Nokalaos van Dam, “The Struggle for Power in Syria: Politics and Society under Assad and the Baath Party.”

Nokalaos van Dam has issued a new edition of his excellent book:

The Struggle for Power in Syria: Politics and Society under Assad and the Baath Party. There is something to cheer about.

I’ll give you an idea of what is new in the fourth edition, as compared with the third (published in 1996):

The Preface to the fourth edition (p xiii) gives some preliminary guidance.

Chapters 9 and 10 have been updated, so as to include the takeover of Bashar al-Asad as president.

This new edition concludes that the Syrian regime as it exists since the death of President Hafiz al-Asad has retained the same characteristics which in the past were so essential for its survival and continuation. It also makes some observations about what amounts to approximately half a century of Alawi-dominated Ba’thist rule in Syria, including the period of President Bashar al-Asad.

A new Chapter 11 has been added on Syrian Ba’thist memoirs. It contains various new sections not published before, for instance the memoirs of Mansur al-Atrash, the fifth part of Mir’at Hayati by Mustafa Talas, new material of Marwan Habash, Nur al-Mudi’ Murshid (on the Murshidiyin and Rif’at al-Asad) and others.

The Tables (pp 84-87) on the sectarian and regional composition in the Syrian Regional Commands of the Ba’th Party have been updated until and including the Ba’th Party Congress after the takeover of Bashar al-Asad in 2000.

Several end-notes give additional information on Regional and Central Committee membership chosen in 2005.

The Conclusion has been fully updated, just as has Chapter 9. The analysis of the prospects for the future are still fully valid today and have not really been overtaken by events. Of course it does not include the present demonstrations. Any attempt to do so would make the book out of date tomorrow. Fine tasters with a preference for detail should not forget to read notes 12, 13 and 31 of Chapter 9. They contain some updates on the mainly Alawi power elite.

The Biography is updated and contains a special section on Works in Arabic on Hafiz al-Asad and family (pp 227-230). It also includes the article for Syria Comment of 14 April 2011: Syria: the dangerous trap of sectarianism.

Those who read Chapters 7 and 8 on the confrontation between the Ba’thist regime and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood can get a good background to better understand the present day events in Hama and elsewhere (such as Jisr al-Shughur).

I am a great admirer of this book. I wrote a review of the third edition in the “International Journal of Middle East Studies,” in which I wrote:

Only a few important books have been written on contemporary Syria; and Nikolaos van Dam’s Struggle for Power in Syria is one of them.

Comments (1)

khananel said:

We need people like you Joshua and NvanD to bring some perspective to this. You are both Syria experts in that you both understand what makes Syria tick, by contrast to some in Western govts who seem to make statements and demands without any reference to ‘reality’ out there. Politicians and pundits are not known for living in the real world, but in situations like this, not having a firm grasp of a specific reality could have incalculable consequendces.

I look forward to reading NvD’s book in the near future.

Thanks Joshua

July 12th, 2011, 6:23 am


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