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The rule-of-law as a problem space: wāsṭa and the paradox of justice in Jordan

Doughan, Yazan ORCID: 0000-0001-6949-318X (2023) The rule-of-law as a problem space: wāsṭa and the paradox of justice in Jordan. Comparative Studies in Society and History. ISSN 0010-4175

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Identification Number: 10.1017/S0010417523000312


This article explores structural entanglements between the rule-of-law, as a globalized aspirational horizon in post-Cold War politics, and corruption, as a highly salient malaise, by way of an ethnography of wāsṭa, an institutionalized practice of patronage in Jordan, and a salient object of corruption discourse in recent years. The article follows wāsṭa and anti-corruption practices in various sites where wāsṭa is most salient and most problematized and situates the contemporary practice in relation to historical transformations in Jordan's political economy and global discourses on justice and development. While globalized anti-corruption discourses pit practices of patronage and brokerage like wāsṭa against the rule-of-law, an ethnographic and historical view illustrates how the latter is the condition of possibility of the former, the framework by which it is diagnosed, and its presumed cure. Thus, I argue that the rule-of-law should be understood as a historically specific "problem space"that posits corruption as a prime diagnostic of the ills of state and society while generating practical paradoxes and a perpetual sense of temporal out-of-jointedness for "developing"countries.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
K Law
H Social Sciences
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2023 14:51
Last Modified: 19 May 2024 06:00

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