The Struggle for Constitutional Power

Law, Politics, and Economic Development in Egypt

The Struggle for Constitutional Power

For nearly three decades, scholars and policymakers have placed considerable stock in judicial reform as a panacea for the political and economic turmoil plaguing developing countries. Courts are charged with spurring economic development, safeguarding human rights, and even facilitating transitions to democracy. How realistic are these expectations, and in what political contexts can judicial reforms deliver their expected benefits?

In The Struggle for Constitutional Power, Tamir Moustafa addresses these issues through an examination of the politics of the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, the most important experiment in constitutionalism in the Arab World.

The Egyptian regime established a surprisingly independent constitutional court to address a series of economic and administrative pathologies that lie at the heart of authoritarian political systems. Although the Court helped the regime to institutionalize state functions, it simultaneously opened new avenues through which rights advocates and opposition parties could challenge the regime. The Struggle for Constitutional Powerexamines the dynamics of legal mobilization in this most unlikely political environment.

Standing at the intersection of political science, economics, and comparative law, The Struggle for Constitutional Powerchallenges conventional wisdom and provides new insights into perennial questions concerning the barriers to institutional development, economic growth, and democracy in the developing world.


"The revision of a doctoral dissertation accepted by the University of Washington, Professor Tamir Moustafa’s THE STRUGGLE FOR CONSTITUTIONAL POWER: LAW, POLITICS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN EGYPT is a model of outstanding scholarly research. This book deals with an important topic, and Moustafa does it justice. Not only does this volume constitute a comprehensive analysis of political and economic change in Egypt during the past 40 years, but it suggests new directions for scholarly research for students of comparative law and legal systems. No specialist in the fields specified can afford to ignore this important study."
-- Antony T. Sullivan, President, Near East Support Services International, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Law and Politics Book Review

"This is an important book, to be read by scholars and students of comparative constitutionalism and constitutional democracy. Moustafa (Simon Fraser Univ., Canada) addresses fundamental questions such as whether democracy is a necessary prerequisite for effective judicial power. He challenges the common assumption that courts in authoritarian states are pawns of the regime and obstacles to the realization of minority rights....Highly recommended."
--Choice Magazine Editor's Picks for August 2008, J. B. Grossman, Johns Hopkins University

"Carefully sourced, meticulously organized, and engagingly written, The Struggle for Constitutional Power is as gripping as political science gets."
-- Mona el-Ghobashy, Barnard College, International Journal of Middle East Studies

"Moustafa's first solo book, based on his award-winning doctoral dissertation, provides a ground-breaking approach to the role of judicial institutions within authoritarian polities, focusing on the creation, empowerment, and eventual demise of the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court (ESCC), and its place within the broader context of the Egyptian state...The importance of Moustafa's work for our understanding of judicial institutions cannot be overstated."
Journal of Politics, Raul Sanchez Urribarri, University of South Carolina


2008 Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title