Abu al-Huda, Samir al-Rifa’i and Ibrahim Hashim) who alternated as Prime Minister. As a consequence, a nascent urban political scene coalesced. The urban political and social scene remained divided, so that King Abdullah could co-opt some leaders, diminish the influence of others, set one against the other and preserve his exclusive monopoly over Jordan at little cost. However, King Abdullah’s model of rule was unable to contain the rise of a new wave of politicization that culminated in the 1950s.

15Urban or recently urbanized notable elites in Transjordan came to be engulfed in a wave of change with the rise of a “new middle class” brought about by the expansion of education during the previous two decades. The politics of notables is not just a fixed model of social relations imposed on a given society. It is also a dynamic beacon or springboard for new elites within cities: families with less traditional outlooks based on their inherited status or inherited tradition of knowledge, and increasingly individuals with “modern” professions who are exposed to a myriad of political ideologies (Hourani, 1978). The signs of the rise of a “new middle class” were felt in Jordan, with a strong correlation between the rise of large urban groups to professional status and the political mobilization linked to the attraction of “modern” (nationalist) ideologies (Halpern, 1963 ; Lerner, 1968). A new generation of educated young activists, the so-called “al-shabab al-muthaqqaf”, came to the fore in Transjordan. They hailed from families, both urban and recently urbanized, that had the resources to send their sons to secondary school and then to university. This young generation received high educational status (as lawyers, journalists, doctors, pharmacists, engineers, intellectuals, professionals etc.) and had access to professions that allowed them a degree of economic independence.

16The 1948 Arab-Israeli war added new fuel to the internal sources of destabilization in Jordan, along with the new treaty between Jordan and Britain signed in March 1946 which designated Jordan as an independent country but provided only a thin façade of independence. Towns on both sides of the Jordan saw their politics radicalized with the arrival of Palestinian refugees. The Arab defeat in 1948 brought 850,000 new people to Jordan, almost tripling the size of the population within a month (460,000 as refugees and 350,000 settled in the West Bank). The poor and unskilled refugees settled in camps, but urban refugees who came primarily from the large educated and active Palestinian “new middle class” were absorbed by urban social structures in East-Bank cities that had created old ties with Palestine. Irbid embarked on a dynamic of exponential urbanization and gained its status as a real urban centre in Jordan with the arrival of Palestinians. The Tall and the Bataineh families, who dominated local politics in the Mandate years, hosted Palestinian refugees (the Tall family claimed Palestinian connections). Palestinian activists were welcomed in the Tall’s madafa and were integrated in local politics. The Palestinians brought into Jordan their political experience and organizations (along with their divisions). A heightened politicization ensued in Transjordan, as exemplified by the rise of the Ba’th Party, the National Socialist Party, the Movement of Arab Nationalists, Nasserism and the Communist Party (as well as the Muslim Brotherhood).

17The “new middle class” had an important military component. The Jordanian army had only 6,000 men in 1948, but roughly 20,000 in 1953 as a consequence of the transformation of the Arab Legion from an internal police force (with special Bedouin units) into a more modern army. As a result of the expansion of the army (in 1944, the Arab Legion was renamed the Jordanian Arab Army), new logistical needs emerged and an increasing number of educated urban Jordanians were enrolled in the army, especially in technical units. Arab officers from affluent urban families in Transjordanian cities, and who had graduated from British military academies after their studies, were enlisted in the army and were promoted to executive positions, in direct competition with uneducated Bedouin officers promoted by seniority. A growing divide was felt within the army between urbanites (hadari), who often came from northern Jordan (Irbid in particular), and Bedouin (badawi) officers, and their two different social outlooks reflected in a divergent sensitivity to political ideologies (Vatikiotis, 1967). An increasing number of military officers from influential families came out in opposition to the Palace, as their education exposed them to the ideological currents present in the Arab world (Abu Nowar, 1990 ; Abu Shahut, 1985). They absorbed the lessons about imperialism and the need for Arab independence and unity, as their civilian counterparts had done. Furthermore, they faced discrimination concerning promotions because British officers held all the high ranking posts in the army. The loss of Palestine further alienated them: General Glubb’s decision not to launch the Jordanian army’s full power in May 1948 in Palestine angered many of them, who emerged from the war with the desire to end British control. Numerous clandestine organizations surfaced within the Jordanian army, especially within its urban constituency. The political realm began infiltrating the military establishment and the army was rife with networks of “Free officers” (Dubbat Ahrar).

18A new political scene was born in Transjordan/Jordan, although the Palace struggled to stifle any dangerous developments. Even a “traditional” town like Karak was engulfed by the new wave of political mobilization, as exemplified by the number of Karakis who were jailed, a new feature for an area like Karak where problems had always been solved in a “traditional” manner, namely according to family channels (Gubser, 1973). The end-result was a general process of politicization through urban channels (Anderson, 2005). Mass politics was entering the stage in Jordan as exemplified by the rise of the National Socialist Party under the leadership of Suleiman al-Nabulsi in the 1950s. On July 20, 1951, the assassination of King Abdullah left the Hashemite regime in complete disarray, opening the way to the country’s “lone period of weak monarchy” (Satloff, 1994) as the young King Hussein tried to recover his royal prerogatives. Tensions heightened when the young King Hussein struggled to regain control of the Hashemite system. Local and regional conflicts intermingled. The major battles occurred over Jordan’s entry into the Baghdad Pact, over the dismissal of John Glubb and the “Arabization” (ta‘rîb) of the army and over the direction of Jordan’s foreign policy during the Cold War and the parallel, yet distinct, “Arab Cold War” (Kerr, 1971). The political situation regularly reached dangerous heights during the 1950s. A qualification needs to be added: political developments in Jordan remained quite different from those in Syria, Egypt and Iraq, where the new process of politicization led to the overthrow of “old” regimes and to the establishment of military/revolutionary regimes. The complete explanation is to be found in the newly rebuilt relations between the regime and its society.

3. The Hashemite regime’s consolidation: from repression to incorporation

19The Hashemite regime’s consolidation was a gradual process which disclosed the main pillars of the regime. When King Hussein reached the legal age to accept his responsibilities as King in 1953, he began to regain control of the Jordanian army. The nationalist “Free Officers” were not a unified group, they offered no unity of purpose and they professed largely divergent interests. They held a unified position on the expulsion of John Glubb and on the “Arabization” of the army, namely the replacement of high ranking British officers in the Jordanian army by Jordanian officers. This agenda was very close to what King Hussein outlined to Glubb when he began to ask for army reforms, for the promotion of (urban) Arab officers and for the reinforcement of the army as an offensive tool able to counter Israel’s retaliations across the border (something the British advisers would not have allowed).

20The “Arabization” of the army represented a point of agreement between the nationalist King Hussein and the nationalist officers, although the latter professed more radical ideologies or were driven by other incentives coming from their Syrian or Egyptian counterparts. After the dismissal of Glubb in March 1956, King Hussein was able to silence their opposition by professing perfect nationalist credentials, and he regained control of the army. He still benefited from British support and annual subsidies: at the time of the Iraqi revolution in July 1958, four thousand British paratroopers landed in Amman to protect his regime. He was able to remove the more politicized Transjordanian officers and replace them with loyalists. In July 1958, Habis al-Majali, an old friend of King Abdullah, returned to become general chief of staff (he kept his post until 1975). Plots were uncovered, coup attempts by certain brigades were foiled by other brigades loyal to the Palace (even in Zarqa, the headquarters of the majority of Jordan’s armed forces), numerous officers were arrested and the King spent much time meeting with senior officers and dealing with the army’s situation. King Hussein filled high ranking positions with Bedouin and Circassian officers loyal to the Palace and relied on certain units where tribal elements were predominant, especially in the ground force units, the infantry and armoured brigades, which were strategic elements in the army to carry out or to foil a coup d’état.

21Having regained control of the army, King Hussein then imposed a military state of emergency on the country (martial law, nation-wide curfews, trials of civilians by military courts etc.); it was “a reign of terror” to borrow an expression from Naseer Aruri (Aruri, 1972). He reinstated the monarchical hegemony with the help of the “King’s men”; a few loyalists who alternated in high ranking posts (ministers of the Interior, Defence, Information or Foreign Affairs). All political parties were banned. As a supplementary move, an astute foreign policy helped King Hussein stabilize Jordan. King Hussein oscillated between his Hashemite concerns and the new Nasserist Arab nationalism sweeping the country. He was able to divert his country from the Egyptian camp and from its traditional ally: Britain, and benefit from the help of a newcomer: the United States. In April 1957, President Eisenhower officially proclaimed that Jordan was of vital interest to the US and Washington agreed to give Jordan $ 10 million immediately.

22Quite differently from other Arab regimes during the same period, repression in Jordan was harsh, arrests were numerous and condemnations were severe. However, sentences were rarely carried out and imprisoned officers or jailed politicians were regularly pardoned and offered the King’s amnesty. King Hussein carried out a policy that sought to co-opt the so-called enemies of the regime and to re-integrate them into “the Jordanian family” (al-‘a’ila al-urdunniyya, as he called it). For instance, many officers who were pushed out of the army and exiled after the turbulent decade of the 1950s, returned to Jordan and were offered jobs as intelligence officers or appointed to prominent positions (see the cases of Abdullah al-Tall, Ali Abu Nowar, Ali al-Hiyari, Radi al-Hindawi, Mahmud al-Rusan, Ahmad Khasawneh, Nadhir Rashid etc.). Few remained outside the regime’s co-optation policy.

23Another feature of the Jordanian regime then came into play. This feature is often summarized, rather than conceptualized, with the idea that the Hashemite regime’s resilience when faced with internal and external challenges is due to the cohesion of the country’s elite (Dann, 1989 ; Susser and Shmuelevitz (eds), 1995). The precise meaning of ‘elite’ remains obscure in most studies; ranging from a core elite of the “King’s men” to a broader political class or a so-called Transjordanian constituency (this last definition overlooks “the King’s Palestinians”) (Haas, 1975). This cohesion should not be taken for granted, because it was carefully designed by the wise policy of an astute King, and benefited from the structural parameters of Jordan’s social landscape.

  • 5 The image of a straightforward divide between Transjordanians and Palestinians is inaccurate, since (...)

24The Jordanian model is not that of direct confrontation between the Palace and a loose coalition of Communists, Ba’thists, Free Officers and left-leaning activists whose following was in mobilized West Bank and East Bank cities in the 1950s. This is a one-sided picture. Jordan witnessed social transformations (the rise of a “new middle class”) and the ensuing political demands and social mobilizations. Yet, these emerging elites were weak in Jordan compared with their Syrian and Palestinian counterparts in the 1950s, and they were not in a position to dominate the political scene and capture the State. On the one hand, they were socially divided between those of Transjordanian origin, those with urban roots, those with more rural origins and who were recently urbanized, those with links with Palestinian families, Palestinian families who migrated as refugees and shifted their allegiance towards the Hashemite family5 and the elite of urban activists, unlike in Syria, remained composite and did not transform itself from a “social elite” to a “class”. The most influential politicians in the National Socialist Party, the Communist Party and the Ba’th Party were very active in the 1950s and managed to gain a large following in the context of hectic Arab national mobilization, but they lacked a power base in Transjordan and did not come from important urban families or the rising new middle classes in Transjordan. On the other hand, the attraction of ideology should not be taken at face value. The vast majority of urban Jordanians came from surrounding villages and were loyal to members of the same locality or kinship groupings.

25It should be noted that social relations in Jordan were less strained historically (see above) and in the subsequent period, compared with the situation in Syria and Iraq (Gerber, 1987). During the Mandate and increasingly in the 1950s, Jordan began to develop its administrative capacities. The Jordanian state then increased the proportion of the population that was dependent on it. With the increase in the number of roads, schools, administrative offices and public welfare benefits throughout the country, an increasing number of people were made indebted to the state through administrative channels. Villagers were the major beneficiaries of these policies and received investment funds in the agricultural sector. Rural areas, especially in the Jordan valley, became a bed-rock for the regime, from which they benefited economically (Tell, 2000). The revolutionary (military) regimes of the 1950s and 1960s in Syria, Iraq and Egypt were the products of social transformations (and their political consequences) taking place in rural areas and, after taking power, they highlighted their rural roots with agrarian reforms and the preferential promotion of individuals with rural roots within the army or the state bureaucracy (Batatu, 1984). Strained class relations resulted in political struggles and upheavals. The Jordanian model exemplified a different path.

26Moreover, the “modernizing” Jordanian state’s public policies came to be adjusted to the political goals of the regime’s stability. During the Mandate, the Transjordanian state was small (or narrow) and was likened to a tribal sheikhdom built on an alliance between one family, tribal leaders and relatively wealthy merchants. Subsequently, state bureaucracy expanded and began to recruit urban/urbanized elites. At the beginning of the 1950s, as economic resources were limited (they were supplemented with international development programs), economic positions in the government did not constitute real sources of power in the Hashemite kingdom. Therefore, the regime recruited progressive-minded (often nationalist) young technocrats for such positions. They hailed mainly from notable families or the rising “new middle classes”. Transjordanian technocrats were genuine nationalists. In the 1950s, they introduced programs of state-led development in Jordan in the name of Jordanian self-sufficiency or independence, an element that had previously been neglected. They promoted the creation of a modern monetary system, the establishment of a fertilizer industry in Aqaba, the development of phosphate and potash mines, the construction of an oil refinery, the expansion of port facilities in Aqaba and large-scale agricultural projects in the Jordan valley (Kingston, 1996 ; Piro, 1998). The scope of the Jordanian state expanded. Many of the young educated Transjordanians recruited by the Ministry of Economy went on to play leading roles in the public sector in Jordan.

27This social development resulted in a wide generational effect among the young urban or urbanized elites endowed with modern professional skills, who became incorporated in the Hashemite system with its bureaucratic expansion. They became committed to the status quo. The Transjordanian constituency may well have been sensitive to Arab nationalist ideologies, yet they had to safeguard their positions. Furthermore, the potential unification of Jordan with Syria or Egypt would have placed this oligarchy in jeopardy. This young elite progressively rallied around King Hussein, whose national image was becoming more attractive. The career of Wasfi al-Tall in the 1950s is emblematic of this shift (Susser, 1994). he was sensitive to Arab nationalism and the struggle for Palestine, then shifted his allegiance and came to embody Transjordanian self-assertion and was recruited by King Hussein. He was just one famous example, among many others.

28The social specificities of Jordan were used by the regime to regain control, and along with coercion, to overcome its rivals. It is noteworthy that King Hussein consolidated a Transjordanian constituency in governmental posts, the so-called East Bank domination of the public sector (whereas Palestinians are said to dominate the private sector). The regime’s resilience was tested with the Palestinian challenge during “Black September” in 1970. A large (Trans)jordanian constituency coalesced around the Hashemite regime against the Fida’iyyun challenge. The period intensified the formation of a stable Jordanian national identity buttressed with a strong Transjordanian constituency. New slogans were put forward by King Hussein to foster a new national project, the National Union (al-Ittihad al-Watani) aimed at unifying “the Jordanian family” (al-‘a’ila al-urdunniyya) under the leadership of the Hashemite family, along with references to Jordanians as “Muhajirin wa Ansar”. These slogans of the 1970s are still essential features of the official political discourse in Jordan today. The ability of this discourse to become a social fact on the ground is illustrative of what political science calls the consolidation of the Hashemite regime.

From “the politics of notables” to patronage under state guidance

29The classic Weberian question of the social origins of important groups’ “action orientations” (urban notables, new middle classes and tribal elites) is essential; but it must also be studied from another perspective. Barrington Moore’s classic work on the “Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy” introduced another strong hypothesis: the interplay of a variety of institutional, socio-economic and conjectural factors to explain the underpinnings of regimes. “Action orientations”, to use Max Weber’s term, are therefore to be supplemented with the conflicting relations between social groups vying for power and coalescing for this purpose. These are essential features to assess a given regime’s sustainability. A regime acquires (or loses) the capacity to give coherence to and to unite at various levels in a state “policy relevant elites” who are the “heart of the regime”. Every regime contains its network of trust, interests, favour, friendship etc., but in authoritarian regimes, these elements play a decisive role in answering the basic questions of politics, namely “who gets what, when and how”. A “successful” authoritarian ruler is able to build an array of “institutional arrangements” - not just based on threats and coercion - and crosscutting loyalties among crucial support bases, namely an “authoritarian equilibrium”. An authoritarian regime survives if it sustains such an “authoritarian equilibrium”. There is a strong correlation between certain types of elite, their entrenched interests (material as well as symbolic) and types of regime.

30The different social scales explored in this chapter, the urban landscape (notable families), the social transformations (new middle classes) and the functional transformations (bureaucracy and the army) are thus united by the regime and incorporated in the state. As a consequence, social identities of various kinds (especially infra-national identities like tribalism, clanism, family networks and notability) are not merely the persistent remains of “the strength of tradition”. They are also the by-product of the state building process whereby elites are attached to the state. “Tradition” exists in a patron-client relationship whereby political actors struggle for legitimacy. The “social embodiment” of this relationship, such as transformed urban notables or enduring Bedouin tribes, and its “social contenders” such as rising new urban middle classes, illustrate this characteristic. Hence, urban notables in Jordan may have been subjected to severe social changes in the 1960s, at a time of exponential urbanization of Jordanian cities and with the hegemonic growth of Amman (the regime’s showcase as the state’s capital). Yet, they retain a role, however transformed, in Jordanian polity. The same holds true for Bedouin tribes. These identities are framed by the state’s policies. “New middle classes” have adapted themselves to the monarchical “traditional” way of ruling, and everybody navigates with their respective assets (a prestigious name and genealogy, real-estate property, a “modern” profession etc.) in the social space assigned or demarcated by the state.

31Development policies and the state’s economic role are essential tools used by the regime to assert its power and legitimacy. The Jordanian state has developed a carefully designed system of using connections and nepotism (wasta) that has made the administrative apparatus the major patron in Jordan. In particular, the Jordanian state has been able to supervise employment practices in public companies and administrations. By maintaining a high level of resources obtained by external aid or grants for redistribution, the Jordanian state has been able to sustain loyalty. As stated by Laurie Brand in her study of the economic dimension of Jordan’s shifting alignments in regional policy, “the government has in effect over the years trained Jordanians not to challenge it, but to depend on it for a whole range of services” (Brand, 1994). This image pervades Jordanian society at various levels. And the decision-makers of this patron state hail from prominent urban families or rising middle classes. Urban notable families, with their enduring educational tradition and their resources to send their children abroad to study, have invested themselves heavily in the administration or in public companies. Notable families have transformed themselves to fill bureaucratic posts. Individuals with high-ranking posts from “new middle classes” have built networks through their careers as civil servants that allow them to build up support through and beyond “ancient or traditional” ties.

32This feature is the core reason for the return, or more precisely the persistence, of so-called “traditional” practices in Jordanian political life and administrative recruitments. Bright young people trained at foreign universities with “modern” professional qualifications are said to have succumbed to “traditional” values (tribalism, clanism, familialism, notability etc.), even if they have genuinely maintained a will to reform and to change their country. Politicized young generations (either nationalists or Islamists) are using kinship ties because they consider these tools efficient: they can effectively fulfil both their family and ideological duties with them. Therefore, the social web remains active, with its complex social connections. Family names and the reputation attached to “distinguished names” play an important role. Some high-ranking bureaucrats may receive their position because they are qualified, not because of their family name, but appointments are always interpreted in Jordanian society according to familial terms, and the social mind-set in Jordan remains structured by reciprocity in social relations based on family names. Bureaucrats are neither masters nor equals within the social system. A given actor juggles multiple roles: as manager, bureaucrat, the representative or head of a family, tribal elder or patron etc. Hence, the family remains triumphant (with the family-based wasta system) and networks of family connections (shilla, asabiyya) have flourished behind high-level politicians and technocrats.

33Family networks also pervade the Jordanian political system from the highest positions to local ones: at one end of the spectrum, there are the leaders who have the qualifications and the social aura to apply for high-level posts (for instance the so-called mustawazirun, those “destined to be ministers”); and at the other end, there are candidates destined for local responsibilities. Families with no history of local prestige have brought together their own “familial forces” or coalitions of allies. However, the family networks that pervade the system are not hegemonic. They are “reinvented”, “rediscovered” or “recreated” in certain circumstances and in certain social contexts in order to find so-called “competent people” or “good candidates” with the adequate family backgrounds. The “re-traditionalization of politics” at a time of calculated opportunities in the political field after 1989 (and in particular after the Palace unilaterally changed the electoral law in 1993 to adopt the “one man, one vote” system) is a case in point. Candidates for parliamentary elections may present themselves as independent (free from family or tribal connections), but they often make use of their kinship ties as sources of support or at least exploit this discursive theme in certain contexts. Families or coalitions of families often select candidates in primaries, and there is an increasing role for diwan or madafa (traditional meeting places) or “familial societies” (jam‘iyya) as tools for social action.

34Politics is revitalized at the local level through these social mechanisms. National politics are connected to local issues. In return, families preserve their local positions amid heavy social changes. Tribes, families and clans have seen their power diminished by social transformations. Yet, they are “recreated” during elections or whenever there is competition for bureaucratic positions. A distinguished name is never sufficient in itself, but it may be a good starting point along with other qualities: a university degree in a prestigious professional field, ties to the Palace or to the security department. The new influential notables hail from influential families but they do not rely solely on their family backgrounds, those on their way up to power are usually close to the state, and therefore to the regime, and have worked for part of their career in the civil service, the security department or the army. Tribal or familial cohesiveness as a social fact does not exist (and perhaps never existed), yet, it is a social discourse that helps create some signs of cohesiveness. The familial discourse is used rather than discovered and is a multifaceted phenomenon.

35The whole picture is one of competition, rather than hegemonic domination of familial connections. Competition is rife to gain access to the state. In the southern city of Karak for instance, there is a lot of rivalry to enter the Jordanian state administration between the well-known Majali and other families such as the Tarawneh, Ma’aita and Saraireh. Some “political” families use their well-placed members in the Hashemite system to help their relatives enter the system at all levels. Other families have specialized themselves in technical domains (technocratic ministries, teaching positions) and numerous families from Salt (the Hmud, Nsur, Mu’asher, Abu Jaber, Saket, Dabbas, Arabiyyat, Qaqish etc.) have invested themselves in these fields. In some cases, a notable from a given city may play the role of the “representative” for a region; regional equilibrium is sought between Northerners (Shamalat), Southerners (Janubi) and those from Salt (Saltiyyi) in the state administration. Many newcomers, especially from new middle classes, have entered the field and competition is rife to be appointed in the Jordanian bureaucracy. For instance, rural families in the periphery of Irbid (whose members are predominantly urbanized in Irbid or Amman) have invested themselves in local politics (using Islamism) to challenge the incumbent notable families (Tall, Bataineh etc.). They have invested themselves in the municipal administration to consolidate their position and they converted Irbid into a stronghold of Islamist politics in Jordan in the 1980s. They were subsequently co-opted by the regime.

36These social mechanisms are the product of a system of patronage. The bureaucracy has been filled with loyalists who have then used the same criteria (loyalty said to be provided through familial ties) around them. The regime has also used this system of patronage to incorporate political actors such as the Muslim Brotherhood (Wiktorowicz, 2001 ; Schwedler, 2006). At least until the 1990s, the Muslim Brotherhood cultivated a complex relationship with the Hashemite regime which was quite different from the confrontational relationships they were accustomed to having with other Arab regimes (as exemplified by Egypt and Syria). The Muslim Brotherhood, whose leaders came from well-known Transjordanian families, were incorporated in the state, especially in the Ministry of Education, one of the biggest employers in Jordan. Therefore, the choices made by so-called “incorporated” notables or political actors are pragmatic rather than ideological and are negotiated in a context in which ideals and class objectives are usually given secondary importance.

37The system of patronage needs a central player: the Palace, capable of balancing between the different networks in equilibrium and of restraining any group that might challenge the whole equilibrium. This monarchical role is a construction of power that contributes to the cohesiveness of the system. The royal Palace keeps a strict monopoly on strategic decision-making, which is ultimately based on an ever-present threat of violence (the use of the police or the army), but also on the distribution of benefits: political (elective posts), administrative (nominations in the bureaucracy) or economic. Incorporation is a way of controlling elites at all levels, a strategy started in a very traditional (tribal) manner by King Abdullah (I) at the beginning of the “making” of the Hashemite state and revived by King Hussein, who gave new value to the Hashemite monarchy and its anthropological method of ruling by combining the face-to-face dimension of monarchical rule with bureaucratic roles (Anderson, 1991).

Conclusion : from “the politics of the regime” to the mounting challenges

38Following Barrington Moore’s hypothesis, the conditions under which certain social groups are incorporated into the political system have significant effects on a given regime’s sustainability. In this chapter, I have asserted that the mechanisms of urban notability (while the urban notables themselves may have changed), of middle classes struggling amid social equilibriums, of rural familialism or of Bedouin tribalism continue to play a crucial role: family, clan and tribal ties are not just a way for actors to navigate the socio-political sector, but are related to the regime’s resilience. The structural models of the incorporation of urban notables and other elites have helped to set up a relatively stable form of regime. Such mechanisms give the regime the capacity to manage change: it can decisively disrupt (by repression at certain times, or by institutional manipulation) other forms of counter-mobilization (as exemplified by the characterization of political opportunities in the Jordanian system in the 1990s as “defensive democratization” aimed at buttressing the regime) (Robinson, 1998), but above all it has the capacity to manage its polity, a factor usually not precisely deciphered beyond the simple assertion of “traditional” monarchical rule.

39Yet, the system of rule described above is subject to mounting challenges. Jordanian polity has become more and more turbulent in recent years (Joffé, 2001). On the one hand, such a system is in need of resources to maintain its potential for cooptation. Yet, from the 1980s, and increasingly in the 1990s, Jordan faced an exhaustion of available resources, and the complex process of (stalled) privatizations (under conditions of structural adjustment) has introduced grave uncertainty in the above described “authoritarian equilibrium”. On the other hand, social transformations have altered the potential for cooptation according to the above described mechanisms as inequalities, discontent, economic hardships and political demands increase. Jordan is no longer a country dominated by families, clans or tribes. A great number of Jordanians live outside these social networks. A public sphere has emerged, that is more politicized and ideologized: a new trend began in the 1990s with the tremendous support that Iraq enjoyed on a popular level (and the visceral antipathy for the Arab Gulf States); in the 2000s, support for the Palestinian people increased and the second Intifada impacted dangerously inside Jordan; the “G W Bush revolution in American foreign policy” following September 11, 2001 and the ensuing consequences in the Middle East (especially in Iraq) have increased the degree of mobilization, leaving the Hashemite regime caught between a rock and a hard place. This trend is also exemplified by the internal evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan; formerly a middle class movement composed of Transjordan urban families but which now relies increasingly on Palestinian political support. Hence the trend toward radicalization, as Palestinian politics is likely to become more volatile in the years ahead. New actors, dubbed political Islamists, are on the rise, professing the fight against “American and Zionist imperialism”, against the cultural contamination of the Islamic Umma and against normalization with Israel. Conversely, there is a mounting impression among East Bankers that the regime has abandoned them and has moved towards Palestinian control (as exemplified by the manifesto of the National Committee of Military Veterans in April 2010 and the ensuing heightened public debate). More generally, poverty and stalled social situations breed radicalization and politicization and can no longer be “contained” by incorporation.

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Notes

2 There is a plethora of studies coming on the one hand from the students of the historian Mohammed Adnan al-Bakhit and on the other from those around Hani al-Hourani’s Al-Urdun al-Jadid Research Centre (see AL-HOURANI, 2003)..

3 For Syria, see Khoury, 1987 and 1983; for Palestine, see among others, Khalidi, 1998: and Doumani, 1995.

4 On the Sharifian elite, see the Iraqi model in Batatu, 1978..

5 The image of a straightforward divide between Transjordanians and Palestinians is inaccurate, since there are, so to say, different “kinds” of Palestinians.

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