Mukhtars in the Middle: Connecting State, Citizens and Refugees

Maastricht School of Management

Lebanon’s political set-up differs significantly from that of the region’s monarchical and authoritarian countries. Lebanon can be considered a hybrid political order in which “diverse and competing authority structures, sets of rules, logics of order, and claims to power co-exist, overlap, and intertwine.”

The mukhtar is an elected neighborhood- or village-level state representative and safeguards social relations in the community and represents his constituency vis-à-vis other state institutions.They are invested in, and part of the country’s hybrid political order, with all the sectarianism and clientelism this entails.

Yet, the institution’s bridging social capital, and its potential to guard, and embody some rudimentary form of public space that is rare in Lebanon is evident. However modest their position, mukhtars constitute an indispensible grassroots component of the administrative, and social glue that holds Lebanon’s different urban fiefdoms, and extra-state spaces together.

Considering Lebanon’s virulent governance and refugee crises, therefore, much is to be said for bolstering one of Lebanon’s oldest, and perhaps most pragmatic, state institutions.

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