Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 04/2009

The Resilience of Authoritarian Rule in Syria under Hafez and Bashar Al-Asad

Annette Büchs

March 2009

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


This paper seeks an explanation for the resilience of the Syrian authoritarian regime under Hafez and Bashar Al-Asad. It will be argued that this resilience is to a relevant extent caused by the fact that the regime's "material" as well as "ideational" forms of power share a common element, if not an underlying principle. This generates their compatibility and congruency and thus produces a convergence of forces which manifests in the regime's ability to exceed the mere sum of its individual forms of power. It will be demonstrated that this common principle can be conceptualized as a "tacit pact" between unequal parties, with the weaker party under constant threat of exclusion and/or coercion in the event of noncompliance. It will be argued that inherent in the pact is a high level of ambiguity; this, paradoxically, renders it more effective but at the same time also more instable as a tool of domination.