No.9 Does the Islamic State Have a "Social Contract"? Evidence From Iraq and Syria
This paper attempts to make three contributions to the rebel governance literature through an indepth case study of the Islamic State. First, I identify the key elements of the social contract that the Islamic State claims to be offering to its “citizens” in Iraq and Syria, as described in its official documents and communications. Second, I present evidence that the Islamic State’s legal system is the primary arena in which this social contract is constructed and enforced. Third, I argue that civilian cooperation with the terms of the Islamic State’s social contract is closely related to the perceived legitimacy of its institutions. In areas where the Islamic State attempts to impose taxes or conscription without having previously established an apparatus for the delivery of essential services and a legal framework to legitimize its rule, civilians are more likely to resist its policies. The paper draws on primary source documents, interviews with 88 Syrians and Iraqis who have lived in Islamic State-controlled areas, and Twitter data.