Benjamin Schütze | 2018

Marketing parliament: The constitutive effects of external attempts at parliamentary strengthening in Jordan

in: Cooperation and Conflict, 53:2, 237-258

The Jordanian parliament is widely recognised as a patronage provider and means for authoritarian upgrading. Despite, or precisely because of this, it has over the past years become a linchpin of US and European attempts at parliamentary strengthening. The parliament’s highly marginalised position notwithstanding, this article suggests that such efforts provide us with an insightful opportunity to better understand the reconfiguration of authoritarian power via external intervention in the name of democracy.

Discussing the contradictory effects of parliamentary strengthening programmes in Jordan, the article tries to shift the discussion of democracy promotion away from a concern with policy, conceptual debates and intentions to one with democracy promotion’s constitutive effects. As such, the article investigates the framing of Jordanian politics within a market rationale as central mechanism for the de-politicisation of uneven power relations. Further, it explores the ways in which democracy promotion serves to seemingly reconfirm interveners’ desired self-understandings via the maintenance of assumptions of cultural ‘difference’. Ultimately, it is suggested that decentring the study of democracy promotion by paying more attention to its constitutive effects provides us with a better understanding of why and how increasing democracy promotion portfolios have, in Jordan, had the effect of strengthening authoritarianism.

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