When I told some of my colleagues and students that I wanted to address the question of democratization in Middle East politics at the annual meeting, I was not surprised at their reactions, which were mainly incredulous. If ever a topic were passé, surely it was this one. Not only was the experience of parliamentary democracy brief and unhappy, it also had ended by the middle 1950s. Furthermore, the liberal modernization paradigm that had underpinned earlier forecasts of democracy was itself largely discarded. In addition, my friends argued, how could I try to make a case for democratization when my own writing on Arab politics portrayed fragmented, disoriented societies and unstructured, insecure political environments in which the race between societal demands and state capabilities—no matter which side was “ahead”—could hardly be conducive to democracy. Skeptical colleagues from Egypt and other Arab countries also raised the troublesome question of academic and ideological ethnocentrism: should one even ask about prospects for democratization?