Family, Power, and Politics in Egypt
Sayed Bey Mare--His Clan, Clients, and Cohorts
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
288 pages, illus.
- ISBN: 9781512807547
- Published: November 2016
Focusing on the family and career of the prominent Egyptian politician Sayed Bey Marei, Robert Springborg provides in this volume a political ethnography on the changing roles of the family and other social units in Egypt's political economy. He traces the rise to power of the rural nobility from the late nineteenth century, demonstrating how members of this class used family, regional, patron-client, and small-group loyalties to maintain and enhance their powers and privileges under the regimes of Nasser and Sadat. In this context the author also investigates the complexities between provincial and national politics, and between the bureaucratic/technocratic elite and the political elite of the country.
Sayed Marei's career provides the ideal focus for Springborg's ethnography. From a wealthy rural family that habitually sent at least one of its members to parliament, he began his political career in 1944-45, inheriting his family's seat in the Chamber of Deputies. In 1952, he emerged as the new revolutionary government's director of agrarian reform and became thereafter a fixture in the Nasserite political elite. Under Sadat, to whom he was related by marriage, Marei enjoyed even greater prominence. He served as cabinet minister, head of the Arab Socialist Union, speaker of parliament, diplomat extraordinaire, special adviser to the president, and secretary general of the much publicized World Food Conference. With a political career spanning five generations and three regimes, Sayed Marei built a significant reputation for himself in the Arab World.
Rather than imposing objective categories upon political behavior, Sprinborg instead delves into the subjective reality of Egyptian political life. He explains how politicians pursue their goals and what associations they form and use, how they themselves perceive politics to operate, and then why they behave as they do. This work is the first to explicitly utilize the family as a basic conceptual tool to understand a Middle-Eastern political system and thus will be of great value to those interested in the history, politics, anthropology, and sociology of the region and, more generally, the Third World.
A fine addition to the literature on Egyptian politics. . . . An important and illuminating study. ~Raymond William Baker, Williams College
There is nothing like it on Egypt and to the best of my knowledge on any other Middle Eastern country. ~John Waterbury, Princeton University