Stephen J. King considers the reasons that international and domestic efforts toward democratization have failed to take hold in the Arab world. Focusing on Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, and Algeria, he suggests that a complex set of variables characterizes authoritarian rule and helps to explain both its dynamism and its persistence. King addresses, but moves beyond, how religion and the strongly patriarchal culture influence state structure, policy configuration, ruling coalitions, and legitimization and privatization strategies. He shows how the transformation of authoritarianism has taken place amid shifting social relations and political institutions and how these changes have affected the lives of millions. Ultimately, King's forward-thinking analysis offers a way to enhance the prospects for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa.