The Arab Uprisings: Transforming and Challenging State Power 1784532282, 9781784532284

The uprisings which spread across the Middle East and North Africa in late 2010 and 2011 irrevocably altered the way in

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Table of contents :
Front cover
1. Introduction
2. Comparing Incomparables: The Spring of Peoples and the Fall of States – 1848 and 2011
3. Revisiting the Political Economy of the Arab Uprisings: Algeria and Yemen Compared
4. What Difference Does Contestation Make? Agency and its Limits in the Arab Uprisings
5. The Gulf Monarchies: State-building, Legitimacy and Social Order
6. The Resilience of Arab Monarchies and the ‘Arab Spring’: A Comparative Approach
7. Popular Contestation, Regime Transformation and State Formation
8. Arab States, Regime Change and Social Contestation Compared: The Cases of Egypt and Syria
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Eberhard Kienle is Research Professor at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) and teaches politics at the Institut d’e´tudes politiques (IEP) de Grenoble and Sciences-Po Paris. He is currently the head of the Institut franc¸ais du Proche-Orient (Ifpo) in Beirut. His publications include Ba’th versus Ba’th: The Conflict between Syria and Iraq, 1968–1989 (I.B.Tauris, 1990); A Grand Delusion: Democracy and Economic Reform in Egypt (I.B.Tauris, 2001) and Democracy Building and Democracy Erosion: Political Change North and South of the Mediterranean (2009). Nadine Sika is Humboldt Foundation Visiting Fellow at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik in Berlin (SWP) as well as assistant professor of Comparative Politics at the American University in Cairo (AUC). The author of articles in journals such as the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, she is currently writing a book on youth activism and contentious politics in Egypt.

‘This excellent collection stands out from the many recent books on the subject in its broad historical and comparative sweep and theoretical literacy. By analysing the current situation in these broader perspectives, the constituent papers signal possible avenues of liberating developments from the present crises and dilemmas in most of the region.’ Sami Zubaida, Emeritus Professor of Politics and Sociology, Birkbeck, University of London ‘These 10 essays chart and analyse events in the Middle East during and after the Arab revolutions, and give new and stimulating interpretations of the different reactions of the various regimes, both at the time and subsequently. The history and processes of state formation, and the degree and nature of their integration into the world economy, emerge as the most important factors influencing the trajectories followed by Middle Eastern states since 2011.’ Professor Peter Sluglett, Director of the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore ‘Eberhard Kienle and Nadine Sika have collected a fascinating series of essays on the Arab uprisings of 2011. As a group, the essays explore diverse issues including the survival of monarchies and a variety of provocative comparisons. Two distinct essays discuss the survival of the monarchies. John Chalcraft provides a trenchant and lengthy critique of earlier, partial explanations and Roger Heacock explores some of the commonalities between the Arab Spring and the 1848 Springtime of Peoples. The essays by editors Kienle and Sika are especially useful and worth buying the book for. They are clear and thoughtful guides to the events of the last four years and the problems that continue to disturb politics in the region.’ Ellis Goldberg, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Washington


Transforming and Challenging State Power




Published in 2015 by I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd London • New York Copyright Editorial Selection q 2015 Eberhard Kienle and Nadine Sika Copyright Individual Chapters q 2015 Eberhard Kienle, Nadine Sika, Roger Heacock, Fred H. Lawson, John Chalcraft, Thomas Demmelhuber and Alain Dieckhoff The right of Eberhard Kienle and Nadine Sika to be identified as the editors of this work has been asserted by the editors in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. References to websites were correct at the time of writing. Library of Modern Middle East Studies 181 ISBN: 978 1 78453 228 4 eISBN: 978 0 85772 903 3 ePDF: 978 0 85772 695 7 A full CIP record for this book is available from the British Library A full CIP record is available from the Library of Congress Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: available The editors wish to thank Dina Agha for compiling the index. Typeset in Garamond Three by OKS Prepress Services, Chennai, India Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY

To Nancy and Friedemann whose paths never crossed but who both left us far too early




1. Introduction 2. Comparing Incomparables: The Spring of Peoples and the Fall of States – 1848 and 2011 Roger Heacock 3. Revisiting the Political Economy of the Arab Uprisings: Algeria and Yemen Compared Fred H. Lawson 4. What Difference Does Contestation Make? Agency and its Limits in the Arab Uprisings John Chalcraft 5. The Gulf Monarchies: State-building, Legitimacy and Social Order Thomas Demmelhuber 6. The Resilience of Arab Monarchies and the ‘Arab Spring’: A Comparative Approach Alain Dieckhoff 7. Popular Contestation, Regime Transformation and State Formation Eberhard Kienle

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8. Arab States, Regime Change and Social Contestation Compared: The Cases of Egypt and Syria Nadine Sika





John Chalcraft is Associate Professor of History and Politics of Empire/Imperialism in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics. Thomas Demmelhuber is Associate Professor of Politics at the University of Hildesheim, Germany. Alain Dieckhoff is Senior Researcher at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Paris and head of the Center for International Studies (CERI), Sciences Po, Paris. Roger Heacock is Professor of History at the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies, Birzeit University, Palestine. Fred H. Lawson is Professor of Government at Mills College, California.

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Nadine Sika and Eberhard Kienle

In spite of numerous similarities, recent forms of contestation in the various Arab countries and their broader political effects display important differences. For instance, incumbents fell quickly in Tunisia and Egypt, while they (have) managed to cling on for a considerable length of time in Libya and Syria. Protests were overwhelmingly peaceful in the former two countries but, as they dragged on, turned increasingly violent in the latter two. In Tunisia and Syria they started in peripheral areas of the state, while in Egypt they began in the capital city, partly reflecting the roles of different social groups and constituencies. In the meantime developments in Tunisia have turned into a democratic transition of sorts, while Egypt may return to a different form of authoritarian rule. Why were Mubarak and Bin Ali ousted rather peacefully in Egypt and Tunisia, while Qadafi in Libya and Saleh in Yemen fought violent battles against their opponents? Why do political transformations differ in countries that were able to shed their autocratic presidents? And why have other regimes, including Morocco and Saudi Arabia, experienced only limited protests or managed to repress and circumvent them? This volume analyses the recent popular uprisings commonly referred to as the Arab Spring and their impact on politics and polities in the light of the ‘nature’ of the states concerned. Differences in terms of contestation, regime response, and the ensuing political



dynamics seem to reflect the historical processes that have shaped states, societies and political economies. The relatively smooth process of change in Tunisia may reflect the relative success of state and nation-building strategies pursued over centuries by ruling groups that tended by and large to rule over the same territory and the same population. Put differently, Tunisia comes close to the nation state defined as a legally established entity whose boundaries coincide with those of an imagined community that commands the ultimate loyalty of its members.1 In contrast, Libya, Yemen and Syria are ‘territorial states’ whose boundaries do not coincide with those of an imagined community. Instead, they include a variety of loyalty groups that also frequently extend beyond state borders.2 The literature on the recent protests has mostly focused on similarities rather than differences among Arab regimes. For instance, it put considerable emphasis on the crisis of authoritarianism that had developed throughout the region.3 Similarly, it stressed the importance of economic and social grievances, in particular related to poverty and inequality,4 and popular mobilization and collective action against the backdrop of social movement theories that have been much debated.5 It largely ignored an older literature that had already related politics to differences at the level of state formation.6 Analysing recent events in the light of long-term transformations will not only help to contextualize past and current developments, but also allow us to avoid more outlandish guesses about likely developments in the future. Processes of state formation may indeed account for many of the differences that have marked events and developments since 2010. In many cases, decolonization left Arab states . . . formally independent and sovereign, [but] hardly any of them unconditionally accept[ed] the legitimacy of its own statehood. The fact of the matter is that these states have, for a good part of the twentieth century, been caught up in the pull and push of conflicting forces, some coming from domestic centrifugal sources such as ethnic and sectarian divisions and some from the universal forces of pan-Arabism



and pan-Islam, both of which draw away from the legitimacy of statehood enjoyed by these countries.7 In the Levant and the broader Fertile Crescent, the imperial powers drew the boundaries of the political entities that later were to become independent states in line with the reach of their own power and influence. By implication, they created entities unable to accommodate existing solidarities and patterns of exchange. In some areas like Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, processes of state formation had preceded the arrival of the imperialist powers. However, even in these cases the latter were essential at least in endorsing and consolidating the boundaries of the emerging states. In the Arab parts of the Persian Gulf the British often propped up fragile rulers and again defined the boundaries of the areas they allowed them to administer. Processes of state formation also had an impact on the types of political regimes (or ‘forms of government’) that came to dominate the entities concerned. Although partly endogenous, the processes of state formation were influenced, and in some cases even initiated, by foreign powers. The Moroccan and the Egyptian monarchies had taken shape before the physical arrival of the French and the British, who nonetheless remodeled them before endorsing them as their local agents. Mutatis mutandis, the same applies to the monarchies in the Gulf and their former counterpart in Tunisia. As to the Hashemite monarchies, they were part and parcel of the demiurgic creation of Iraq and (Trans) Jordan by the British, while the Syrian republic was a product of the French mandate. However, the impact that the type of political regime had on protests and subsequent developments can analytically be disassociated from their historical origins. On the face of it, monarchies weathered the Arab Spring storms better than republics, but in reality matters may be slightly more complex. Most likely the rentier monarchies survived largely unscathed thanks to the rents that they could mobilize to persuade the discontented to renew the old authoritarian bargain. The most contested monarchy has been that of Bahrain, a fading rentier state unable to defend this bargain because of a sectarian divide that heavily affects access to resources. The least



contested monarchies have been those of Morocco and (to an extent) Jordan, which had put in place institutions and mechanisms underscoring their – however hollow – claim to reign but not to rule. Like regime types (or ‘forms of government’), political economies in the sense of the political organization of economic activities are historically related to processes of state formation, but analytically distinct. Their characteristics form the third group of variables that have shaped the dynamics of protests, regime responses and ensuing political dynamics discussed in this volume. ‘Orthodox’ economic reforms imposed by external actors on political economies that had been built around important public sectors, rents, and attendant welfare regimes such as the ‘old social contract’ (and its implicit authoritarian bargain) reinforced political capitalism (or cronyism) and inequalities, thus entailing increasingly diverging interests and demands that the unaccountable rulers no longer managed to reconcile. In many ways the dynamics of global capitalism and their social and cultural ramifications eroded political regimes and even states that had suited these dynamics earlier but then failed to adapt. Processes of state formation, types of political regimes, and features of the political economy are thus the factors that in the eyes of the contributors to this volume account for the similarities and differences that have marked the Arab Springs. The volume opens with a diachronic as well as synchronic comparison by Roger Heacock of contestation in Europe in the nineteenth century and the Arab Spring at the beginning of the twenty-first century, focusing on issues of political economy and historical sociology. In this chapter, Heacock discusses specific features of states that had historically conditioned insurrections. Taking the revolutions of 1848 and the contrasting contexts within which the peoples of Europe rebelled, a series of models emerge: the Sicilian ‘ur-paradigm’ is that of an agricultural, in his view pre-modern, polity with significant liberal inroads; in Paris, on the contrary, a relatively advanced form of finance capital was contested by the people of a nation state in the sense of a formally established polity that coincides with an imagined community. He then carries out a similar exercise with regard to the protests of the Arab Spring, taking the Egyptian



and the Syrian cases as contrasting examples. While Egypt was a comprador military dictatorship with powerful urban contestation in the form of organized labour, Syria was a minority-controlled, military-security state with an embryonic (sub-)urban proletariat and an alienated, then insurgent, rural population. Heacock correlates the European and the Arab models in terms of the depth and breadth of mobilization in the light of political economy issues and systems of rule. He then compares them to each other in the quest for broader trans-historical and trans-geographical patterns that provide insight into past, present and possible future popular explosions. The comparison reveals a symmetrical concatenation of events in 1848 and 2011. Demographic pressures, global financial collapse and an economic downturn in the context of a liberal market order, state corruption and, finally, a series of minor events such as the dismissal of a history professor or a self-immolation provide the backdrop or enabling conditions of contestation without necessarily entailing it in any automatic sense. To conclude, Heacock insists on another parallel, namely the incapacity of the powers-that-be to anticipate major contestation and revolutions, proven if necessary by the fact that they fail to take measures to forestall them. Elaborating on some of the political economy issues discussed by Heacock, Fred Lawson argues that academic writings on the Arab Spring fail to provide a cogent discussion of the 2008–9 international financial crisis and its impact on trade, investment and labour throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In his view, the worldwide disruption affected different Arab countries in markedly divergent ways, depending on the peculiar form and level of each country’s integration into the international economy, as well as the Social Structure of Accumulation (SSA) that regulated each country’s domestic political–economic order. Lawson relates these differences to the highly divergent patterns of popular mobilization and regime responses in Algeria and Yemen, two countries that so far have attracted comparatively little attention from students of the Arab Spring. Emphasizing the limits of analyses such as these, which in his eyes belong to the realm of ‘objectivism’, John Chalcraft argues that transcending the dichotomy that opposes such approaches to



‘subjectivism’ helps to highlight the significance and role of initiative, interpretation and creativity in this major episode of political contention – without dissolving entirely the role of history and context or omitting the significance of material forms of domination. While initiative and creativity are as real as contestation and produce their effects, they do not unfold or operate in a vacuum. Transgressive contention makes use of the dissolution and disarticulation of existing hegemonic structures, the sudden appearance of new possibilities, and recombines disorganized and disarticulated elements into new patterns, introducing hitherto marginal or unknown forces into the social fray. But the success of such initiatives is limited by the material forms of domination that they confront and by no means always succeed in overthrowing. Focusing on the much debated difference between monarchies and republics, Thomas Demmelhuber confirms that the type of political regime did impact on politics in and after the Arab Spring. However, he also argues that beyond such differences, the state as a normative frame of reference is central to the understanding of political change and its nature. Moreover, the ways in which power is exercised, different pathways of state-building and the related patterns of social interaction are essential for understanding the resilience – in particular of the Gulf monarchies – that his argument focuses on. By elaborating on these factors he provides a more complex explanation for the survival of these monarchies than traditional rentbased approaches with their widely acknowledged analytical limits beyond the macro-level. Discussing the same issue from a slightly different angle, Alain Dieckhoff also concludes that the distinction between monarchies and republics is too simple to explain trajectories of regime survival, transformation or even demise. He contends that different monarchies utilized different coping strategies for survival. For instance, the Gulf monarchies were able to hand out material benefits to their nationals, which in return afforded them at least a semblance of legitimacy. Less well-off monarchies carefully crafted limited reforms that entailed a degree of political decompression without weakening their own positions. They could call elections all the more



easily, because unlike republics, their seat of power by definition remains shielded from elections. Contrary to the ‘King’s Dilemma’ famously discussed by Samuel Huntington, the combination of ultimately unaccountable power and a degree of popular participation is thus a valid option for monarchies in order to survive. The two concluding contributions return to broader differences that mark societal and economic transformations in the various Arab states, in particular issues of state formation and state ‘reformation’ and their impact on popular protests, regime responses and the ensuing political dynamics. Eberhard Kienle first distinguishes between (i) countries in which large-scale peaceful contestation has rapidly entailed major forms of regime transformation either without violence or with a relatively limited degree of it (even though these transformations may have been thrown into question by subsequent and more violent events) and without foreign intervention; (ii) others where more limited peaceful contestation has led the rulers to concede equally limited political adjustments; (iii) yet others where initially peaceful contestation was met by violent repression that either led to a prolonged stalemate marked by temporary or continuous fighting between the incumbents and their challengers, or was followed by overt foreign intervention to resolve the impasse; and (iv) countries where contestation has remained narrowly circumscribed if at all it occurred, and political regimes remained basically untouched. He then relates these different trajectories to regime types or ‘forms of government’, including Dieckhoff”s distinctions between different types of monarchies, societal cleavages, income from rent, and in particular processes of state formation that in some cases reach back to the eighteenth century. Finally, Nadine Sika analyses processes of state formation in more recent periods, mainly the post-colonial era in the 1940s, 1950s and even beyond. She argues that the co-optation of a range of societal groups and actors by the regimes, the growth and use of their coercive apparatuses and their international relations were the most decisive factors accounting for the different political trajectories in and after the recent uprisings. The rather peaceful departure of Mubarak in Egypt on the one hand, and the civil war in Syria on the other, reflect



differences at these three levels; the attempts by both regimes to establish their hegemony over the public sphere and to control the economy have not attenuated these differences. The contributions to this volume were initially drafted for a workshop that the editors convened at the 14th Mediterranean Research Meeting in Mersin funded by the University of Mersin and the Mediterranean Programme of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute in Florence. The contributions and introduction were copy-edited by Virginia Myers while references and transliterations were standardized by Alaa el-Mahrakawy and Dina Agha.

Notes 1 Lisa Anderson, ‘Absolutism and the Resilience of Monarchies in the Middle East’, Political Science Quarterly 106, no. 1 (1991), pp. 1– 15. 2 Bahgat Korany, ‘Alien and Besieged Yet Here to Stay: the Contradictions of the Arab Territorial State’, in Ghassan Salame (ed.), The Foundations of the Arab State (London: Croom Helm, 1987), pp. 47 – 74. 3 See for example, Robert Springborg, ‘The Precarious Economies of Arab Springs’, Survival 53 (2011), pp. 85–104; Ellen Lust, ‘Opposition Cooperation and Uprisings in the Arab World’, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 38, no. 3 (2011), pp. 425–34; Jason Brownlee, Democracy Prevention: The Politics of the US–Egyptian Alliance (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Mark Hass and David Lesh, The Arab Spring: Change and Resistance in the Middle East (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2013); Rex Brynen et al., Beyond the Arab Spring: Authoritarianism and Democratization in the Arab World (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2012). 4 Robert Springborg and Clement Henry, Globalization and the Politics of Development in the Middle East (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010). 5 Joel Beinin and Frederic Vairel (eds), Social Movements, Mobilization and Contestation in the Middle East and North Africa (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2nd edn, 2013). 6 Older literature includes Tarek Ismael and Jacqueline Ismael, Politics and Government in the Middle East (Florida: Florida University Press, 1991). Lisa Anderson, ‘The State in the Middle East and North Africa’, Comparative Politics 20, no. 1 (1987), pp. 1–18; Lisa Anderson, ‘Absolutism and the Resilience of Monarchy in the Middle East’, Political Science Quarterly 106, no. 1 (1991), pp. 1–15; Ghassan Salame, The Foundations of the Arab State (London: Croom Helm, 1987). 7 Iliya Harik, ‘The Origins of the Arab State System’, in Ghassan Salame (ed.), The Foundations of the Arab State (London: Croom Helm, 1987), p. 20.


The matter of historical comparisons1 is a complex and controversial one, which Max Weber, for example, powerfully deflated even as he stressed its importance: As a matter of fact, every ‘comparison’ in the historical sphere presupposes that a selection has already been made through reference to cultural ‘significances’ and that this selection positively determines the goal and direction of the attribution of causal agency while it excludes a rich infinity of ‘general’ as well as ‘particular’ elements in the data. The comparison of ‘analogous’ events is to be considered as a means of this imputation of causal agency, and indeed, in my view, one of the most important means and one which is not used to anywhere near the proper extent.2 This surprising paragraph does two apparently paradoxical things. It shows that the historian’s data is so infinitely vast that one cannot



really claim accuracy in selecting a certain concatenation of events, much less when comparing them to another set that in our case does not coincide chronologically or geographically. But then, in an apparent turnabout, Weber says there is not enough comparative history being undertaken, thus giving the exercise his stamp of approval to this ‘imputation of causal agency’. When advancing with great care, it does in fact help to compare apparently analogous phenomena, across time and space for that matter, not because the result is necessarily accurate, but because it helps us in drawing inferences. A prime example is that carried out by Paul Kennedy3 in the quest for the secrets of the rise of Europe after 1500, which he depicted more as the decline of other larger, more brilliant and powerful civilizations (notably the Ming, Moghul and Ottoman) all for similar reasons, as he would have us believe. While specialists have not ceased to criticize his facts, this is of little importance and the comparison still stands, in the sense that it places one element – seafaring both commercial and military – at the forefront of modernity. The matter being thus settled, the question becomes that of deciding to what the Arab revolutions of 2011 may be compared. There are not, in the Euro-Afro-Asian scheme of things, many candidates, given the broad sweep of events, which quickly engulfed virtually the entire Arab world, regardless of regime type, level of development, or geographic location. The two that come to mind are the East European events of 1989–91, and the European revolutions of 1848–51. It is easy to disqualify the more general phenomenon known as the ‘third wave’ of democratic transitions beginning with the 1974 Portuguese Carnation Revolution,4 because, while the numerous averred cases may be related to one another in general terms and in ‘social time’,5 they are not directly and causally connected to one another in the ‘immediate time’. In other words, while the societies that powered and underwent the ‘third wave’ of democratic transitions may and should be compared to each other, they are not easily connected to one another causally. The very notion of the ‘third wave’ has been contested, but for the wrong reasons, in terms of results so far (authoritarian rather than ‘democratic’ outcomes in various cases).6



As for the series of popular movements in Eastern Europe beginning in 1989, they bear some resemblance to the Arab uprisings because of their domino-like sequence, and because they were led and followed by millions of people in the various countries in question. Their short-term outcomes, too, may fruitfully be compared, since similarly-minded political elites emerged and overthrew or replaced the leading role of communist parties. But it is difficult to compare the retreat from ideology found in 1989 with the ideological contestations that, during the initial phase, followed the overthrow of some Arab regimes. And most of all, the 1989 –91 events coincided perfectly with the retreat of the Soviet glacis under Gorbachev, and then the withdrawal of Russian troops and the influence of the borders more closely resembling those of the early Soviet Union. Eastern European revolutions resulted from Russian evolution and contraction. And also, very importantly, they were by and large ‘negotiated’ revolutions,7 contrary to those we are interested in here. Furthermore, there was no direct colonial or foreign influence in the Arab world that could have lent the movement the same external coherence. State control, in other words, was exercised here by domestic, not foreign elements.8 The quest must then be for internal coherence at the outset, followed by divergent popular and regime behaviour thereafter. In 1848 a single revolutionary wave, the spring of peoples, covered virtually all of Europe (the great exceptions being the peripheral states, Britain and Russia) and it is therefore quite proper to label the 2011 uprisings the Arab Spring.9 The countries involved were in each case part of one Westphalian system and conscious of themselves as such; they professed similar ideological and theological credos, which had never prevented them from warring against one another. The European peoples could not understand one another, but their elites could (in French). The same goes for the countries of the Arab revolutions, point for point.10 And in both cases, a century and three-quarters later, a massively shared revolutionary and leaderless fervour shook deeply incrusted, diversely tyrannical regimes to their very core. In terms of political economy, there is likewise a disturbing resemblance between 1848



and 2011: the financial centre of the modern world, Britain then, the United States now, had lived through a financial implosion (London in 1845, Wall Street in 2008) engendering economic hardships far afield. The background for 1848 was one of widespread hunger resulting from the financial, then the economic slump and resulting in industrial contraction and subsequent ‘economic misery’.11 In the case of 1848, the dramatic slump was relatively short-term, Western and Central European economies having picked up by the time of the European revolutions (and, as it were, just in time for them, since generally good crops and the revival of trade prevented the famines of previous years from spreading in the face of violent unrest). In the current case, it is not yet clear how long the downturn is to last, although the five-year recession has already been longer than in the mid-nineteenth century, with some economies on the road to recovery while others continue to contract. The two historical phases, one characterized by pan-European, the other by transcontinental globalization thus strongly resemble each other, being marked by limited economic downturn followed by a generalized and interconnected wave of political turmoil in the form of discrete revolutionary movements taking place within the confines of existing states. This analysis, incidentally, was confirmed by an erudite and attentive journalist discussing the events of 1848 and their afterlives: Karl Marx showed that the Second French Republic came in the wake of a global financial, then economic crisis spreading out from England and resulting in the serious compression of workers’ pay on the continent, and even starvation in Ireland.12 In terms of immediate events, Sicily sparked the revolution in France and thus the 1848 spring of peoples (‘the bloody uprising of the people in Palermo worked like an electric shock on the paralyzed masses of the people, and awoke their great revolutionary memories and passions’13). Moreover, the Sicilian secessionist uprising of 12 January contributed mightily and dialectically to the movement for Italian unification, with the (initially and relatively) liberal Pope Pius IX soon pronouncing the ‘forbidden word in



public for the first time’ by calling ‘God’s blessing down upon “Italy” on 8 February.’14 The role of neoliberalism – a version of which, in the form of open transnational financial and commercial markets and laissez-faire national economies15 existed in Western Europe in 1848 – has been advanced as the specific and immediate cause for the Arab revolutions of 2011, triggered after three years of global economic downturn. Alex Callinicos16 ironically quotes the World Bank’s enthusiastic endorsement of Tunisian reforms just before the explosions in those two countries: The World Bank, in its September 2010 country brief on Tunisia, couldn’t contain its enthusiasm: ‘Tunisia has made remarkable progress on equitable growth, fighting poverty and achieving good social indicators. It has sustained an average 5 per cent growth rate over the past 20 years with a steady increase in per capita income and a corresponding increase in the welfare of its population that is underscored by a poverty level of 7 per cent that is amongst the lowest in the region.’ While more measured in its praise of the Mubarak regime, the bank still acknowledged its ‘solid track record as one of the champions of economic reforms in the Middle East and North Africa region’. In the twenty-first century Arab region, states tended to various degrees to abide by the neoliberal prescriptions of the so-called Washington Consensus (and thus the great international lending agencies), through the curtailment of subsidies, the further opening of markets and the strengthening of agro-export at the expense of policies aimed at maximizing self-sufficiency. The social, economic and cultural abyss within cities and between them and the countryside deepened. Governing elites heeded to the external pressures, while belittling internal ones, in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere. This explains the similar paths followed leading up to 1848 and 2011 by the economies and then the political paths followed by the peoples of the affected areas, contingent likewise



upon the mutual openness of their economies and societies to one another, with the rapid spread of news and the seismic-like interaction of social movements over the bounded spaces of the system of states. This is not to say that the 1848 revolutions were the momentary result of short-term factors, as some have argued, for whom hunger (the 1845– 7 food crisis), the resulting industrial slump, and thus ‘immediate economic misery’ were sufficient explanations.17 The events of 1848 in Europe were rather a continuation of the process that begun in 1789, interrupted by the Napoleonic wars and repressed by the 1815 Restorations. The concatenation of events and the thrust of revolutionary discourse all point to this conclusion, as does the rapid and forceful retreat from revolution on all the various fronts. The fact that the revolutions of 1848 were symbiotically linked in victory and defeat is clearly expressed in a contemporary analysis from across the Atlantic, fraught at once with pathos and lucidity, bemoaning the fact that every reform had been ‘deferred or flung aside’, and the image of the corpse of the Roman republic – the gallows – Austria bestriding Hungary, Lombardy, Venice – Sicily given up to military executions – the hope all nations had put in France destroyed for ever – everywhere right trampled underfoot, from the North to the South, from Cassel to Palermo! . . . France may hang her head for shame . . .18

Sicily 1848 As noted by Charles Tilly,19 it was not in industrial areas, such as France, Germany or England, that the 1848 revolution broke out. Instead, ‘it formed in poor old Sicily’.20 The reason is found in the political and economic miseries to which Sicily was subjected after the fall of Napoleon. On the one hand, it had been subordinated once again to Bourbon dynastic rule from Naples. And, more generally and significantly, the numerous uprisings in southern Italy in general and Sicily in particular were rooted in the unusually harsh conditions



imposed on the peasantry in the context of the prevailing latifondo system.21 To make it worse, the peasants had, from the late eighteenth century, been progressively deprived of their communal demesne lands. To top it off, Joseph Bonaparte had in his short stint as king of Naples and Sicily (1806– 8) attempted to abolish feudalism and its sequels, and his ‘promise of land was like a diamond ingrained in the collective consciousness of the peasantry’,22 leading to numerous uprisings throughout the century. While the fundamentally oppressed social class was thus the peasantry,23 which played a significant role in its heady early days,24 the Sicilian revolution of January 1848 was in its operations an urban one based mainly in Palermo. Nonetheless, rural themes were plentiful in the early fervour of revolution. University students expressed demands by peasants and workers alike, but the symbolism was largely framed in the context of the rural insurrection, so that short-lived charismatic leaders strode the revolutionary stage, such as the shepherdess known as Testa di Lana (Wool Head), who wore pants and packed pistols in the ongoing combat waged against the royal Bourbon police.25 Peasants were also among the last to continue their struggle against Neapolitan repression until the collapse of the revolution in 1849, hastened by the furious bombardment of Sicilian cities by the Bourbon King Ferdinand, thereafter nicknamed ‘La Bomba’.26 In the words of a contemporary American academic observer, incredulous at the capacity of Neapolitan rulers to bomb Sicilian subjects, and uncannily similar to the tone latterly employed by those trying to comprehend the firebombing of insurgent Syria year after year, as though dealing with foreign forces. This characteristic act of useless barbarity, which reduced the once flourishing and beautiful city of Messina almost to a heap of ruins, began the series of events which have marked the reestablishment of Neapolitan rule in Sicily.27 This observer had not had the opportunity to read Marx’s journalistic forays into the 1848 events, or he might not have been so sure that the momentary victory of the counter-revolution was fixed for all times:



With the exception of only a few chapters, every more important part of the annals of the revolution from 1848 to 1849 carries the heading: Defeat of the Revolution! What succumbed in these defeats was not the revolution . . . In a word, the revolution made progress . . . by the creation of a powerful, united counter-revolution.28 Be that as it may, notable in the rise and fall of Europe’s first revolution of 1848 were the complex demands posed by leaders and fighters of the Sicilian uprising: they wished to assert their autonomy in relation to Neapolitan rule; they demanded a constitutional regime; and they inspired the movement for the unification of Italy as a whole.29

France 1848 Since the July Monarchy was affixed to the fortunes of finance capital, the latter’s slippage immediately brought about Louis Philippe’s downfall, for It was not the French bourgeoisie that ruled under Louis Philippe, but one section of it: bankers, stock-exchange kings, railway kings, owners of coal and iron mines and forests, a part of the land proprietors that rallied round them – the so-called finance aristocracy. It was on the throne, it dictated laws in the Chambers, it distributed public offices, from cabinet portfolios to tobacco bureau posts.30 Marx goes on to point out that the industrial bourgeoisie was actually in the opposition, albeit the official opposition, which was anxious to replace the financiers in the commanding heights of the French polity. The petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry, for their part, were entirely deprived of political power,31 and had been since the Jacobin era for the former and the Napoleonic for the latter. Demographics most certainly played a role in the instability and successive revolutionary explosions in France during the first half of



the nineteenth century.32 Recent studies lay to rest the idea that the immediate post-1789 land reforms directly occasioned the reduction in the French fertility rate. Both the city and the countryside experienced dramatic population increases, without the corresponding modernization of infrastructure, including notably housing. Paris witnessed the most dramatic population increase – 100 per cent – rising from half a million to a million during the period. ‘If the French countryside was beginning to burst at the seams by the mid-nineteenth century, this was even truer of many of France’s cities and towns. The influx of migrants to urban centres resulted in severe over-crowding.’33 In this general context, a serious economic crisis hit France and the rest of Europe from 1845, requiring action by the state in order to tend to equitable distribution of food and to re-launch the economy. The nature of the July Monarchy and of its ruling elites caused them to take a laissezfaire, non-interventionist approach. During the two crisis years, which waned in 1847, the municipalities and private individuals and charities did intervene to help the neediest in the towns and cities. And by the time the crisis eased in 1847, many people had become radicalized, as reflected in voting patterns at the municipal level, even as industrial action and spontaneous demonstrations multiplied.34 Because parliamentary action was blocked by the stranglehold of the ruling Guizot faction, and because demonstrations were quickly put down, the opposition had to resort to extra-parliamentary, ‘non-political’ manifestations of their anger, and a series of ‘reform banquets’ was held in more or less public places (in all, about 60 were held throughout the country in 1847 – 835). The outlawing of a banquet in the working class 12th arrondissement was diversely received by the organizers. All of them called for the banquet demonstration to remain peaceful. But the pacifist leanings of the opposition leadership did not correspond to the culture of despairing anger that had affected the Parisian working class, one of the main repositories of the militant traditions of 1789. The February revolution that overthrew the July Monarchy was carried out by a coalition of Parisian workers, members of the



radicalized middle class, students and the volunteer force, the National Guard, which either refused to suppress the demonstrators or sided with them. The students, angered by the dismissal of a reformist professor at the Colle`ge de France, the historian Jules Michelet, took to the streets and provided the uprising with its internationalist dimension, conscious as they were of events throughout Europe and, in particular, the Sicilian revolt.36 In fact it was the army that, by massacring several dozen people, directly precipitated the overthrow of the monarchy, a task that took three days to accomplish. The successful uprising had been entirely leaderless.37 A combination of economic, social and political elements thus accounts for the revolutionary outbreak of 1848. The deep divisions within French society explain its ‘failure’ in the short run, despite the many reforms that were undertaken, not least universal manhood suffrage, which made it possible for LouisNapoleon to neutralize the legislature and consolidate his presidentialist/imperial rule. The movement’s unity had been a specious one in the first place, and the timorous republicanism of a Lamartine quickly faced off against the moderate statist socialism of a Louis Blanc.38 The course of events in France is too well known to recount in detail. It was a Parisian affair. After an initial revolutionary spurt culminating in the flight of the monarch, the declaration of a republic and of elections by universal manhood suffrage, the tactical alliance between bourgeois and workers quickly dissolved and the rising class tension led to the confrontations of June, resulting in a massacre followed by increasing repression, which made it possible for Louis-Napoleon to obtain massive support in the presidential elections, notably thanks to the peasantry and to move with all deliberate speed to the establishment of a Second Empire. Revolution inevitably leads to concerted attempts at counter-revolution, and in the French case, as in many others in 1848, the established parties were better organized and armed than those desiring change, something that may also be seen to apply to the next case under consideration.39



Syria 2011 During and after the French mandate the Syrian Alawites, like the Egyptian lower-middle classes, often entered the army to flee from poverty and find ways of ascending first the social, then the political and finally the economic ladder.40 This tradition actually dated back to the practice of joining the French army, notably the ‘troupes spe´ciales’, in the 1920s and 1930s. At the same time, they carried their long-standing rural traditions with them (whereas the Egyptian Free Officers came with their small town baggage) into the various offices of the state, the economy and the security services that they came to occupy. Interestingly, they tended, as a whole, to side with the ‘leftist’ faction of the Ba’th party during the years of struggle of the 1950s and 1960s. This faction was dominated by the ‘countryside boys’41 and their iconic figures tended to be rural ones, like the legendary shepherd-activist who first opposed and then served the French, Suleiman al-Murshid.42 In this, as in many other respects, the Syrian case is reminiscent of the Sicilian one. Incidentally, this Sicilian tradition of 1848 with its guerrilleros and guerrilleras (e.g. Testa di Lana) carried forward well into the twentieth century.43 Thus the 1966 coup was both essentially leftist and Alawite. But the final power grab of Hafez Al-Asad came with the rejection of ‘scientific socialist’ discourse identified with the upper-class Damascenes, and the pragmatists within the rural faction took and retained power despite their leader’s role in the 1967 defeat. The top leadership came from the marginalized sections of a marginalized community. The finally triumphant generation of the Ba’th leadership, in other words: hails from the periphery . . . [T]heir social and cultural connections are in the countryside. Thus the non-consolidated periphery, a coalition of regional, civilian, and military ‘Alawis, have replaced the fratricidal, central, Sunni [sic ] or ‘old’ Ba’thPPS elites.44 This lightning ascent, which took less than a generation to accomplish, was more remarkable, and certainly far less self-evident,



even in retrospect, than the rise of the petty bourgeois Egyptian revolutionaries around Jamal Abd al-Nasser, which would seem to have been inevitable (if only through the teleology of hindsight). It was a remarkable achievement for a compact group within the Alawite community in charge of the military, the party and the state. Beyond the fact that their takeover techniques (military coups) and authoritarianism were of a piece with their times and their region, it is evident that the Syrian military had in any case to ‘prefer a praetorian-patrimonial rule to parliamentary domination’,45 which would have meant the demise of minority control. There is certainly a question as to whether, even in the early period of its hegemony, Ba’thist ideology was ‘not Marxist-Leninist but Maoist-Castrist’,46 but as a clear designation of its rural as opposed to urban roots and flavour, it is a telling distinction.47 Remarkably and paradoxically, the early attractiveness of the Ba’th party in Syria was in large part due to its capacity to unite the various communities, and to ‘cut across Syria’s traditional divisions’.48 Now the Asad regime came to be based on two superimposed support structures, resulting from struggles within the Ba’th party and beyond: between town and country and between the Alawite minority and the rest.49 These two processes interacted, as the Alawite leadership was itself divided along tribal lines (Salah Jadid’s al-Haddadin vs. Asad’s al-Matawirah50), coinciding in part with the urban – rural divide. Hafez al-Asad’s 1970 coup thus marked the victory of land over town, and simultaneously of the ‘pragmatic’ line against the ‘socialist’ one. Indeed, it can partly be seen as a reaction to the radicalization of the previous decade,51 a kind of rectification movement (comparable to Sadat’s move against the Nasserites in 1971). The ruling Ba’th found themselves, after Asad’s final coup, in direct need of allies to flesh out their praetorian skeleton. They had no trouble finding them among the urbanites of the two great cities, Damascus and Aleppo, where the Sunni and Christian merchant classes were showered with privileges so as to ensure their loyalty. The close alliance formed progressively between those two urban bourgeoisies and the militarily all-powerful, originally rural Alawites



was thus cemented and came to constitute the solid backbone of the regime from then on. Its survival necessarily resulted in a diffuse and protracted, occasionally violent struggle against the many social, political and sectarian groups that had been left out of the limited socio-corporate contract. Meantime, the regime had embarked on a particular economic path,52 combining state dominance of the ‘commanding heights’ with the furtherance of a rising bourgeoisie, particularly in the two big cities.53 Asad likewise furthered Sunni participation in political organs of the state, such as the People’s Assembly and Council of Ministers, which combined very real social prestige with the complete absence of political power. In addition to rewarding the merchants (Christians54 and Muslims, many of whom were affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, something well known to the Ba’thist leadership), Asad moved to ensure regional stability by breaking Syria’s traditional bonds to the Palestinians. These had stretched back to the period of the Great Revolt of the Syrians against the French, when Syrian revolutionary leaders in particular moved south to Palestine in the face of French repression.55 Asad entered the Lebanese civil war on the side of the Christian Phalangists in 1976 to prevent the victory of the ‘Progressive – Muslim – Palestinian’ camp and then to ensure control over Lebanon in a manner that could be justified to the Israelis (thwarting Palestinian dominance) and to the Arab world (preempting Israeli intervention). The Syrian and the Israeli armies both watched and perhaps aided the developing massacre of Tel al-Zaatar, reassuring the Syrian bourgeoisie and offering the Syrian working class the lucrative Lebanese job market. Meantime, for his added security, Asad had the leader of the ‘Progressive – Muslim – Palestinian’ camp, Kamal Jumblat, assassinated. In the short term, the arrangement worked. Syria avoided the indebtedness incurred to international lending agencies, even as it provided the basic elements of a socially minded state. But the Hama uprising of 1982 and its brutal repression might have sounded a warning that this type of minority rule could not last forever. It took someone with the deep knowledge of the region and its peoples,



Hanna Batatu, to predict the blowback that was to come 30 years later: ‘so long as the present regime remains narrowly based and unrepresentative of the country’s majority’, he stated prophetically, ‘there is bound to be a revival of the spirit of revolt which no repression, however brutal, can extinguish’.56 By the time of their contestation in 2011, of course, the scions of the Egyptian and Syrian regimes had long since transformed themselves, through marriage, material gain and social comportment, into a new and unprecedentedly wealthy caste,57 very different and infinitely more poised than last century’s country boys or Nasser’s readily accepted title of ibn-al-bustagi (son of the postman), but their roots remained to haunt them, the mantle of rural contestation having been taken up by hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of the rif (the impoverished governorates around Damascus and Aleppo), or of petty bourgeois radicalism by the likes of the Ahli ultras (fans of the Ahli Football Club in Cairo) and turned against those who were seen as having betrayed their own class. In Syria, the urban working class did not play a significant historical role as an organized force over the past half century for a variety of reasons, most importantly fear of a security regime that never hesitated violently to repress initiatives not taken within the framework of the state-sponsored confederation.58 In this respect, the Syrian revolution was different from those in Tunisia and Egypt with their powerful organized proletarian input.59 While initially counting on the support of parts of the rural population, the state progressively lost this, because of its failure to support those reduced to poverty by years of crop failure during the first decade of the millennium, and doing little to support the hundreds of thousands of migrants forced by drought, indigence and gradual economic liberalization to move to the outskirts of Aleppo and Damascus. This reserve labour army, as elsewhere, in fact suited the Damascene and Aleppan entrepreneurs. With the outbreak of the uprising in Dar’a in March 2011, the rif, along with the marginalized provincial townspeople, became steadfast in opposition. In the words of Jonathan Maunder:60



developments within Syria since 2000 . . . have seen a breakdown in the historic ‘social pact’ underpinning Ba’ath Party rule, leading to an intensification of class inequality and state authoritarianism . . . This context is vital in order to understand the Syrian uprising in its totality. I argue that, like the regimes of Bin Ali and Mubarak, the Asad regime represents a ruling class fundamentally opposed to the interests of Syrian workers and the poor. Furthermore, its position towards both imperialism and the resistance movements in Palestine and Lebanon is deeply contradictory, reflecting its geo-strategic interests as a ruling class . . . The unraveling since 2000 of the historic ‘social pact’ forged by the Ba’ath Party in the 1960s and 1970s is therefore key to understanding the roots of the 2011 uprising. It is thus understandable that the revolution should have broken out in Dar’a and spread to numerous other towns, but also that it took over a year for Aleppo and Damascus to be drawn in and, in these two cases, by its still semi-rural suburbs (rif dimashq and rif halab). Among the many resemblances between the 2011 revolution and the great Syrian revolt against the French of 1925, the regime again relied on minorities as well as its own economic interests, located principally in the capital.61 Striking discursive resemblances are also, again logically, at hand, the French authorities tending ‘to stress and exaggerate the extent of external and especially of foreign meddling’,62 and attributing the financing of the resistance to their great power rival, Britain (further parallels are to be found in the deep divisions within the insurgency, and the importance of Syrian – Palestinian ties, powerfully suppressed by the regime). Ranajit Guha’s deep insights into insurgent peasant societies, drawn principally from nineteenth century Indian colonial history, invites comparison with the Syrian revolution of 2011, since in his critique of the academic treatment of rural insurgencies, he notes that blinded by the glare of a perfect and immaculate consciousness the [radical, including Marxist] historian sees nothing, for



instance, but solidarity in rebel behaviour and fails to notice its Other, namely, betrayal. Committed inflexibly to the notion of insurgency as a generalized movement, he underestimates the power of the brakes put on it by localism and territoriality.63

Egypt 2011 In Egypt, the 18 days revolt that led to the resignation of the president was the result of forces that closely resemble those of the French model of 1848. The neoliberal order imposed by the regime exacerbated social tensions and opened a split among the political elites. The flight of peasants to the big cities, where they joined a cheap labour force in constant quest of employment, provided the troops for an uprising that broke out in the wake of the successful popular overthrow of the Tunisian dictator, an affiliation much more direct than the Parisian in relation to events in Sicily in January 1848. A long-suffering urban proletariat had been demonstrating for social, political and most especially economic rights for several years, and provided the millions of protesters who broke the system down. Social media and satellite television (most notably Al-Jazeera) did indeed play a vanguard role as a fuse, just as disgruntled students had set off the street demonstrations in 1848. Workers in their millions, however, supported by thousands of middle class urbanites (but beginning in Suez, not in Cairo) together staged the insurrection. As in 1848 France, most people were delighted by the fall of the house of Mubarak. And, as in France, deep-seated differences appeared once the discursive and electoral process had begun in earnest. The fact that moderate reformists associated with the still revered memory of Jamal Abd al-Nasser (Hamdeen Sabbahi) did well in the first presidential elections is no surprise, nor especially that the Muslim Brotherhood did win pluralities in a series of electoral battles. But the resilience of old regime candidates (most notably presidential candidate Ahmad Shafiq) could be no surprise either, keeping in mind the electoral successes of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte when he decided to enter the fray. In the French case, the resurrection of empire rested on memories and dreams of frustrated glory.



The popular victories, in the first instance, of the Brotherhood, likewise may be linked to the widespread sense that it possessed the secrets of success at the social and economic levels. This expectation was proven to be misplaced, given the new leaders’ open espousal of neoliberal policies. Others, who had welcomed the fall of Mubarak, turned away from the legislative and executive leadership, seeing it as wrong-headed and incompetent. This accounts for the progressive loss of support by those who did not adhere to the Brotherhood’s socio-religious ideology. Egypt underwent a set of developments that differed fundamentally from Syria, although the specific elements of authoritarianism, corruption and inequality were present in all of the uprisings of 2011 in the Arab world. In Egypt, a massive proletarianization of the rural populations took place beginning with the death of Abd al-Nasser, and Sadat’s subsequent ‘rectification movement’ (harakat al-tashih) of 1971 followed by the process of infitah, begun in 1974. Those who could not migrate to the Gulf in quest of livelihood moved to medium-sized and large cities.64 This rise of the working class was already apparent in 1994. Analysts began to predict that Mubarak might not ‘survive to the end of his term’,65 and that the opposition would turn to rather more violent means to obtain needed reforms. Discontent and unrest among workers was rife for a generation before the explosion came. Scholars, from the 1960s to the early twenty-first century,66 correctly predicted that revolution would not come from Islamists, despite their political and theological predications. The Egyptian leadership possessed a rich experience in the various forms of control, and had learned how to mingle voter fraud, repression and cooptation (while successfully selling the need for the complex formula to its foreign backers in Europe and especially the United States). Depending on their particular definition of jihad (pietist or political), Salafists were either restricted to their mosques and neighborhoods, or imprisoned or killed; ‘moderates’, for example the Wasat party, were easily brought into the fold,67 while the Muslim Brotherhood was included in the second-ranking levels of decision making (and allowed to participate in or even lead the ongoing ‘Islamization’ of



society), even as they were treated to a varied set of restrictive policies come election time, thus always keeping them on their toes, playing catch-up and constantly revising their electoral and communications strategies. In fact, numerous persons and groups engaged in what one might term self-co-optation by militants appointed or elected as spokespeople or leaders of one corporation or another.68 It is easy to see that the regime in Egypt behaved rather differently from that in Syria. While the latter maintained strong elements of statism (although the true extent of this is as yet unclear, since highpowered individuals, families, tribes and sects in control of the economy were coterminous with the state itself), in the former a genuine form of liberalism, particularly in the economic sense (personified at the summit by the president’s sons69) broke through around the turn of the millennium and, combined with privatization, increasingly permeated the society. Market liberalization was the catchword of Mubarak’s last years in office and the major opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, also believed firmly in its virtues. Such liberalism, familiar also to the student of contemporary China, was combined with a decisively illiberal political order. But even this illiberality was not without its contradictions, as the many demonstrations and strikes attest, as did the minimal oppositional gains in the legislative branch. Only presidential elections were taboo and could cost someone who took his candidacy too seriously (in the event, Aiman Nur) months or years in jail. The ruling military caste, in other words, was liberal but opposed democracy; it most definitely ruled, but did not always govern.70 In addition to its ultimate political control, the military possessed invisible but enormous economic strength. The permanent direct intervention of the Syrian state and its leaders in market and politics, with its ever-threatening security apparatus and resultant surface quiescence on the social front, provides an evident contrast to the Egyptian model. Egypt took economic laissez-faire very seriously, while political laissez-faire was held within tight limits.71 This duality came to represent a threat to the regime, because the type of liberalization associated with World Trade Organization (WTO) membership, acquired in 1995, led to a



series of potentially unsettling economic reforms, such as the abandonment of the state monopoly over telecommunications in 2003, to give just one very telling example.72 Of course opposition to the dismantling of the governmental social protections, employment opportunities and enterprises existed. But the Egyptian left was spent and had been at least from the time of the fall of the Soviet Union. Inside the deep state, opposition was represented by the old guard (exemplified by the forbidding figure of ‘Omar Suleiman), resentful of the young liberals’ rise and fearful of losing their traditional privileges. But given the impotence of these two circles and the economic liberalism of the Muslim Brothers, active and potent opposition was exemplified by the independent trade union movement. It reflected and mobilized worker’s ‘anxiety’.73 Yet despite the hundreds of small or big, short or prolonged strikes that took place annually from 2004, these unions did not coalesce, nor did they ally themselves with political parties, nor even try to contest the regime’s rule. Nonetheless, they were deeply disgruntled, and as soon as the lower-middle class intellectual Tweeters sounded the clarion, they jumped into the fray in large numbers, in Suez, then Alexandria and Cairo and the rest of Egyptian urban space. With their successful calls for general strikes, they did more than any other organized group to bring Mubarak down, providing massive people power and readily joining the leaderless fray. After the fall, they mobilized and co-ordinated to a greater extent, and came to stand at the forefront of the struggle against authoritarian tendencies in the new presidency and government and against the further marketization of the economy.74 Despite continued unrest in Egypt, economic growth did not turn into contraction at any point during the first two years of revolution, dropping from a yearly average of 4.4 per cent during the first decade of the twenty-first century to 2 per cent in 2011 and 2.4 per cent in 2012. One might also note that other economic indicators in Egypt pointed to a less alarming situation than that painted by a variety of observers, suggesting that revolution, by releasing alternative and unsuspected popular energies, does not equate with economic collapse. Indeed, the Egyptian pound lost only 10 per cent of its value



over the two years following the revolution (not a bad thing for exporters, but requiring attention to the needs of that majority of the people who depend on imported wheat for their daily sustenance) and the tourist sector still attracted 11 million foreign visitors in 2012, up from 10 million in 2011 but of course less than 2010’s 15 million.75 Not because they were themselves in the throes of revolution, but, in part, because they wanted to avoid additional turmoil in the Gulf and elsewhere, Arab sources, at first Qatar, the African Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank supported the two-year ascendancy of the Muslim Brothers.76 Saudi Arabia strongly opposed this and financed the strange selfimmolation of the revolution in 2013 (a path not without recalling the slow suicide of the French democrats – at the polls! – which began within less than a year of the February 1848 revolution), followed by the violent re-emergence of military control in 2013 (which also eerily recalls the rise to the imperial throne of LouisNapoleon Bonaparte between 1848 and 1852, with his use of a combination of partisan violence and electoral mechanisms). As in Paris in 1848, the Egyptian revolution was quite unexpected by the regime. President Mubarak and his entourage were unruffled in advance of the expected demonstration of 28 January, as though the Tunisian model could not be emulated at home. The revolution was thus carried principally by urban groups. It could not have been imagined (certainly not in the form that it took) without the young intellectuals who ignited it or the massive struggle of the workers that led up to it and made Mubarak’s fall inevitable. The nonintervention of the army was a decisive but negative factor, perhaps explained by the widespread participation of people in the ongoing demonstrations in all of Egypt’s cities and towns. Once the process of transition had set in, the Muslim Brotherhood, with its vast urban and rural base, was able to gain a short plurality over its rivals on the right and the left, maneuvering in the turbulent climate of revolution and counter-revolution and, like its opponents of all stripes, stumbling along in its efforts to compete for and maintain power in a brand-new political context, unseen since the days when British overlordship virtually drowned the democratic game in colonial



irrelevance. But the colonial military had been replaced by an indigenous one not less bent on counter-revolution.

Conclusion History indicates that, in the short term, a revolution, once it breaks out, is a race against time, that is to say a race to consolidate power before the counter-revolution strikes back. This is something, it has been noted with regard to 1848, that ‘only its sworn adversaries seemed to realize’.77 Another important point is to discount the alleged psychological, philosophical or aesthetic connections to the immediacy of revolutionary peaks and vales, something long attempted with regard to the post-1848 generation of pessimistic thinkers, from Schopenhauer to Barre`s,78 but with little empirical or chronological evidence. Political movements are based on forces rooted in the past; they stretch out into the distant future, and they are not simply and mechanistically affixed to the movement of the age. This is why it is very easy to say, whatever may be the momentary ups and downs (those of Braudelian ‘immediate time’), that the struggle continues. An exercise in comparison, or in commemoration for that matter, may be of note in a geographically very different setting. The revolutions of 1848 in Europe are, on the one hand, relevant to the struggle of the Arabs today; they seem, on the other hand, to have lost their appeal to the descendants of those who actually fought the good fight. Speaking of the 150th commemoration in 1998, it was found that interest in northern Italy was minimal and in southern Italy virtually non-existent. ‘Overall, at the end of the twentieth century, no one in Italy seems to have cared very much about 1848.’79 This fact alone casts strong doubt on Pierre Nora’s excessively hegemonic ‘lieux de me´moire’ trope. What stands beyond doubt is the true symmetry of concatenation between 1848 and 2011. Demographic pressures, global financial collapse and economic downturn in the context of a liberal market order, state corruption and, finally, a series of minor events (the dismissal of a history professor, a self-immolation; a



scribbled message on a classroom blackboard in Dar’a – ‘jayak al-dor, ya doctor – your turn is coming, Doctor’) unrecognized by rulers (Mubarak’s ‘let them enjoy themselves’), set off the revolutions that, as Karl Marx pointed out in 1852, are never foreseen by the powers that be, otherwise they would take the measures necessary to forestall them. The February revolution was a surprise attack, a taking of the old society unawares, and the people proclaimed the unexpected stroke as a deed of world importance, ushering in a new epoch.80 And what of the applicability of models to cases? Is it possible to say very simply that what has been found useful and perhaps fruitful to compare between the Sicilian – Syrian and French – Egyptian dyads would yield important results in other comparisons? The answer is no, but not perhaps as ‘unequivocally’ as Theda Skocpol stated.81 For one thing, she was talking about large revolutions in large states, and not, as she pointed out, events in more dependent parts of the world. And of course, she selected cases where demonstrably rapid social change was induced by revolutionary movements (1789, 1917 and 1949). So in a sense, her model applies only to itself and thus loses something by way of universality (shortly after writing her book, she attempted to subsume the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the emergence of the Islamic Republic under the same nomenclature, with rather indifferent success). Taking Sicily 1848 and Syria 2011 as a dyad and France 1848 and Egypt 2011 as another one emerges nonetheless as a valuable exercise for what they say of themselves and of each other. In the first case, the role of the peasantry and its urban extensions is the key to outbreak, development and type of resistance to counterrevolution. The weakness (in 1848, absence) of the industrial working class conditions the regime’s response, and the latter’s violence is on a par with the weakness of mass resistance in the capital (Naples and Damascus). The process is perforce an extended one, because of the geographical difficulties of the revolution and the counter-revolution in delivering a mortal blow to the enemy. In both cases, the resort to heavy bombardment by the regime is the



expression of the fear and the alienation felt by the ruling caste in the face of rural elements considered alien, savage and extremist (‘terrorist’, in contemporary parlance). The cases of 1848, are particularly interesting in both spatial and temporal terms, as transnational phenomena and parts of a much longer process. Both failed to bring about deep social change in the first instance, but set in motion long transformative processes that invite scholarly attention and revolutionary optimism. It may or may not be true that Skocpol is correct to privilege ‘the structures of state organizations and their partially autonomous and dynamic relationships to domestic class and political forces, as well as their positions in relation to other states abroad’.82 But this point may not be very important. Did not Marx predict that the bourgeoisie would dig its own grave, that is to say that the state would find itself incapable of sufficient reform and thus guarantees the success of insurrectionary movements that came at the right time? Structure is vital when it is penetrated by time, which is not to say that a pure historicist vision of revolutions and states is acceptable, for the present study is based on the opposite premise, which appears convincing on the strength of our demonstration. Comparison across time and across space is a valuable tool and, like all such tools, it may easily be contested by ‘specialists’. A discursive exercise, it needs to be empirically grounded, but thereafter informed readers are free to make what they will of it. Still, it most certainly provides clues as to the likely response of the state to challenges from the people, a response that cannot simply be designated by the common denomination of repression, but which is calibrated as a function of the social origin and geographic source of the challenge to entrenched rule. Historical models as analysed by Marx with regard to the 1848 ‘spring of peoples’ and the Paris Commune of 1871 (18th Brumaire of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, The Class Struggles in France, The Civil War in France), and reconfirmed in the present case, betray the ‘one step forward, two steps back’ syndrome dear to Lenin, given that the only certainty, as he noted, is the swift response of the counter-revolution, against which the forces of social change, representing the weaker



party, can only offer relief over a period of time and when internal as well as external factors have broken the asymmetry. The peoples of 1848 set in motion a process that finally yielded results one generation later. Counter-revolution in Egypt and Syria disposes of technologically far more violent means of repression. But against this, progressive social movements benefit from other technological advantages, notably in the communication field. On balance, change that required a generation in the mid-nineteenth century can occur in a decade under the conditions of the present. Insurgent societies are in the throes of a type of violence-ridden bureaucratic and biopolitical ‘governmentality’. Of utmost importance in a revolutionary process is the type of governance at work within the insurgency itself, and not only at the systemic or societal level as a whole. Marx’s ‘surprise attack’ may thus be seen as a necessary formula for understanding the occurrence but also the nature of revolutions. Were they clearly anticipated, a given regime would do all that is necessary to fend them off. The formula, for this reason, clearly applies to the Arab case, where Tunisia is concerned. Thereafter it became a matter of bizarre speculation as to whether it would spread to such and such a country, whereas the question might more properly have been posed the other way around: which Arab countries would not be affected by the revolutionary wave? It would appear that Egyptian as well as Syrian leaders thought it could never happen to them, and thus did nothing to fend off the wave that hit them with full force. Thus, 1848 and 2011 are equally histories-in-the-making, the one as re-reading,83 the other as re-writing. Both are etched in the blood of peoples struggling for their liberation, while passing its realization on to their descendants. In that sense, they are more than comparable in the long line of time and space: they are part and parcel of the same unending quest for human emancipation.

Notes 1 Taking the revolutions of 1848 in Europe and the contrasting contexts within which the peoples of Europe rebelled, a series of models emerge: the Sicilian ur-


2 3 4 5


7 8



paradigm is that of an agricultural, pre-modern formation with significant liberal inroads; while in Paris, a relatively advanced form of finance capital is contested by the people within a national context. In the recent Arab revolutions, Egypt was a comprador military dictatorship with powerful urban contestation in the form of organized labour, and Syria a minority-controlled, military-security state with an embryonic (sub-) urban proletariat and an alienated, then insurgent, rural population. The European and Arab models are here correlated in terms of the depth and breadth of mobilization, in political economy and system of rule. They are also compared in the quest for broader trans-historical and trans-geographical patterns. Max Weber, Methodology of Social Sciences (Piscatawy, NJ: 2011, Transaction Publishers), p. 130. Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (New York: 1987, Vintage Books), ch.1. Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratic Transitions in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman, Oklahoma: 1991, University of Oklahoma Press). For the purposes of the present demonstration, I adopt the triad of temporal categories advanced by Fernand Braudel in The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (Berkeley: 1966 [1949], University of California Press). Robert Dahl, for example, attempts very gingerly and intelligently to link analogous regimes in the very ‘longue dure´e’ of 2,500 years: Robert A. Dahl, On Democracy (New Haven, CT: 1998, Yale University Press). The critical wave began soon after Huntington’s work had been published, as may be seen for example in D. C. Shin, ‘On the Third Wave of Democratization: A Synthesis and Evaluation of Recent Theory and Research’, World Politics 47/1 (1994), pp. 135– 70. The critical ebb and flow has carried on ever since, evincing an ideological tint which mirrored that of the original thesis. Mehran Kamrava, ‘Revolution Revisited: The Structuralist-Voluntarist Debate’, Canadian Journal of Political Science, 32/2 (1999), pp. 341– 3. Ramnath Narayanswamy, ‘Causes and Consequences of the East European Revolutions of 1989’, Economic and Political Weekly 27/7 (1992), pp. 365– 79; Padraic Kenney, A Carnival of Revolution (Princeton, NJ: 2002, Princeton University Press); Sabrina Ramet, Social Currents in Eastern Europe: The Sources and Meaning of the Great Transformation (Durham, NC: 1991, Duke University Press); Ronald Francisco, ‘Theories of Revolution and the Revolutions of 1989’, American Journal of Political Science 37/3 (1993), pp. 663 –80; Vladimir Tismaneanu, ‘Revisiting 1989: Causes, Course and Consequences’, Contemporary European History 18/3 (2009), pp. 271–88. As is universally done in the Arab world because of the splendid alliteration arrabi’ al-‘arabi – often under protest as in the case of Abdel Bari ‘Atwan (editorin-chief of the London-based, Saudi-financed newspaper al-quds al-arabi), for whom it is a bad term (which nonetheless, for want of a better one, he routinely uses) because it is an ‘import’.



10 Needless to say, the resemblance has already been commented on, with rapid political conclusions and snap prognoses included, not the intent here: see for example Tariq Ali, ‘This is an Arab 1848, But US Hegemony is Only Dented’, Guardian, 22 February 2011, feb/22/arab-1848-us-hegemony-dented. 11 Helge Berger and Mark Spoerer, ‘Economic Crises and the European Revolutions of 1848’, Journal of Economic History 61/2 (2001), pp. 293 – 326. They base their generalizations on data from 27 countries. 12 Karl Marx, ‘The Class Struggles in France’, in Lewis S. Feuer (ed.), Marx and Engels: Basic Writings on Politics & Philosophy (New York: 1959 [1850], Anchor Books), p. 286. 13 Marx, ‘Class Struggles’, pp. 282– 3. 14 John Hawgood, ‘1848 in Central Europe: An Essay in Historical Synchronization’, Slavonic and East European Review 26/67 (1948), p. 319. 15 Casey Harrison, ‘An Organization of Labor Labour Laissez-Faire – Marchandage in the Paris Building Trades through 1848’, French Historical Studies 20/3 (1997), pp. 357– 80. 16 Alex Callinicos, ‘The Return of the Arab Revolution’, International Socialism 130, (Spring 2011), posted 1 April 2011 at d¼ 717&issue ¼ 130. 17 Berger and Spoerer, ‘Economic Crises’, pp. 293 – 326. 18 Anonymous, The North American Review 80/167 (1855), pp. 292 – 3. 19 Charles Tilly, ‘Does Modernization Breed Revolution?’, Comparative Politics 5/3 (1973), pp. 425– 47. 20 Ibid., p. 425. 21 Paul Ginsborg, ‘The Communist Party and the Agricultural Question in Southern Italy, 1943– 48’, History Workshop 17 (1984), p. 86. 22 Ibid. 23 Lucy Riall, ‘Elites in Search of Authority: Political Power and Social Order in Nineteenth Century Sicily’, History Workshop Journal 55 (2003), p. 41. 24 Paul Ginsborg, ‘Peasants and Revolutionaries in Venice and the Veneto, 1848’, The History Journal 17/3 (1974), p. 504. 25 Peter Sammartino and William Roberts, Sicily: An Informal History (Cranbury, NJ: 1992, Rosemont Press), p. 105. 26 Domenico Demarco, Il crollo del regno delle Due Sicilie (Naples: 1960, University of Naples). 27 Anonymous, ‘La Rigenerazione: Giornale Storico-Politico della Sicilia by Luigi Tirrito’, The North American Review 69/145 (1849), p. 518. 28 Karl Marx, ‘Class Struggles’, p. 280. 29 Bernard Cook, ‘The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, 1848– 49’, Encyclopedia of the 1848 Revolutions (2005). 30 Marx, ‘Class Struggles’, p. 282. 31 Ibid.



32 William Fortescue, France and 1848: The End of Monarchy (London: 2005, Routledge), pp. 33 – 5. 33 Ibid., p. 35. 34 Ibid., p. 43. 35 Ibid., p. 51. 36 The revolution ‘which broke out in Sicily early in January served as a spark to the chain of powder which exploded in one capital after another’. Bernadotte Schmitt, ‘1848 – As Seen from 1848’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 93/3 (1947), p. 216. 37 Fortescue, France and 1848, pp. 60 – 6. 38 Jonathan Sperber, The European Revolutions, 1848– 1851 (Cambridge, UK: 2004, Cambridge University Press). 39 Sperber, European Revolutions, p. 264. 40 Itamar Rabinovich, ‘The Compact Minorities and the Syrian State, 1918– 45’, Journal of Contemporary History 14/4 (1979), p. 709. 41 Amos Perlmutter, ‘From Obscurity to Rule: The Syrian Army and the Ba’th Party’, The Western Political Quarterly 22/4 (1969), p. 839. 42 Rabinovich, ‘Compact Minorities’, p. 704. 43 After World War II, the most popular man in Italy – with the exception of the cycling champion Fausto Coppi – was the bandit Salvatore Giuliano, a Sicilian separatist who helped to secure the autonomous status of the province. Today, the anti-Mafia judges, lawyers, journalists and policemen, by no means all of them of rural extraction, embody the still very specific, self-sacrificing honour of Sicily. 44 Perlmutter, ‘From Obscurity to Rule’, p. 843. 45 Ibid. 46 Ibid., p. 844. 47 Alasdair Drysdale and Raymond Hinnebusch, Syria and the Middle East Peace Process (New York: 1992, Council on Foreign Relations Press), ch. 2. 48 Amos Perlmutter, ‘The Syrian Army and the Ba’th Party’, The Western Political Quarterly 22/4 (1969), p. 834. 49 Hanna Batatu, ‘Syria’s Muslim Brethren’, MERIP Reports 110 (1982), pp. 12 – 36. 50 Ibid., p. 19. 51 Rami Ginat, ‘The Soviet Union and the Syrian Ba’th Regime: From Hesitation to Rapprochement’, Middle Eastern Studies 36/2 (2000), pp. 150– 71. 52 Donald Reid, ‘Syrian Christians, the Rags-to-Riches Story, and Free Enterprise’, International Journal of Middle East Studies 1/4 (1970), pp. 358–67. 53 Batatu, ‘Syria’s Muslim Brethren’ p. 19. 54 Yousuf Choueiri, ‘Two Histories of Syria and the Demise of Syrian Patriotism’, Middle Eastern Studies 23/4 (1987), pp. 496– 511. 55 Philip Khoury, ‘Factionalism among Syrian Nationalists during the French Mandate’, International Journal of Middle East Studies 13/4 (1981), p. 460. 56 Batatu, ‘Syria’s Muslim Brethren’, p. 20.



57 Volker Perthes, The Political Economy of Syria Under Asad (London: 1997, I.B.Tauris). 58 Elisabeth Longuenesse, ‘The Syrian Working Class Today’, MERIP Reports 134 (1985), pp. 17– 24. 59 Mostafa Bassyouni, ‘Labour movement absent in Syrian revolt”, Al Akhbar, 18 October 2011. 60 Jonathan Maunder, ‘The Syrian Crucible’, International Socialism 135 (2012).¼ 824&issue ¼ 135. 61 Khoury, ‘Factionalism’, pp. 452–3. 62 Ibid., p. 458. 63 Ranajit Guha, ‘The Prose of Counter-Insurgency’, in Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (eds), Selected Subaltern Studies (New York: 1988, Oxford University Press), p. 84. 64 James Toth, ‘Rural workers and Egypt’s National Development’, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 21/1 (1994), pp. 38 – 56. 65 Ibid., p. 55. 66 Anouar Abdel-Malek, E´gypte, socie´te´ militaire (Paris: 1969, E´ditions du Seuil); Joel Beinin, ‘A Workers’ Social Movement on the Margin of the Global Neoliberal Order, Egypt 2004– 2009’, in Joel Beinin and Fre´de´ric Vairel (eds), Social Mobilization and Contestation in the Middle East and North Africa (Stanford, CA: 2011, Stanford University Press), pp. 181 – 201. 67 Carrie Rosefsky Wickham, ‘The Path to Moderation: Strategy and Learning in the Formation of Egypt’s Wasat Party’, Comparative Politics 36/2 (2004), pp. 205– 28. 68 Ibid., p. 218. 69 Bruce Rutherford, Egypt after Mubarak (Princeton, NJ: 2008, Princeton University Press), p. 219. 70 Stephen Cook, Ruling but not Governing: The Military and Political Development in Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey (Baltimore, MD: 2007, Johns Hopkins University Press). 71 Rutherford, Egypt, p. 236. 72 Ibid., p. 199. 73 Ibid., p. 227. 74 Joel Beinin, ‘Workers, Trade Unions and Egypt’s Political Future’, Middle East Report Online, 18 January 2013. 75 Se´bastien Abis, ‘E´gypte: vers l’hiver e´conomique?’, Futuribles 29 (January 2013). 76 Ibid. 77 Hawgood, ‘1848 in Central Europe’, p. 324. 78 Paul Gottfried, ‘Pessimism and the Revolutions of 1848’, The Review of Politics 35/2 (1973), pp. 193–203. 79 Jonathan Sperber, ‘1848 – A European Revolution? International Ideas and National Memories of 1848’, American Historical Review 106/4 (2001), p. 1446.



80 Karl Marx, ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte’, in Lewis Feuer (ed.), Marx and Engels – Basic Writings on Politics & Philosophy (New York: 1959 [1852], Doubleday Anchor), p. 323. 81 Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions – A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China (Cambridge, UK: 1979, Cambridge University Press), p. 288. 82 Ibid., p. 284. 83 Riall, ‘Elites in Search of Authority’, pp. 29 –30.


Recent scholarship on Arab politics pays scant attention to trends in the regional and global political economy, concentrating instead on the governing institutions and policy-making processes that characterize authoritarian regimes. This perspective is evident in the initial studies of the popular uprisings that erupted across the Arab world in 2010– 11, which focus almost exclusively on the constitutional and legal demands of the protesters and the tactics adopted by regimes to parry large-scale challenges from below. Only a handful of analysis explore the connection between broad political–economic trends and the outbreak and outcome of popular revolt across the region. For the most part, such studies emphasize the detrimental effects of government privatization policies, the steady rise in overall economic inequality and the lack of satisfactory employment opportunities, particularly for large numbers of well-educated young people that have characterized the region since the mid-1980s.1 What remains absent from the existing literature on the 2010 –11 uprisings is a cogent discussion of the 2008– 9 international financial



crisis and its impact on trade, investment and labour throughout the Middle East and North Africa.2 The worldwide disruption affected different Arab countries in markedly divergent ways, depending on the peculiar form and level of each country’s integration into the international economy, as well as on the Social Structure of Accumulation (SSA) that regulated each country’s domestic political– economic order.3 In an effort to explain the peculiar dynamics of the disparate Arab uprisings in terms of the consequences of the global crisis, this chapter explores the oftenoverlooked cases of Algeria and Yemen, two countries that exhibited sharply varying admixtures of popular mobilization and regime response during the crucial months from December 2010 to December 2011.

Algeria and Yemen in Revolt Widespread popular discontent flared into open disorder in Algeria and Yemen in the late winter of 2010– 11. Outbreaks of mobilized opposition against the regimes entailed a combination of class-based and region-based movements, and in both countries the authorities responded by exercising force in an attempt to crush the unrest. Well-informed observers had good reason to predict that the course of events in these two states would follow trajectories broadly parallel to those occurring contemporaneously in Tunisia and Egypt. Nevertheless, events transpired in quite unexpected ways.

Algeria: Regime Deflects Popular Demands, Revolt Subsides Six months after President Abd al-Aziz Bouteflika’s virtually uncontested re-election in April 2009, mass demonstrations against sub-standard housing, scarce employment opportunities and rampant official corruption broke out in poorer districts of Algiers.4 The protests accompanied a resurgence of restiveness across the eastern provinces of Kabylia, which prompted the authorities to move ‘seven elite anti-terror police units’ into that largely Berber region to restore order.5 Popular discontent continued to simmer throughout the



following year, and erupted into large-scale rioting in Oran and Algiers during the first week of January 2011, after retailers increased prices for sugar and cooking oil.6 The riots spread rapidly from city to city, despite efforts by state officials to placate the protesters by ordering sellers to rescind the price rises. Police stations, post offices, public utilities and other government facilities were most often attacked, along with a range of ‘establishments catering to unattainable wealth – private shops and, in particular, car dealerships’.7 Despite the large numbers of working people who engaged in the rioting, Algeria’s primary labour organizations took no part in the disturbances. Leaders of the state-affiliated General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA) and the overtly anti-regime Workers’ Party alike expressed sympathy for the demonstrators’ grievances, but asserted that the protests had been prompted by the actions of unscrupulous individual speculators. Consequently, ‘the enraged youth of the country were left essentially to their own devices’ and ‘the riots lacked focus’.8 Leadership of the opposition coalesced into a loose umbrella organization that called itself the National Coordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD).9 Its key constituents included a resolutely secularist, predominantly Berber political party (the Rally for Culture and Democracy), along with smaller civil rights associations such as the National League for the Defence of Human Rights and the National Association of Families of Missing Persons.10 Riot police poured into the streets to confront the demonstrators, yet exercised a notable degree of restraint, while the regular armed forces remained in their barracks. On 19 January, 300 young people were invited to address the National Assembly about the protesters’ demands. The members of the delegation highlighted ‘the lack of jobs and housing, their marginalization in the Algerian political and economic systems, and the contempt (known as hogra) shown to them by the authorities, including bureaucrats and state security agents’.11 Protests continued into early February, with marchers displaying Tunisian and Egyptian flags and chanting the now-familiar slogans: ‘The People Want the Fall of the Regime’ and ‘Bouteflika Leave [de´gage]!’ The demonstrations routinely terminated at 1 May Square



in the centre of Algiers, which became the primary locus of sporadic skirmishes between protesters and police. Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci announced on 14 February that the State of Emergency regulations that had been imposed in 1992 would soon be lifted, and that the government intended to permit ‘complete freedom of expression within the limits of the law’;12 the emergency laws were indeed cancelled ten days later, although President Bouteflika warned that unauthorized protests would still be considered illegal.13 State officials subsequently promulgated a cluster of so-called antiterrorism directives that ‘effectively [gave] the state’s security apparatuses a free hand in dealing with any matter deemed as a threat to the nation’.14 Meanwhile, the CNCD split into two rival factions. Popular protests splintered as well, and as the spring went by ‘sporadic episodes of unrest and almost daily strikes and demonstrations occurred, with students, doctors, journalists, public servants and even members of the security forces staging separate protests throughout the country’.15 President Bouteflika addressed the nation on 15 April and promised to implement a variety of political and economic reforms; a three-person commission was appointed a month later to draw up provisional amendments to the constitution, but immediately found itself boycotted by most political parties and civil rights organizations.16 In a desperate attempt to revive the protest movement’s flagging momentum, three components of the CNCD in early June released an open letter to the foreign ministers of the European Union, which urged the governments of Europe to take the Algerian authorities to task for violating basic principles of human rights.17 By the fall of 2011, Algeria’s uprising had all but subsided, despite occasional episodes of self-immolation on the part of disconsolate peddlers.18 In mid-September state officials announced plans to end the government’s monopoly on the mass media and to scale back legal constraints on journalists. Shortly thereafter, the number of seats in the National Assembly was raised from 389 to 462, 21 new political parties received licences to operate and an independent National Election Observation Commission was created to supervise the balloting for parliamentary representatives.19 When



voters went to the polls in May 2012, the country’s long-time ruling party, the National Liberation Front, came away with an overwhelming victory, notwithstanding a brief but intense internal dispute concerning the future of the party’s secretary general, a comrade of Bouteflika.20 The questionable results elicited no resurgence of street protest.

Yemen: Regime Accedes to Popular Demands, Revolt Persists By the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, the regime headed by President ’Ali ’Abdullah Saleh faced three major domestic challenges. Disaffected residents of the southern provinces had mobilized to push for a substantial degree of economic and administrative autonomy;21 a long-running rebellion by adherents of the sectarian-tribal movement known as The Believing Youth (alShabab al-Mumin) had seized control of large areas of the northern province of Sa’dah;22 and armed attacks on government facilities by militants affiliated with al-Qa’idah on the Arabian Peninsula had become increasingly frequent and brazen.23 Meanwhile, in San’a, prominent critics of the president and his legislative allies coalesced into two broad coalitions of opposition forces, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) and the Preparatory Committee for National Dialogue.24 As the threats of southern secession, northern rebellion and Islamist violence started to converge, the JMP agreed in February 2009 to collaborate with the regime-sponsored General People’s Congress (GPC) to restore a modicum of order by postponing parliamentary elections for two years, so that ‘a dialogue over the institutional parameters of future elections’ could be undertaken.25 Both the southern movement, known as al-Hirak, and the northern revolt, commonly called the Huthi rebellion, gained potency as 2009 went by.26 In August, state officials ordered the armed forces to use heavy weaponry, including Katyusha rockets and artillery, to combat the Huthis.27 Under these circumstances, ‘the JMP called for the release of political prisoners, an end to attacks on



peaceful protesters in the south, the reopening of closed media outlets, and a halt to government-orchestrated media smear campaigns’ against it.28 The GPC dragged its heels, however, and refused to address the proposals for reform that were advanced in the ambitious Proposed Vision for National Salvation drawn up in the spring of 2010. When the JMP and GPC agreed in July 2010 to set up a joint committee to discuss changes to the electoral system, influential figures in al-Hirak and the southern-oriented Yemeni Socialist Party strenuously objected; leaders of the Huthi rebellion, by contrast, expressed a guarded willingness to engage in a renewed dialogue with the authorities.29 Neither the JMP nor al-Hirak played a role in organizing the popular demonstrations that took place outside the universities of San’a and Taiz on 15 January 2011 to express solidarity with the ongoing uprising in Tunisia. University students were soon joined by organized workers and underemployed labourers, who added demands for improved pay and living conditions, along with an end to corruption in state agencies, to the list of prospective electoral reforms.30 By the end of the month JMP activists began to participate in public protests in San’a, Taiz, Aden and al-Hudaidah, which now openly denounced Saleh’s campaign to install his son as successor to the presidency.31 The JMP nevertheless took pains to limit the protesters’ stated objectives, and in particular to keep them from voicing personal criticisms of the president.32 Civil rights associations and young people flooded into the streets when Hosni Mubarak relinquished power in Cairo in mid-February and, as the month drew to a close, JMP cadres joined the demonstrators in calling for Saleh to step down. Riot police and pro-regime thugs deployed throughout the country as soon as the protests broke out. As the demonstrations increased in scale and frequency, police used greater force and were joined in the streets by units of the regular armed forces and internal security services, as well as by gangs of pro-regime thugs.33 Snipers from the security forces and the elite Republican Guard shot into the crowd in San’a’s Change Square on 18 March, killing 52 people.34 These unprovoked killings sparked a burst of public outrage, and some 150,000 marchers filled the streets of the capital in response. More



important, the shootings prompted a wave of resignations by state officials, GPC functionaries, diplomats and military officers. ‘Among the defectors’, Sheila Carapico reports, ‘were General Ali Muhsin, the commander of the First Army [sic: Armoured] Brigade who had dealt mercilessly with Southern secessionists in 1994, and key leaders of the president’s own Hashid tribal confederation, including scions of the paramount shaykhship, the al-Ahmar family.’35 Protected by dissident troops, anti-regime protesters in San’a and Aden gained strength and confidence. Popular disorder escalated in Taiz as well, and spread to the nearby city of Ibb.36 By the late spring, Taiz had supplanted San’a as the heart of the uprising and the site of the most severe clashes between unarmed protesters and the police and soldiers.37 The Taiz-Ibb nexus also provided a physical link between anti-regime activists in the capital and al-Hirak cadres across the south.38 Large-scale demonstrations occurred from the city of al-Hudaidah in the west to al-Jawf and Marib in the east.39 Forces loyal to the regime routinely turned their guns on the protesters as the spring went by, killing hundreds. Pro-regime commanders encouraged Islamist militants, including fighters of Ansar alShari’ah, a group loosely connected to al-Qa’idah on the Arabian Peninsula, to strike rebel military outposts in the southern districts of Abyan and Zinjibar.40 Meanwhile, fierce fighting erupted around San’a between army units commanded by officers related to the president on one side and units allied to Muhsin and armed tribes people of the Hashid confederation on the other.41 On 3 June, in the midst of the struggle, President Saleh was severely injured by a bomb detonated inside the mosque attached to the presidential residence. Policy-making authority devolved onto Vice President ’Abd al-Rabbu Mansur Hadi; nevertheless, the president’s son Ahmad moved into the official residence and clashes between rival military camps became even more intense. Even after the president returned from three months of medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, fighting between opposing military factions raged in San’a and Taiz.42 Popular demonstrations, by contrast, remained almost entirely peaceful, although marchers occasionally responded to police assaults by throwing rocks.43 On 13 November, Saleh



arrived in the Saudi capital Riyadh and signed a document in which he formally relinquished his office and recognized Vice President Hadi as his legitimate successor. A day later, back in the presidential palace, and still acting as head of state, he declared an ‘amnesty’ for those who had committed ‘errors’ while vowing to prosecute perpetrators of ‘crimes’ against his person and his administration.44 Saleh’s resignation dampened but did not end anti-regime activism. Non-violent demonstrations and marches continued in Taiz in November and December; popular anger focused in part on the clause of the November agreement that granted Saleh and other senior officials full immunity from prosecution.45 Opposition leaders shifted their demands from the ouster of the president and electoral reform to fundamental changes in the structure of the state, a so-called Revolution of Institutions. The campaign gained momentum after workers for state-owned Yemenia Airways forced the former president’s son-in-law to step down as head of the company in December. At the same time, employees of the military’s Department of Moral Guidance blockaded the agency’s headquarters until the commander was relieved of duty. In late December, a strike by employees of the Yemen Economic Corporation prompted the director to order armed thugs to open fire on the picket lines. Similar actions and skirmishes took place at the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Higher Elections Commission, the Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the state-sponsored oil company PetroMasila, the Aden branch of the Central Organization for Control and Auditing and several public universities.46 Fighting persisted as well in Sa’dah between Huthi rebels and government forces.47 As 2011 drew to a close, the conflict in the north took on an overtly sectarian cast, and Huthi militants directed their attacks against the mosques of Sunni radicals as much as they targeted symbols and representatives of the state.48 Huthi commanders expanded their activities into the adjacent provinces of al-Jawf, ’Amran and Hajjah. Farther south, the battle between the regular army and Ansar al-Shari’ah proceeded apace, while supporters of al-Hirak chafed at the prospect of a return to politics characterized by ‘bribery, embezzlement of public funds, disregard of the law, and



condescension toward the people of the South, considering them to be lower class citizens’.49

Algeria and Yemen Compared Two crucial differences can be observed in the popular uprisings that broke out in Algeria and Yemen in early 2011. First, the regime in Algiers not only survived the tumult, but emerged from the uprising virtually unscathed. President Bouteflika remained in office, and even put himself forward for re-election in the spring of 2014. The regime in San’a, by contrast, changed in significant ways during the course of the revolt. President Saleh stepped down and abandoned the drive to have his son succeed him; several of his closest political allies were forced out of their official posts as well. Second, large-scale mobilization of social forces opposed to the Algerian regime dissipated within nine months after the uprising began. Despite the persistence of widespread popular discontent and sporadic strikes orchestrated by independent labour activists, the threat to the existing political –economic order all but vanished. Not even the irregularities surrounding the May 2012 parliamentary elections reignited anti-regime activism. In Yemen, by contrast, popular challenges to the regime lasted long after the protesters’ primary objective – the ouster of President Saleh – had been achieved. The Huthi rebellion in the north and secessionist movement in the south ground on unabated; Islamist militants consolidated their hold over several far-flung corners of the country; and industrial action against major public and private companies persisted. These sharply divergent outcomes have usually been attributed to dynamics operating inside the boundaries of the two countries. But they can be explained more cogently by connecting them to the global financial crisis of 2008 – 9.

Global Crisis and Local Outcomes Existing studies of the domestic political impact of global financial crises tend to offer broad generalizations that contribute little to our



understanding of events in specific countries.50 One notable exception is Paul Chaisty and Stephen Whitefield’s meticulous explication of changes in political attitudes inside the Russian Federation in the wake of the 2008– 9 financial crisis.51 Chaisty and Whitefield find that the international crisis had little immediate impact on Russian politics. Popular approval ratings for Presidents Vladimir Putin and Dmitriy Medvedev remained relatively high, as did measures of public confidence in the government as a whole.52 By December 2011, however, the level of electoral support for the governing political party had dropped off markedly. Furthermore, the steep decline in backing for the dominant party accompanied an upsurge in the number and frequency of large-scale popular protests. Disgruntlement arising from the crisis ‘made the middle classes less willing to put up with negative factors like corruption and the overconcentration of political power, which were associated with Putin’s rule.’53 In particular, Chaisty and Whitefield show that actors whose livelihoods or other economic interests were directly damaged as a result of the crisis were more likely to move into active opposition against the country’s political leadership. On the other hand, actors who managed to avoid the ill-effects of the 2008– 9 crisis stayed loyal to the president and dominant party. These findings hold for private sector workers and government employees alike. Moreover, ‘state sector employees who were adversely affected by the financial crisis were in fact even more likely to back alternative presidential candidates than private sector employees facing a similar predicament’.54 Class factors operated in much the same way. Both workers and members of the middle class who suffered directly from the downturn were more apt to vote for alternative presidential candidates, although ‘respondents from working class backgrounds were far more likely than middle class respondents to have supported candidates other than Medvedev or Putin if they had been adversely affected by the financial crisis’.55 Finally, middle class actors who found their economic circumstances deteriorating relative to wealthy elites as a result of the crisis harbored much higher levels of antiregime sentiment.



All of these crucial connections between global economic crisis and domestic discontent occur with a significant time lag. In the Russian case, that delay amounted to two years – from late 2009 to the end of 2011. Chaisty and Whitefield point out that this time interval conforms to other empirical studies, in particular that of Minxin Pei and Ariel Adesnik, which offers statistical associations between global downturns and various types of domestic political change in two dozen Asian and Latin American countries between 1945 and 1998.56 Pei and Adesnik conclude that economic crises are most likely to be correlated with the collapse of a country’s regime ‘with a time lag of about 18 to 30 months’.57 Consolidated liberal democracies stand at the near end of the time horizon, authoritarian regimes at the far end. Just why it takes two years for a global crisis to have a substantial impact on domestic politics remains an open question. Pei and Adesnik first suggest rather vaguely that external economic trends simply take time to work through the political dynamics and structures of complex societies;58 they then claim that economic troubles can be trumped by a wide range of ‘political’ difficulties, including ‘ideological polarization, leftist guerrilla violence, and labour strife’, all of which delay the outbreak of domestic political unrest.59 It makes good sense to assume that the effects of a global downturn will take time to alter the attitudes and actions of domestic actors, primarily because such disruptive episodes set a baseline for future expectations. Whether or not subsequent trends confirm or contradict those expectations determines the kind of response that actors will pursue, and such developments play themselves out over many months. During that time, state officials, military officers, businesspeople, workers and students compare their ongoing situations to the reference point laid down by the crisis. To the extent that their circumstances improve relative to that baseline, political actors can be said to operate in ‘the domain of gains’; to the extent that things deteriorate, they find themselves instead in ‘the domain of losses’.60 Actors in the domain of gains tend to be riskaverse, whereas those in the domain of losses can be expected to engage in riskier sorts of political behaviour.



Impact of the 2008– 9 Crisis Economists concur that three aspects of the 2008 – 9 global crisis had the greatest potential impact on the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). First, and arguably most important, was the sharp contraction of global capital, which greatly diminished the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) coming into the region not only directly from the OECD states, but also indirectly from the rich oil-producing states of the Gulf.61 Second was the lack of access to credit and the stricter lending requirements that were imposed across the region in the aftermath of the crisis.62 Third was the collapse of overseas markets for locally manufactured goods, which effectively boosted unemployment levels in the industrial sectors of the Arab economies.63 Moreover, these three consequences of the 2008 – 9 crisis coincided with a marked increase in the volatility of world food prices, especially for such staples as wheat. Price instability had turned into secular price rises across the region by 2010 – 11.64 For the MENA as a whole, the so-called Great Recession produced a variety of negative economic outcomes. Inflows of FDI peaked at approximately USD 95 billion in 2008, then plunged 25 per cent the following year and an additional 12 per cent the year after that.65 Investments in other Arab countries by the richer Arab Gulf states trailed off after 2008, although a handful of Gulf-based private equity firms resumed operations in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria during 2009 –10.66 Access to credit, in the words of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) study, ‘decelerated sharply’ as a result of the crisis, and a number of major investment banks, including Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank, scaled back operations in the Arab world.67 MENA countries that exported manufactured goods and agricultural products to Europe experienced a notable decline in the value of such exports from 2008 to 2009.68 The International Labour Organization estimates that the rate of unemployment in the Middle East jumped by 25 per cent between 2007 and 2009 and in North Africa by 13 per cent during the same period.69 World food prices, which had doubled from 2004 to 2008,



plunged from 2008 to 2009, and then jumped by almost 50 per cent between 2010 and 2011.70

Algeria and Yemen in the Crisis Aggregate studies of the impact of the 2008– 9 crisis on the Middle East and North Africa mask crucial differences among individual countries. Furthermore, they skew the overall picture in the direction of the oil-producing states of the Gulf, since it is this subset of the MENA that is most intimately connected to the international financial and commercial systems.71 It is therefore imperative to lay out, as best one can, the specific ways in which the Great Recession affected the domestic economies of Algeria and Yemen. Foreign direct investment operates somewhat differently in Algeria from the way it does in most Arab states. As a large-scale oil producer, Algeria enjoys hydrocarbon revenues that surrounding governments can only envy. A considerable proportion of this income gets invested outside the country, making Algeria a net exporter of investment capital. In 2007, for instance, (outgoing) FDI equalled one-third of the Algeria’s entire gross domestic product.72 Nevertheless, foreign investors find lucrative projects to fund inside Algeria itself, and large amounts of external capital flow into the local economy each year. In 2003, net inflows of FDI stood at just over USD 633 million; four years later, the figure reached USD 1.83 billion. Incoming FDI rose 10 per cent from 2008 to 2009, and then fell 20 per cent from 2009 to 2010. In 2011 the inward flow of FDI matched the level for 2008 – down from the 2009 peak but substantially higher than it had been in either 2007 or 2010.73 In short, substantial amounts of FDI continued to flow into Algeria during and immediately after the 2008 – 9 crisis, thanks in large part to injections of new funds from the People’s Republic of China.74 In Yemen, net FDI bottomed out in 2005, when the country ended up with a foreign investments deficit of USD 302 million. FDI inflows recovered in 2006 and peaked at USD 1.55 billion in 2008. From that point on, things went downhill fast: net FDI fell to just



under USD 130 million in 2009, then to negative USD 93 million in 2010 and after that to negative USD 713 million in 2011. The 2008– 9 global financial crisis proved nothing short of disastrous for external investments in Yemen.75 Credit tightened in Algeria beginning in 2007, and continued to be hard to obtain in the years immediately following the global crisis. The scarcity was all the more pronounced, given the dramatic expansion of credit that had characterized the financial sector of the Algerian economy in 2004– 5. On the other hand, there is some evidence that the ratio of loans to total bank deposits increased slightly in the months after June 2008.76 Thus the impact of the global crisis on overall access to credit turned out to be less severe in Algeria than it was elsewhere in the MENA. Yemen, on the other hand, presents a decidedly mixed picture. World Bank data indicate that domestic credit provided by local banks increased steadily as a percentage of gross domestic product from 2004 to 2009, then remained level from 2009 to 2012. Estimates made by the IMF nevertheless point to a clear decline in the rate of real credit growth shortly after the crisis, albeit less of a decline than occurred in most MENA countries – but more of a drop than took place in Algeria.77 Algeria’s non-oil exports suffered greatly as a result of the 2008 – 9 crisis. Overseas sales of rubber goods, leather products and textiles fell by 50 per cent from 2008 to 2009, while shipments of iron and steel plunged 80 per cent.78 By 2011, exports of rubber goods and leather products had rebounded, although exports of textiles continued to collapse. Iron and steel showed a substantial recovery in the three years after 2008 as well, although in 2011 they stood at only half the level they had attained at the time of the crisis. Yemen’s non-oil exports were much less impressive than Algeria’s in the early 2000s, and display a different pattern over time. External shipments of leather products, textiles and iron and steel all rose steadily from 2007 to 2011. The value of iron and steel exports almost tripled from 2008 to 2009, and then doubled again from 2009 to 2010 before leaping 500 per cent from 2010 to 2011. Yet the



capital-intensive nature of the country’s larger manufacturing plants kept the expansion of foreign trade from generating substantial increases in employment.79 Both countries import large quantities of wheat from overseas producers. Algeria’s wheat imports for 2008 totaled 6.3 million metric tons (worth USD 3.1 billion); a year later, 5.7 million metric tons of wheat entered the local market (USD 1.8 billion) and in 2010 a total of 5.2 million metric tons (USD 1.2 billion).80 Yemen, by contrast, consistently imports almost 95 per cent of the wheat consumed domestically and about one-quarter of its total food supply.81 When world food prices soared in 2007 – 8, Yemeni consumers were hit particularly hard.82

Crisis and Regime Change How the trends that accompany a global crisis affect a country’s political – economic order depends on the social structure of accumulation that regulates domestic affairs. Each country’s SSA consists of the class conflicts and alliances that shift in accordance with the changing dynamics of capital accumulation, plus the institutional arrangements – particularly those related to the state – the rules that organize markets and regulate capital formation and investment. For the most part, the SSA facilitates an orderly expansion of the local economy, but at times of crisis it can exacerbate the difficulties that are inherent in capital accumulation, since ‘the integrated character of the SSA accelerates the decline [of profits and expectations] as failing institutions destabilize each other’.83 Kaleidoscopic patterns of antagonism and alignment among powerful social forces, of state involvement in economic affairs and of governmental and private responses to external developments, differ from one case to another in fundamental ways.

Crisis and Regime Stabilization in Algeria Algeria’s SSA at the time of the 2008 –9 crisis included a high degree of state control over the domestic economy. Extensive government



ownership and active intervention in industry, agriculture and trade were vibrant legacies of the socialist era of the 1960s, and reflected as well the pre-eminent role of the central administration in the collection and redistribution of all revenues derived from the production and sale of hydrocarbons.84 Liberalization policies implemented during the late 1990s and the first years of the twenty-first century put a number of public sector enterprises in the hands of senior military commanders, particularly companies involved in foreign and domestic trade but also a handful of heavy industrial plants.85 Bank credit was allocated exclusively to actors who were deeply enmeshed in the public sector, including members of the well-connected ‘rent-seeking’ class that hovered around stateowned enterprises.86 Three marginal types of private property owners stood outside the public sector. One consisted of independent entrepreneurs, mostly affiliated with the Islamist political party Hamas, who advocated comprehensive deregulation of internal and external economic affairs.87 The second included the leaders of armed groups who had seized control of productive assets during the civil war of the early 1990s and transformed them into nominally private operations.88 The third constituted a class of private sector tycoons engaged largely in manufacturing, whose members organized themselves as the Forum des Chefs d’Entreprise (FCE).89 Isabelle Werenfels observes that some FCE members had blood, familial or regional ties to generals or the president; others shared a common revolutionary experience with core elites. Because of different and even diametrically opposed vested interests – those of someone producing foodstuffs and owning a newspaper, such as Issad Rebrab, were obviously not the same as those of someone owning an airline and a bank, such as Rafik Khalifa – FCE members often found it difficult to find a common denominator and, as a result, the best-connected lobbied individually and informally for their respective interests and prevailed in setting the FCE agenda.90



Organized labour, which had exercised considerable influence in policy-making circles during the 1960s, played little if any role in politics by the early 2000s. The great majority of the country’s industrial workers continued to cluster in the state-affiliated trade union federation, the UGTA. Independent labour organizations posed little challenge to the dominant position occupied by the UGTA, even though their leaderships proved capable of mobilizing sporadic protests to demand improvements in living and working conditions in particular workplaces or locales.91 Senior military commanders acted as the power of last resort, setting the broad parameters of political and economic life and occasionally stepping in to manage difficulties that civilian officials could not handle on their own. President Bouteflika embarked on an ambitious campaign to wrest control from the officers’ corps and consolidate full authority in the hands of the presidency, but failing health prevented him from pursuing the project energetically enough to succeed.92 A greater threat to the high command came from the predominant state security agency, the De´partement du Renseignement et de la Se´curite´ (DRS), which acquired considerable influence and prestige during the civil war against Islamist militants in the 1990s.93 Intense rivalry among competing factions of the military elite precluded a kind of co-ordinated response to the rising challenge from the DRS.94 In the months following the 2008– 9 crisis, independent workers’ organizations grew increasingly restive. Local unions affiliated with the National Co-ordinating Committee for Independent Public Sector Unions (CNSAFP) demanded recognition equal to that routinely accorded to the UGTA. Strikes broke out with rising frequency at industrial companies across the country, particularly in former public sector enterprises that had been sold to foreign interests during the years just prior to the crisis. Workers at the stateowned National Society of Industrial Vehicles in the industrial district of Ruibah, east of Algiers, struck on 3 January 2010 to demand higher wages and protest a reconfigured national pay and pension structure that had been negotiated between state officials and the UGTA leadership. Employees at surrounding public and private



companies quickly joined the protest. Steelworkers outside Annaba walked out a week later to stop the plant’s Indian owners from shutting the facility down and to demand that it be fully upgraded instead. Then, on 15 January, CNSAFP leaders called a one-day general strike to block the implementation of the new wage and pension scheme.95 The Algiers daily L’Expression reported on 19 January that some 600,000 workers had become involved in the ongoing stoppages. Private entrepreneurs and businesspeople found it increasingly difficult to gain access to credit in the wake of the crisis. Total lending from public and private sector banks stagnated, while credit’s proportion of gross domestic product declined.96 State officials tried to revive small businesses by collaborating with the African Development Bank to set up a credit guarantee facility, but this agency found it impossible to keep up with soaring local demand for investment and operating capital.97 Meanwhile, public sector enterprises were accorded greater access to credit, both in the aggregate and as a percentage of GDP.98 Such negative trends were offset by the steady expansion of overall economic activity in the years after 2008. GDP increased by onethird in real terms from 2009 to 2010.99 State officials devoted considerable effort to improvements in basic infrastructure, thereby laying a foundation for future growth.100 In conjunction with the uptick in FDI that occurred in 2010– 11, influential private interests found themselves operating in the domain of gains. When students and civil rights activists took to the streets in early 2011, Algeria’s businesspeople and entrepreneurs exhibited little interest in taking the risky step of joining the uprising, and instead expressed a willingness to trust that President Bouteflika, along with his political allies, remained ‘the right man to support business and allow Algeria to prosper’.101

Crisis and Regime Transformation in Yemen Yemen’s SSA at the time of the 2008 – 9 crisis also exhibited a heavy dose of state control. The comparatively high level of government



intervention in economic affairs reflected sustained efforts to promote import-substitution industrialization, as well as the rudimentary degree of institutionalization that characterized the local market and the channeling of all oil revenues through state agencies.102 Largescale private enterprise started to take root only at the turn of the twenty-first century, and then primarily through the return of previously sequestrated properties to their former owners in the southern provinces.103 One crucial exception to the rule was a handful of ‘private family conglomerates’ run either by members of the commercial elite of Taiz or the chieftains of the most powerful tribal clans. The largest of the former included the Hayyal Sa’id ’Annam Group of Companies and the Mohamed Thabit Group of Companies, while the most important tribal conglomerate was the Al Ahmar Corporation, headed by Shaykh ’Abdullah bin Husain al Ahmar.104 From 2000 to 2005, these family conglomerates took advantage of the government’s privatization programme to snap up the most profitable public sector enterprises. They competed for ownership of the newly privatized companies against a cluster of well-connected state and party officials, particularly individuals who had family ties to President Saleh. Holger Albrecht reports that it became routine practice for ‘bureaucrats and military personnel [to] use their political influence to actively participate in the economy either through self-enrichment or via private economic activities.’105 Several blood relatives of the president emerged as major beneficiaries of the privatization drive. One nephew gained control of the Yemen Tobacco Company and two sons-in-law became heads of Yemenia Airways and a large-scale cement factory. April Alley remarks that by 2010, ‘the [extended Saleh] family is involved in everything from gun smuggling, fishing, shrimping, and construction, to oil and natural gas’.106 These nouveaux riches relatives of the president quickly learned to make good use of state regulations designed to encourage greater commercial competition to challenge the dominant position of the well-entrenched Taizi and tribal conglomerates. Military commanders played a role in economic affairs primarily through the activities of the Military Economic Corporation, which



had been set up in the early 1970s ‘to provide subsidized goods to soldiers’.107 The organization stepped up its activities during the sluggish years of the mid-1980s, and moved to monopolize the importation of a wide range of construction materials and consumer goods. It also sequestered large tracts of agricultural land, in the name of promoting national food security. These farmlands were supplemented by extensive real-estate holdings in and around Aden in the wake of the 1994 civil war. In the early years of the twenty-first century, President Saleh ordered foreign companies to set up joint ventures with the Military Economic Organization, now designated the Yemen Economic Corporation, to manage their operations inside the country.108 Some 400,000 workers boasted membership in the General Federation of Workers’ Unions (GFWU), which included 18 separate labour organizations. In the mid-1990s, the GFWU fell under the control of the General People’s Congress and thereafter exercised little corporate autonomy. Nevertheless, local labour activists engaged in a series of industrial actions during the first weeks of 2008, which set the stage for a long-postponed GFWU congress that March. Delegates to the meeting elected a new executive board, which pledged to work more assiduously to advance the interests of Yemen’s industrial workers. Over the next two years, wildcat strikes shut down operations at the country’s oilfields, refineries and loading docks on a number of occasions.109 Private businesspeople saw access to credit drop sharply after 2009.110 Domestic credit made up 7.7 per cent of GDP in 2009, but accounted for only 6.2 per cent in 2010 and just 4.9 per cent in 2011.111 State-owned enterprises fared little better in gaining access to domestic sources of investment and operating capital.112 Trends in GDP, on the other hand, indicated somewhat brighter prospects: Real GDP increased 3.9 per cent from 2008 to 2009, and then jumped 7.7 per cent from 2009 to 2010.113 Nevertheless, manufacturers struggled to keep up with inflation, which pushed up the costs of inputs.114 As companies contracted, unemployment escalated during 2009– 10. Most of the lay-offs were concentrated in small and medium-sized enterprises, which suffered from a



combination of shrinking markets for their products and a persistent inability to secure credit.115 When students and civil rights activists took to the streets in early 2011, private businesspeople found their economic circumstances to be rapidly deteriorating. Manufacturers around Taiz bore the brunt of the downturn and displayed a willingness to take the risky step of offering material and moral support to the protesters. As the demonstrations went on, backing for President Saleh and his circle of close allies evaporated among a broader segment of the industrial and commercial elite. By the end of the year, the president had little choice but to step down in a bid to prevent disaffected private interests from defecting to the opposition en masse.

Conclusion Algeria and Yemen illustrate two divergent manifestations of popular mobilization and regime response during the turbulent winter of 2010– 11. Large-scale opposition to the existing political – economic order flared in both countries and elicited broadly similar reactions from the authorities. Yet in Algeria the uprising steadily lost momentum and the political– economic order remained intact, with President Abd al-Aziz Bouteflika ending up no less in charge than he had been before. Yemen’s President ’Ali ’Abdullah Saleh had no such luck: popular protests gained strength despite the brutal actions of the riot police and loyal units of the armed forces. Even after the president stepped down, persistent public disorder posed a severe challenge to the post-Saleh leadership. Why these two cases exhibit such contrasting outcomes can largely be explained in terms of the differential impact on Algeria and Yemen of the global financial crisis of 2008– 9. The effects of the crisis on domestic politics in the two countries were not immediately apparent. But as foreign direct investment slowly returned to Algeria and exports of non-oil manufactures haltingly recovered, private businesspeople and entrepreneurs, along with the majority of workers, found their economic prospects to be improving. These social forces consequently refrained from joining students and civil



rights activists in the push for a wholesale restructuring of the established order. In Yemen, FDI all but disappeared in the wake of the crisis, while non-oil exports shifted from labour-intensive to capital-intensive plants. Influential businesspeople and entrepreneurs consequently joined workers in supporting the students and civil rights activists who took to the streets to demand the ouster of the president and his circle of allies. Right on schedule, some 29 months after it shook Wall Street, the global financial crisis of 2008–9 played a key role in shaping the course of events in these two, quite disparate, Arab countries.

Notes 1 Omar S. Dahi, ‘Understanding the Political Economy of the Arab Revolts’, Middle East Report no. 259 (Summer 2011); Robert Springborg, ‘The Precarious Economics of Arab Springs’, Survival 53 (December 2011– January 2012; Nadine Sika, The Political Economy of Arab Uprisings, IEMED Papers no. 10, European Institute of the Mediterranean, Barcelona, May 2012; Caroline Freund and Carlos A. Primo Braga, ‘The Economics of Arab Transitions’, in Cesare Merlini and Olivier Roy (eds), Arab Society in Revolt (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2012); Omar S. Dahi, ‘The Political Economy of the Egyptian and Arab Revolt’, IDS Bulletin 43 (January 2012); El Mouhoub Mouhoud, ‘Political Economy of Arab Revolutions’, Mondes en de´velopement no. 158 (2012); Gilbert Achcar, The People Want (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013); Melani Cammett and Ishac Diwan, The Political Economy of the Arab Uprisings (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2014); Ali Kadri, ‘A Depressive Pre-Arab Uprisings Economic Performance’, in Fawaz A. Gerges (ed.), The New Middle East (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014). 2 Christina Behrendt, Tariq Haq and Noura Kamel, The Impact of the Financial and Economic Crisis on Arab States (Beirut: International Labour Organization Regional Office for Arab States, April 2009); Nader Habibi, ‘The Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on Arab Countries’, Middle East Brief no. 40, Crown Centre for Middle East Studies, Brandeis University, December 2009; Juliane Brach and Markus Loewe, ‘Getting Off Lightly’? The Impact of the International Financial Crisis on the Middle East and North Africa, GIGA Focus 1/2009, German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, 2009; Juliane Brach and Markus Loewe, ‘The Global Financial Crisis and the Arab World’, Mediterranean Politics 15 (March 2010); Ahmad M. Mashal, ‘The Financial Crisis of 2008–2009 and the Arab States Economies’, International Journal of Business and Management 7 (February 2012). 3 Terrence McDonough, Michael Reich and David M. Kotz (eds), Contemporary Capitalism and its Crises (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010).



4 Amel Boubekeur, Lessons from Algeria’s 2009 Presidential Election, Carnegie Middle East Centre, Beirut, 13 April 2009. 5, 6 September 2009. 6 Hugh Roberts, ‘Algeria’s National “Protest”’,, 10 January 2011. 7 Jack Brown, ‘Algeria’s Midwinter Uproar’, Middle East Report Online, 20 January 2011. 8 Ibid. 9 Andrea Dessi, Algeria at the Crossroads, IAI Working Paper 11/28, Instituto Affari Internazionali, Rome, September 2011, 5; Layla Baamara, ’(Me´s) Aventures d’une coalition contestataire: Le Cas de la Coordination Nationale pour le Changement et la De´mocratie (CNCCD) en Algerie’, L’Anne´e du Maghreb 8 (2012). 10 Azzedine Layachi, ‘Algeria’s Rebellion by Installments’, Middle East Report Online, 12 March 2011. 11 Ibid. 12 Time (14 February 2011). 13 Layachi, ‘Algeria’s Rebellion by Installments’. 14 Dessi, Algeria at the Crossroads, p. 16. 15 Ibid., p. 6. 16 Agence France Presse, 20 May 2011. 17 Dessi, Algeria at the Crossroads, p. 16. 18 Al-Jazeera, 17 May 2012. 19 Robert P. Parks, ‘Arab Uprisings and the Algerian Elections’,, 10 April 2012; Yahia H. Zoubir and Ahmed Aghrout, ‘Algeria’s Path to Reform’, Middle East Policy 19 (May 2012). 20 Reuters,, 23 April 2012. 21 Susanne Dahlgren, ‘The Snake with a Thousand Heads: The Southern Cause in Yemen’, Middle East Report no. 256 (Fall 2010); Stephen W. Day, The Political Challenge of Yemen’s Southern Movement, Middle East Programme Paper no. 108, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC, April 2010. 22 Carles Boucek, War in Saada, Middle East Programme Paper no. 110, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC, April 2010; Samy Dorlian, ‘The Sa’dah War in Yemen’, The Muslim World 101 (April 2011). 23 Stephen W. Day, Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 274. 24 Vincent Durac, ‘The Joint Meeting Parties and the Politics of Opposition in Yemen’, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 38 (December 2011); Abdullah al-Qubati, ‘Letter from Sana’a: Saleh on the Edge’,, 25 February 2011. 25 April Longley Alley, ‘Yemen’s Multiple Crises’, Journal of Democracy 21 (October 2010), p. 80. 26 Day, Regionalism and Rebellion, pp. 241– 55. 27 Michael Knights, ‘The Military Role in Yemen’s Protests’, Journal of Strategic Studies 36 (April 2013), p. 270. 28 Alley, ‘Yemen’s Multiple Crises’, p. 81.



29 Ibid., pp. 83 – 4. 30 Sheila Carapico, ‘Yemen’, in Paul Amar and Vijay Prashad (eds), Dispatches from the Arab Spring (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press 2013), p. 112. 31 Durac, ‘Joint Meeting Parties’,p. 363. 32 Stacey Philbrick Yadav, ‘No Pink Slip for Salih’, Middle East Report Online, 9 February 2011; al-Qubati, ‘Letter from Sana’a’; International Crisis Group, Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (II): Yemen between Reform and Revolution, Middle East and North Africa Report no. 102, Brussels, 10 March 2011, p. 2. 33 al-Qubati, ‘Letter from Sana’a’. 34 Knights, ’Military Role’, p. 278. 35 Carapico, ‘Yemen’, 113. See also Knights, ‘Military Role’, 278; Gabriele vom Bruck, Atiaf Alwazir and Benjamin Wiacek, ‘Yemen: Revolution Suspended?’, in Fawaz A. Gerges (ed.), The New Middle East (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 291– 3. 36 Ibid., p. 113. 37 Stacey Philbrick Yadav, ‘Antecedents of the Revolution: Intersectoral Networks and Post-Partisanship in Yemen’, Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism (December 2011), pp. 559– 60; Sasha Gordon, ‘Taiz: The Heart of Yemen’s Revolution’,, January 2012). 38 Day, Regionalism and Rebellion, p. 283. 39 Carapico, ‘Yemen’, p. 114. 40 Day, Regionalism and Rebellion, p. 286. 41 Carapico, ‘Yemen’, p. 115; Knights, ‘Military Role’, pp. 279– 81; Khaled Fattah, ‘Yemen: A Social Intifada in a Republic of Shaykhs’, Middle East Policy 18 (Fall 2011), p. 82. 42 Letta Tayler, ‘Yemen’s Hijacked Revolution’,, 26 September 2011; Gordon, ‘Taiz’, p. 8. 43 Carapico, ‘Yemen’, pp. 117– 18; Ibid. 44 Ibid., p. 118. 45 Gordon, ‘Taiz’, p. 9; Vincent Durac, ‘Yemen’s Arab Spring’, Mediterranean Politics 17 (July 2012), p. 168. 46 ’The Parallel Revolution in Yemen’,, 6 March 2012; Atiaf Z. Alwazir, ‘Garbage Collectors and the Struggle for Workers’ Rights in Yemen’,, 11 June 2012. 47 Durac, ‘Yemen’s Arab Spring’, pp. 173– 4. 48 Khaled Fattah, ‘Yemen’s Sectarian Spring’, Sada, 11 May 2012; Madeleine Wells, ‘Yemen’s Houthi Movement and the Revolution’,, 27 February 2012. 49 Lina al-Hassani, ‘Yemen Uprising: A Growing North South Divide’, al-Akhbar English, 23 December 2011. 50 Peter A. Gourevitch, ‘The Great Meltdown of ‘08’, APSA-CP Newsletter 20 (Winter 2009); Eric Helleiner, ‘Understanding the 2007– 08 Global Financial Crisis’, Annual Review of Political Science 14 (2011).



51 Paul Chaisty and Stephen Whitefield, ‘The Effects of the Global Economic Crisis on Russian Political Attitudes’, Post-Soviet Affairs 28 (April 2012). 52 Ibid., p. 187. 53 Ibid., p. 192. 54 Ibid., p. 196. 55 Ibid. 56 Minxin Pei and Ariel David Adesnik, ‘Why Recessions Don’t Start Revolutions’, Foreign Policy no. 118 (Spring 2000). 57 Ibid., p. 141. 58 Ibid., p. 142. 59 Ibid., p. 147. 60 See Fred H. Lawson, ‘Intraregime Dynamics, Uncertainty and the Persistence of Authoritarianism in the Contemporary Arab World’, in Oliver Schlumberger (ed.), Debating Arab Authoritarianism (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007). 61 Thouraya B. Danmark and Kamel Helali, ‘The Repercussions of the 2008 Financial Crisis on the Labour Market in Tunisia’, Journal of Business and Finance 1 (2013), 18; Brach and Loewe, ‘Global Financial Crisis and the Arab World’, 48 and 53; Karen Pfeifer, ‘Gulf Arab Financial Flows and Investment, 2000– 2010’, Review of Middle East Economics and Finance 8 (October 2012). 62 Brach and Loewe, ‘Getting Off Lightly’, p. 4. 63 Habibi, ‘Impact of the Global Economic Crisis’, 5 and 7; Behrendt, Haq and Kamel, Impact of the Financial and Economic Crisis, pp. 4 – 7. 64 Jennifer Clapp, ‘Food Price Volatility and Vulnerability in the Global South’, Third World Quarterly 30 (September 2009); Rami Zurayk and Anne Gough, ‘Bread and Olive Oil: The Agrarian Roots of the Arab Uprisings’, in Fawaz A. Gerges (ed.), The New Middle East (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014). 65 Nicolas M. Depetris Chauvin, FDI Flows in the MENA Region, IEMS Emerging Market Brief no. 13– 01, Institute for Emerging Market Studies, SKOLKOVO School of Management, Moscow, January 2013, 5. 66 Pfeifer, ‘Gulf Arab Financial Flows’, pp. 20–2. 67 Adolfo Barajas, Ralph Chami, Raphael Espinoza and Heiko Hesse, ‘Further Fallout from the Global Financial Crisis: Credit Crunch in the “Periphery”’, World Economics 12 (April– June 2011), 153; Reuters,, 18 September 2011. 68 Habibi, Impact of the Global Economic Crisis, p. 5. 69 Ibid., p. 7. 70 Marco Lagi, Karla Z. Bertrand and Yaneer Bar-Yam, The Food Crises and Political Instability in North Africa and the Middle East (Cambridge, MA: New England Complex Systems, 2011). 71 Mashal, ‘Financial Crisis of 2008– 2009’; World Bank, ‘Investing in Turbulent Times: Middle East and North Africa’, Economic Developments and Prospects, October 2013, p. 13. 72 The pertinent figures for each country can be found at



73 See; World Bank, ‘Investing in Turbulent Times’, p. 30. 74 Arslan Cheikhaoui, ‘L’Alge´rie dans l’ombre de la re´cession mondiale’, Maghreb/ Mashrek no. 200 (Fall 2009); Fatiha Talahite and Ahmed Hammadache, ‘L’e´conomie Alge´rienne d’une crise a` l’autre’, Maghreb/Mashrek no. 206 (Winter 2010–11); Chris Alden and Faten Aggad-Clerx, Chinese Investment and Employment Creation in Algeria and Egypt (Tunis: African Development Bank, 2012). 75 See; World Bank, ‘Investing in Turbulent Times’, p. 30. 76 Barajas, Chami, Espinoza and Hesse, ‘Further Fallout’, p. 169. 77 Ibid., p. 154. 78 Pertinent data can be found at the website of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). 79 Charles Schmitz, Crisis in the Yemeni Economy (Washington, DC: Middle East Institute, December 2011), p. 10. 80 United States Department of Agriculture, Algeria: Grain and Feed Annual, GAIN Report no. AG1105, 4 April 2011. 81 Schmitz, Crisis in the Yemeni Economy, p. 10. 82 Naomi Hossain, Rizki Fillaili, Grace Gubaale, Mwila Mulumbi, Mamunur Rashid and Mariz Tadros, The Social Impacts of Crisis (Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, May 2010), p. 33. 83 McDonough, Reich and Kotz, Contemporary Capitalism and its Crises, p. 3. 84 Rachid Tlemcani, State and Revolution in Algeria (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1986); John P. Entelis, ‘SONATRACH: The Political Economy of an Algerian State Institution’, Middle East Journal 53 (Winter 1999); Miriam R. Lowi, Oil Wealth and the Poverty of Politics: Algeria Compared (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). 85 Amel Boubekeur, ‘Rolling Either Way? Algerian Entrepreneurs as Both Agents of Change and Means of Preservation of the System’, Journal of North African Studies 18 (June 2013), p. 473. 86 Isabelle Werenfels, ‘Obstacles to Privatisation of State-Owned Industries in Algeria’, Journal of North African Studies 7 (Spring 2002), pp. 16 – 18; Adolfo Barajas and Ralph Chami, ‘As a Matter of Finance’, Finance and Development (March 2013), p. 24. 87 Werenfels, ‘Obstacles to Privatisation’, pp. 16 – 17; Boubekeur, ‘Rolling Either Way?’, p. 473. 88 Werenfels, ‘Obstacles to Privatisation’, 18; Lowi, Oil Wealth, 138 – 9; Boubekeur, ‘Rolling Either Way?’, p. 474. 89 Ibid., p. 475. 90 Isabelle Werenfels, Managing Instability in Algeria (London: Routledge, 2007), p. 65. 91 Ibid., Who is in Charge? Algerian Power Structures and their Resilience to Change, Centre for International Studies and Research, Paris, February 2010. 92 Robert Mortimer, ‘State and Army in Algeria’, Journal of North African Studies 11 (June 2006); Hugh Roberts, Demilitarizing Algeria, Carnegie Papers no. 86, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC, May 2007.



93 Jeremy Keenan, ‘General Toufik: “God of Algeria’”, Al-Jazeera, 29 September 2010. 94 Werenfels, ‘Obstacles to Privatisation’, p. 15. 95, 16 January 2010. 96 Pertinent data can be found at the website of the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, 97 Pertinent data can be found at the website of the African Development Bank,, 23 April 2009. 98 See 99 African Economic Outlook,, 2013. 100 North African Journal,, 6 August 2009. 101 Boubekeur, ‘Rolling Either Way?’, p. 476. 102 Kiren A. Chaudhry, The Price of Wealth (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997); Holger Albrecht, ‘The Political Economy of Reform in Yemen’, Asien Afrika Lateinamerika 30.2 (2002), pp. 132– 3. 103 Albrecht, ‘Political Economy of Reform’, p. 139. 104 Ibid., pp. 143– 4. 105 Ibid., p. 144. 106 April Longley Alley, ‘The Rules of the Game: Unpacking Patronage Politics in Yemen’, Middle East Journal 64 (Summer 2010), p. 408. 107 Ibid., p. 388. 108 Sarah Phillips, Yemen: Developmental Dysfunction and Division in a Crisis State, Research Paper no. 14, Developmental Leadership Programme, University of Birmingham, February 2011, 27. 109 Alwazir, ‘Garbage Collectors’, 110 See 111 Pertinent data can be found at 112 See 113 See 114 Hossain, Rillaili, Lubaale, Mulumbi, Rashid and Tadros, Social Impacts of Crisis, pp. 34– 5. 115 Peter Salisbury, Yemen’s Economy: Oil, Imports and Elites, Middle East and North Africa Programme Paper no. 2011/02, Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, October 2011, 15.


In assessing the origins, course and consequences of contestation, one approach is to assign a relatively constant meaning to ‘contestation’ and then to explain variable outcomes in terms of historical circumstances and legacies at the structural level. Here, pre-existing ethnic, religious, regional or class divisions, and/or the nature of the state and the position of the army, the existence or not of oil rents, of superpower support, of economic and even banking structures play important roles.1 Another approach is to put structural factors in brackets and to consider variation at the level of the protest movement – in terms of repertoires of contention, alliances, tactics, ideas, forms of leadership and so on – and try to account for outcomes in terms of the variations in contestation itself. Both approaches can provide very different and useful insights. But both are ultimately unsatisfactory, in that, on the one hand, structure is never entirely static and is always interpreted and worked on, and on the other, initiatives, however significant, especially at moments of crisis and flux, are not undertaken in a vacuum, but are limited and enabled in



specific ways by structure and de-structure. This chapter aims to establish some of the differences that contestation made in the Arab uprisings of 2010 – 13 while doing justice to these demanding assumptions – under which some effort has to be made to analyse structure and agency, objectivity and subjectivity, together. The idea is to illustrate the potential, but also the limits, of social constructionist accounts of contentious politics.

Social Constructionism in Contentious Politics A pioneering generation of social historians, and their later followers, undertook a thorough revision of older forms of Orientalism, exceptionalism and cultural essentialism in the understanding of political contestation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) by drawing attention to world economic integration, modernization, capitalism, state formation, social class, and social and economic change.2 In the face of (neo-)Orientalism in regard to Islamic activism there have been more recent attempts to understand social movements in the region3 through the lenses of relatively objectivist and rationalist social movements theory.4 This work stresses objective political opportunities and threats, the existence of organizations capable of mobilizing resources for movements, and the way in which social movement actors framed their actions according to ideas that would resonate with wide sectors of the population. Historians and social scientists influenced by cultural history and the ‘linguistic turn’ have written against the determinism, structuralism and teleology of older historical sociological approaches, stressing instead sociological diversity and hybridity, gender, the role of subjectivity, unpredictability, subalternity, transnationalism, hegemony and the construction of social identity – from nation to class to gender – in the making and breaking of protest and revolution.5 Moreover, relational and dynamic approaches to contentious politics have recently entered the field of Middle Eastern Studies.6 Against conventional Social Movement Theory (SMT), and drawing on McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly’s Dynamics of Contention (2001), these approaches stress social appropriation, the attribution of political opportunity, the role of elite



collective action, active and relational collective reinterpretation by challengers, polity members and bystanders and the evolution of contentious performances. Against the objectivism and rationalism of older SMT, the hallmark of the dynamics of contention (DOC) is relationality, dynamism and social constructionism. This chapter argues that the Arab uprisings illustrate some of the strengths, but also the limits, of social constructionist approaches. I argue that it is certainly inadequate to view these protests as fairly predictably and automatically produced, provoked or limited by preexisting structural forms, whether read in terms of class, state and rentierism, or of objective political opportunities, pre-existing resources for mobilization, or frame resonance. Instead, pre-existing organizational forms – from Facebook to satellite TV to organizations – did indeed have to be appropriated for protest, or even created anew, as more social constructionist accounts argue. This chapter also argues that the objective measures of repression neither always prevented, nor always dampened, nor always widened the sphere of protest: the relationship between repression and protest was more variable and indeterminate, in ways that chime with the emphases to the Dynamics of Contention. It is clear that protest did not simply depend on ‘frame resonance’ but was shot through with re-interpretation and innovation at many levels and by many actors and frames that resonated widely did not have any unidirectional effect regarding action, but were interpreted in different ways in different social locations. It is also argued that the uprisings cannot be understood as an automatic response to neoliberalism, poverty, class conflict, socio-economic change, youth bulges, the form of the nation state or as determined by rentierism, sectarianism, globalization or in lock-step with regional or international geopolitical structures of power. Instead, subjectivity, re-interpretation and constructed social identities loomed large. In various ways, the chapter therefore underlines many of the emphases of revisionism in cultural history and theories of contentious politics. However, limits on constructionism are also set forth. While relationality and dynamism in regard to objectivism, structuralism and determinism deserve to play a significant role in the analysis, they risk



dissolving material structures of domination and forms of historical path-dependency too much, and even risk de-linking initiative and creativity from structure and context altogether. Kurzman has made a powerful argument for ‘anti-explanation’, which ‘means abandoning the project of retroactive prediction in favour of recognizing and reconstructing the lived experience of the moment’.7 But, a focus on the ‘lived experience of the moment’, although extremely productive, will not be sufficient for the political analysis of what Geoff Eley called the ‘cohesion . . . instability and . . . motion’ of ‘society as a whole’.8 This chapter will aim to specify some of the ways in which transgressive contention must be contextualized and set in structured and de-structured contexts of particular kinds.

The Violation of Post-Independence Hegemony Circumstances already given, or transmitted from the past, which are not ‘self-selected’ and are linked to particular histories and forms of path-dependency, may always be interpreted and acted on by elites and subalterns alike, but this does not mean they do not exist at all, or that we can only read contestation out of moments of lived experience. There may be fleeting moments at periods of intensively heightened uncertainty and flux when decisive forms of creativity are enabled, but much contestation is carried out at moments that are not acute revolutionary crises. One of the most powerful structures – or poisoned fruits – bequeathed to much of the Arab world of the early twenty-first century was, as is widely remarked, a violated ‘social pact’ as it is usually, although somewhat statically, rendered. Given that all the countries boasting to date an ousted dictator (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen) had suffered this history should draw our attention to what I argue here can be read as a process of hegemonic disarticulation. Post-independence regimes in all of these countries, to varying degrees, had secured their rule by appealing to Third Worldism, pan-Arabism, economic nationalism, statist developmentalism, industrialization, military strength, modernization, Arab socialism, republicanism, the ‘toiling masses’, and the struggle against (neo)



colonialism, Zionism, feudalism, backwardness and reaction. This hegemonic fabric had been comprehensively unstitched by the 2000s. The Non-Aligned Movement was a damp squib after the splits that followed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. PanArabism suffered blows from the crushing defeat of 1967, to the ‘capitulation’ of 1979, to the Israeli occupation of Beirut in 1982. No Arab regime moved when the Second Intifada erupted (2000), or Iraq was invaded (2003), or Lebanon bombed (2006), or Palestinians in Gaza massacred (2008 – 9). Economic nationalism went the way of the dodo in all these countries. The state retreated from its role in development. Industrialization and military might were either dramatically disproven or quietly put to one side. Formerly proud state enterprises, such as SONATRACH in Algeria, were sold off or reorganized on private lines. Public health care and provision of education became increasingly inadequate and disorganized. Arab socialism became the ostentatious wealth of the few – in villas, parties, gated communities, limousines, exclusive hotels, clubs, restaurants and beaches. Republicanism was smothered by presidents for life9 and then mocked by those presidents who groomed their sons for succession. Civil servants such as teachers, nurses, doctors, tax collectors and others saw progressive losses in the real value of their wages. The ‘toiling masses’ were marginalized and often criminalized,10 or they were ousted from their landholdings,11 moved to the slums,12 or eked out a living in several jobs in a survivalist informal sector, amid what I called an ‘invisible cage’13 or what Elyachar called ‘markets of dispossession’, with rising prices, especially for staple foods and basic goods.14 Corruption became arguably more naked and visible both in Tunisia and Egypt in the 2000s. Riots in many parts of the region from 1977 to the 1990s signalled the break-up of the social pact, as the state retreated from distributional commitments.15 Labour protests in Tunisia broke out in 2008, while a million-strong labour movement arose in Egypt after privatization intensified in 2004.16 Posusney had long ago argued convincingly for the ways in which labour protests in Egypt responded to depredations and losses caused by roll-backs on wages



and forms of social protection.17 The Kifaya movement in Egypt showed how educated and urban groups would not accept the transformation of the republic into an unofficial hereditary dynasty. It would surely be foolhardy entirely to dissociate this growing hegemonic disarticulation from the recent protests; they formed a background of disarticulation against which re-articulation could be achieved. There may also be something in the hypothesis that protest was not as quick to start, or not as widespread, in Syria because the assault on post-independence hegemony was not as far-reaching in Syria as it was in, say, Egypt. Syria sponsored Hizbullah, which confronted Israel, sometimes effectively (e.g. 2000, 2006). Syria seemed to be more in opposition to Western imperialism than Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen or Libya. Unlike Egypt, for example, Syria was not directly complicit in enforcing the siege and blockade of Gaza after Palestinians voted in 2006. Syrian neoliberalism had not cut as deep in terms of privatization, rent control roll-back, IMF loans and so on. While one might argue that the exceptions to the pattern – i.e. Algeria and Iraq – where protests were fewer and less about the regime as such, had such particular recent histories of civil war (and in Iraq’s case, occupation) as to account for the lack of protest that specifically targeted the basic legitimacy of the regime. This kind of explanation would help us explain why the monarchies had been able to preserve themselves, as they had never set up a progressive or revolutionary ruling project in the first place. One might also point out that the attrition of existing forms of hegemony might have been all very well, had the regimes managed to put together a new ruling formula capable of winning broad consent – one built around market reform, rising prosperity, the growth of civil society, accountability and democratization. Many countries made tentative moves in the direction of liberalization, but the political and sometimes even the economic moves were mostly ‘a grand delusion’.18 For a while, migration opportunities in the oilrich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (or the high price of oil and jobs in Libya) might have dampened the acuteness of the economic problem,19 but these opportunities were not always forthcoming, and with falls in the price of oil and the increasing



reliance on Asian labour in the GCC they diminished, leaving the failures of the authorities calling into question their ability to craft a new hegemonic project. In other words, it might be tempting to explain the Arab uprisings in terms of the unravelling of the previously existing hegemony, along with the failure of the regimes to produce a viable alternative. This explanation holds some truth, but is incomplete and overly structuralist as stated. How far can it really explain Tunisia, given that its turn away from a socialist experiment – which itself had been rather brief and half-hearted – went as far back as 1969? It is a tall order to relate 2011 automatically to this distant unravelling. Tunisia, moreover, was far less in the Third World camp than, say, Algeria in the 1970s, so why did the uprising come in Tunisia and not in Algeria? And Tunisian President Bourguiba was hardly agitating for Palestinian armed struggle and independent action on the pan-Arab stage even in the 1960s. Moreover, neither Yemen, Libya, Egypt nor Tunisia had actually witnessed a succession, whereas in the one country that had – Syria – the dictator has clung to power, and the demand for the fall of the regime in early 2011 was actually less widespread. Initially, before the violent response of the state, Syrians were far more likely to demand reform and not revolution. Many urban-educated groups on the inside continued to do so even after the state’s violent response. Indeed, the succession in Syria in 2000 was initially understood not as the devastation of the republican ideal, but as a chance for liberalization and a Damascus Spring, however short-lived that moment turned out to be. Jamal Mubarak had attempted to create a similar buzz around his ‘New Thinking’ ( fikr jadid) although far less effectively. Moreover, many political scientists had come to accept the view that Egypt, for example, was a hybrid authoritarian regime of some kind, that had indeed reneged on its social pact, but was nonetheless able to maintain power for a variety of reasons, including a complex dance of liberalization and de-liberalization,20 the power of its ruling party,21 the use of foreign rents and US support,22 the heavy use of coercion, and the mantra that the only alternative to Mubarak was sectarian chaos and Islamist violence that would turn Egypt into an economic



basket-case, or an Iran, where a strong ruler was required to prevent this from happening. For many, the Emperor had lost his clothes many years ago in countries like Egypt, but, for others, there was no alternative in any case. Moreover, there is no linear or univocal pattern of rising protest in response to the unstitching of the previous hegemony. The intellectual and urban left in Egypt was largely demobilized by the 2000s.23 The bread riots that swept the region from the 1970s to the 1990s had mostly died out.24 Workers often did not raise political demands; or many worker protests were in factories that had already been privatized25 and were thus less intertwined with state takebacks, and sought rather to involve the authorities against employers, who were often GCC-nationals engaged in asset stripping or aiming to convert factories into real-estate. There have been many examples, furthermore, of workers dissociating themselves sharply from the politics of the left. Worker protests post-2011 have often been about ridding the workplace of corrupt and tyrannical old-regime remnants (tathir), rather than being linked to any explicit left-wing political project that would restore the terms of the previous but now defunct hegemony. The attitude of the Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt towards 25 January 2011 on the day itself was mixed, eliciting one response of ‘just another demo’.26 Moreover, many of those disaffected with the new order had long ago turned to political Islam and were pushing this as the alternative to the incumbent regimes – a point that underlines that even if the unravelling of the older fabric of consent was crucially important, it could way predict the colour and substance of the protests that would rise up amid the hegemonic ‘gaps’. In other words, hegemonic disarticulation by itself cannot very well explain why its extension did not simply lead to the expansion of the Islamist opposition that was already in motion. It cannot explain the emergence of distinctively new kinds of movements.

The Collapse of the State Media Monopoly Another largely structural factor that has received wide attention27 has to do with the changing media landscape. Since the 1990s, the



formerly single-party regimes have steadily lost their monopoly over the media (television, radio, the press, and the internet). While Sawt al-‘Arab projected a Nasserist vision across the Arab world in the 1950s and 1960s and Al-Ahram in Egypt toed the official line until the last days of Mubarak, the media landscape has clearly diversified dramatically since the 1990s. Satellite TV – especially stations such as Al-Jazeera – enabled millions of ordinary people in the Arab world to access news that was no longer filtered by the official line of particular regimes.28 Moreover, the state monopoly of the press was broken by a steady stream of new, often oppositional and privately funded newspapers that were more independent of state power, such as Al-Masry al-Youm in Egypt. Third, mobile phones meant that reportage and photographs and audio information about police and state abuses could be immediately transmitted, sometimes to audiences of millions. Finally, the advent of social media – Facebook, blogging, Twitter and so on – created a networked space for the exchange of information that was able to evade state controls and reach far beyond national boundaries.29 This factor cannot be dismissed, although sometimes academics have outdone themselves to play down the role of the internet, for example in response to journalistic hyperbole about a so-called ‘Facebook Revolution’. It is plausible to argue that, in some minimum sense, the collapse of the monopoly of the state media, combined with the unravelling of older forms of hegemony and the failure of the once revolutionary republics to put together compelling and new forms of hegemony, worked together in structural ways to enable (but not to cause or predict) new and unruly initiatives and forms of collective action. But this is a minimum specification of the role of the new circumstances; it does not specify the content or possibilities for new collective actions, on which much depends. For one thing, the use of new media technologies does not imply anything about what kind of political programme the users would advocate. The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, used the web extensively to preach the path of reformism in the 2000s. Wael Ghonim, the famous administrator of the website ‘Kullina Khaled Sa‘id’, which publicized human rights’ abuses by the Mubarak



regime and picked up hundreds of thousands of followers between June 2010 and January 2011, had made his first foray onto the web in the early 2000s in order to establish a site called ‘Islam Way’.30 Certain Salafi preachers, made rich through time spent in the Gulf and resembling televangelists, use private satellite TV stations to reach constituencies in all parts of Egypt. Before the downfall of Hosni Mubarak, such preachers were generally considered to preach a quietist version of Islam in which politics should be left to the wali al-amr or person in charge, and adherents of Islam should devote their attention to apolitical matters of purity, morality, individual relationships and theological doctrine. In other words, in this case, the fragmenting of the media landscape did not determine whether media would be oppositional and politicized or not. Much of Facebook, for example, during the 2000s, was used for leisure, dating and consumption – not politics. Much of the new media in Syria in the 2000s, owned by private companies who won their concessions to print and broadcast from the regime in return for loyalty, steered well clear of any material that could possibly compromise the line peddled by the regime. It was argued in this context that the new media served as a bulwark to the regime, especially in catering to the new wants and habits of the wealthy, trendy and urban young – the offspring of the concessionaires themselves. The willingness of the media to kow-tow to repressive regimes was vividly illustrated by Vodafone UK plc, who pulled the plug on the mobile phone network in Egypt on 28 January 2011 in direct compliance with the request of the regime, which was setting out at that moment to crush protests by force and to incapacitate protestors’ ability to communicate, and sought and received assistance in this endeavour from a major multinational company. Al-Jazeera was similar to other parts of the new media in having its own editorial line and focus. The Arabic media of the region was increasingly owned by ‘khaleeji capital’,31 which imparted a variety of agenda to the media. The official line in Saudi Arabia, for example, for much of the 2000s, was extremely pro-Hosni Mubarak, while being highly negative towards Colonel Qadafi. A fragmented media landscape pointed in different and sometimes contradictory directions.



Media, like other strategic sites of mobilization, was appropriated by challengers during the uprisings for transgressive and contentious purposes. The simple existence on its own of a media that is not a state monopoly did not a revolutionary process make. Just as the relative non-existence of robust, autonomous, sustained and legal forms of organized opposition and civil society did not destroy the possibility of any activism or regime-challenge at all. Social appropriation was vital, just as it was in regard to the organization of the protests. These rarely emerged in one-to-one fashion from existing organizations or parties, which tended on the ground to tag along behind the action, responding, not initiating. Nonetheless, imagining that the tremendous shift in the form of media between the early 1990s and the late 2000s had no impact on the course and consequences of collective action would seem to be implausible.

Rentierism While the situation of ‘domination without hegemony’ in the formerly revolutionary republics, combined with the break-up of the old state monopoly of the media, played a role in enabling the unruly collective actions in the name of bread, dignity and freedom after 2010, it has also been plausibly pointed out that rentierism has placed sharp limits on the capacities of protestors. The premise of this does not have to be simply materialist and determinist. The bald fact of oil deposits and the availability of rents (for repression and patronage) does not make a conservative, autocratic and monarchical system. Indeed, the presence of oil can politicize and create conflict.32 It is more likely that ruling families in the GCC have won consent from deliberately small national populations by interlocking the use of oil rents with exclusionary migration politics, protection-seeking in regard to the geopolitics of the United States, coalition-building and the dispensation of patronage and welfare, ensuring a rising standard of living for most of the nonmigrant population while identifying themselves as generous fatherfigures, authentic yet modernizing guardians of national, Arab and Islamic traditions and values.33



Since 2010, the authorities in the GCC countries have continued in this vein, with Saudi Arabia dispensing billions (around 8 per cent of its GDP) in new social and economic programmes in order to deflect the inspiration of the Arab Spring from lapping at its shores. Such largesse is surely very difficult to imagine outside of a rentier system. It would seem reasonable to link such largesse at some level to the relative quiescence of much of the GCC’s population. Nonetheless, the maintenance of a hegemony built around rents does not furnish us with an automatic or merely structural explanation for continuity. We note the marked role of ‘elite collective action’ in Saudi Arabia. Not only were the new allocations highly strategic and targeted, they were also rapid (and in regional terms highly proactive) moves to prevent the emergence of protest. Further, we note that Libya, in spite of having major access to oil rents, was unable or unwilling to buy off protests that started in Benghazi and ended in the ousting of the dictator. The protests that did take place in Saudi Arabia came from the Eastern Province and were rooted in the Shi‘a population, an unsurprising development likely rooted in the long history of discrimination that Shi‘a have suffered in that region, and their track record of collective action. Some might crudely suggest that the protests in Bahrain had to do with the lack of oil rents there, but this explanation misses the long history of constitutional protest against the discrimination meted out to the Shi‘a in Bahrain, which mattered throughout the 1990s, for example, and previous rounds of protest in the 1950s and 1960s that took place in an era of abundant oil. But an oil-based explanation for the significant round of protest in Kuwait – demanding reform, not revolution for the most part – would of course not suffice as Kuwait had plenty of oil rent. In fact, the protests in Kuwait look very much like those in Jordan and in Morocco – significant but generally reformist – and in the context of a monarchy that had permitted parliamentary activity and some meaningful fora for an overt political expression. This similarity exists notwithstanding the tremendous difference between the three countries in regard to oil rents: plentiful in Kuwait, but non-existent in Jordan and Morocco. In other words, the structure of the political field would appear to be just as significant as the presence or absence of oil.



The intensity of the protests in Bahrain, the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia and Benghazi would appear to be more explicable not in terms of the existence or not of oil rents, but instead in terms of the failure, over a long period, of the respective states to incorporate these regions and social groups into the dominant hegemony of the state itself.

Sectarianism A further important constraint on the capacity of protestors, it is suggested, is sectarianism and the divisions of tribe, region and minority more generally. It has not escaped the notice of commentators that in Tunisia and Egypt, with their overwhelming Sunni Muslim majorities, their congruence of nation and state with deep historical roots and the absence of comparatively significant minorities, seemed to have an advantage over many other countries in regard to the possibilities of non-violent protest and of winning concessions from the regime. Yemen and Libya, where region, sect and tribe appeared to play more of a role, and Bahrain and Syria, where the conflict could be depicted as Shi‘i versus Sunni or Sunni versus Alawite, were all countries where protestors were unable to carry the day as speedily as they did in Tunisia and Egypt. In particular, the politics of sect and minority is invoked to explain how Christians and Kurds in Syria failed to throw their weight behind the uprising during 2011 – 12. Others have seen quiescence in Lebanon as stemming from that country’s sectarian divisions. Others see sectarianism as lying at the root of Saudi Arabia’s stance in opposition to the Alawite (read Shi‘a) regime which is in turn linked to (Shi‘a) Iran on the one side and to (Shi‘a) Hizbullah on the other. This kind of analysis suffers, however, from a slippage between sect, religion, tribe, region and national or ethnic minority. Neither Kurds nor Berbers are a sect. Moreover, ‘sectarian’ fears expressed by Christians in Syria or Lebanon have much to do with Al-Qa’ida style Islamists, rather than with Sunni Muslims en bloc. This analysis also fails to explain an important case like Algeria, where protests appear



to be limited more by the scope of the demands raised than by (more or less insignificant) sectarian differences. It also fails to link the analysis of sect to domestic politics and geopolitics, both of which play such important roles in terms of the instrumentalization of sect for power-holders. Bahraini protestors rightly insist that their demands seek equality and non-discrimination and that it is the ruling family that plays the sectarian card in order to de-legitimize their demands. On the other hand, the ties of sect that do exist among Shi‘a in Bahrain may have helped to enable protest rather than to dampen it in some cases. We can also note that Egypt does have an important sectarian minority – the Copts – who, just as at other key points in Egypt’s modern history (e.g. 1919), stood together ‘as one hand’ with Muslims under the banners of the Egyptian nation during the uprising and in many cases since. The achievement of such expressions of unity and tolerance and the motivation to march under this rubric accounted for a certain amount of contentious fervour, and thus motivated rather than dampened activism. Important brokers have urged inter-sectarian co-operation at many points in Egypt since 2010. There are also dramatic instances of cross-sectarian co-operation in Syria, while the failures have to do with leadership and not just with pre-existing identities. The politics of the Kurds in Syria is bound up closely with the politics of the Kurds in Turkey and can hardly be said to stem directly from Kurdishness as an identity. The politics of sect and national minority in Iraq since 2003 has seen arguably as much intra-sectarian conflict as sectarian conflict. Recent histories of strife and civil war appear to be of more significance in constraining protest than pre-existing and supposedly essential antagonisms of sect. Excluding the rentier monarchies, Lebanon, Iraq and Algeria stand out here as some of the countries that seem most ‘cynical’ about the Arab uprisings. All of them have recent histories of bloody civil war and external military forces operating in the country. It may well be that perceptions of protest ‘efficacy’ are radically diminished in such contexts, breeding ‘fatalism’. This might help to explain the constraints on protest in Syria, where the fear of civil war (in a country sandwiched between Lebanon and Iraq) and the insistence that a strongman is necessary to prevent one, act to



stymie action. In this case it is an imagined future civil war, rather than a real history of one, that prevents protest.

Geopolitics There does not appear to be any serious analysis suggesting that there was a specific geopolitical opportunity of one kind or another in the run-up to the Arab uprisings that could help explain their emergence or timing. Unlike Iran in the 1970s, there was no ‘Carterite breeze’ to inspire the liberals to protest or put mild pressure on the Shah to release some political prisoners and relax some measures of repression.34 On the contrary, Wikileaks cables show the intimate relations between the head of the Egyptian intelligence services, Omar Suleiman, and his UK and US counterparts, and the complicity of all parties in the rendition and torture of suspected Islamists. They show that the US Embassy was aware of the ‘widespread torture’ by Egypt’s police. Indeed, Hosni Mubarak and his regime enjoyed the confidence, support and praise of the United States up to and including 25 January 2011.35 As Hillary Clinton put it on that day: ‘Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.’36 The Mubarak regime also enjoyed the assertive support of Saudi Arabia, which characterized the protestors as subversives and malcontents and reportedly threatened on 29 January 2011 to cover the USAID budget to Egypt should the United States withdraw it.37 China’s only remarks on protestors were negative. Israel denounced the insecurity to which protest might lead, backed Mubarak publicly, and then, behind closed doors, offered him asylum. France continued to connive in the crushing of protests in Tunisia by shipping tear gas there – reportedly until 12 January 2011, two days before Bin Ali fell from power. Colonel Qadafi, moreover, had recently been rehabilitated in Western diplomatic circles following compensation paid over the Lockerbie incident and Libya was thereby opened up to multinational capital. The United Kingdom has supported the Bahraini monarchy throughout its repression of protestors, in spite of some mild



criticism in parliament and among a few officials, which generated a storm of protest in Bahraini ruling circles. Other diplomatic initiatives were limited indeed. The only geopolitical force that might be said to have been involved was the tolerance and support of Qatar for Al-Jazeera, the major satellite TV channel that has enabled Qatar to punch far above its weight in the region since the turn of the century. The first point to make, then, is the extraordinary absence of a geopolitical or diplomatic opportunity that could be invoked to explain the uprisings. The initiative came, in this sense, from below. The second point, however, is that the protestors scored an extraordinary success in causing the foreign policy of various major powers to shift in their favour – notably that of the United Kingdom, France and the United States. Rarely has such an outcome been seen in the history of the MENA region, which from ‘Abd al-Qadir’, to ‘Urabi to Mosaddeq’, to the ‘bread’ riots of the 1970s and 1980s, to the first Palestinian Intifada, has a long history of almost unremitting (neo) colonial opposition or indifference to popular protest in the region. Indeed, the varieties of imperial power are more generally a direct party to the provocation or the crushing of such protest (cf. Jeremy Salt). But early in 2011, France back-pedalled rapidly on its cosy relations with the Bin Ali regime. The United States vacillated on Egypt and wound up looking for a successor to Mubarak.38 NATO intervened militarily in Libya and put an end to the Qadafi regime, apparently out of solicitation for the fate of those protesting in Benghazi. There was clearly more than one way to pursue permanent strategic interests: while the UK’s MI6 preferred to stick with ‘the devil we know’ (i.e. Qadafi), Prime Minister David Cameron had different ideas. This impact stemmed in part from the substance of the protestors’ demands. While (neo-) Orientalist ‘experts’ and pundits did mutter darkly in early 2011 about the Islamist forces that were about to be unleashed, the fact remains that the central message of the protestors got through that the target of the mass mobilization was not the West, but the local regimes themselves, and that the bulk of the protestors were not Islamists (as Habib al-Adly, Egypt’s hated interior minister continued to insist), but ordinary people drawn



from all walks of life. Given the barren state of the experts close to power who looked on, and given the (neo-) Orientalist lenses that loomed so large during the War on Terror, this was an extraordinary achievement on the part of protestors in the Arab world. They were able to destabilize some of the most tenacious prejudices and stereotypes in the mainstream European and US imagination. In the words of Hardt and Negri, the protestors achieved a kind of ‘political house-cleaning’ among the elites and opinion-makers in Europe and the United States.39 Suddenly Le Monde was carrying reportage on Egyptian street art; the British right-wing broadsheet the The Daily Telegraph was sending journalists to meet guerrilla fighters in Syria. Readers were told of the ingenuity of the fighters in the making of IED devices (roadside bombs previously vilified in the same press when they were used against American forces in Iraq or Afghanistan). Had the protestors burned the US flag, or chanted ‘Death to the Great Satan’, as they did in Iran in 1978, it is easy to imagine a different response. In other words, the very demands made by the protestors had arguably a significant impact on the responses that they elicited from some of the major powers. All the more remarkable is that protestors focused their demands on their own regimes after decades of failed neoliberal restructuring, on the one hand, and a decade of ‘the new imperialism’ following 9/11, which led via neoconservatism to the US invasions of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) and the continued conflict with the Palestinians (2002, 2006, 2008 – 9) and Lebanon (2006) by Israel, on the other. In many respects the protestors’ focus is a testimony to the power of attribution and interpretative indeterminacy in regard to who or what protestors target in given structures of domination and power. That challengers can also rapidly re-evaluate and come up with new orientations to powerful structures is also exemplified by the demands raised on the streets of Benghazi, or in the villages around Idlib in Syria during 2011. These were places not known for their permanent or longstanding affection for US foreign policy or NATO’s intervention. These constituencies may have been blundering horribly in calling for military intervention in the eyes



of many leftists and nationalists – but they called and cheered NATO and complained about the absence of NATO in no uncertain terms, demonstrating how rapid could be changes of attitude towards powerful structures of military and economic domination. In these moments, new alignments can be formed and new forms of polarization ensue, as in the splits that followed in the European left over the NATO intervention in Libya, for example (e.g. Gilbert Achcar, Jeremy Salt and others). By the same token, however, there were clearly important constituencies that took the view that the NATO intervention in Libya tainted the Arab Spring and catapulted it directly into a sordid geopolitics over which it had no control. Others went further, and decided that the entire round of contestation was an American plot to destabilize and then get its hands on the region.40 Geopolitics did not automatically provoke or straightforwardly provide an opportunity for the uprisings. But nor was geopolitics always an automatic constraint. Transnational power structures were interpreted, invoked, seized on and rejected in a variety of ways. To speak of structural determination of contentious politics in this context is clearly problematic. On the other hand, geopolitical power structures are at stake continuously. While there are sharp limits to what can be proposed by Egypt on the regional stage, given the positioning of the United States and Israel, or vis-a`-vis Syria given the positions of Russia and China, it is not so clear that such realpolitik acts as a constant constraint on the demands articulated by protestors themselves. It may act as a provocation to make demands, or in some other way. For the time being, however, it should be noted that the rounds of contestation in the MENA have not been able to propose any revolutionary formula for the reorganization of geopolitical or international economic space.

Repression Another extraordinary element in the Arab uprisings is the absence of objective political opportunities within individual national states. At least in respect to the forces charged with internal security, no



country appears to have been weak in any simple objective sense. Egypt’s various police and internal security forces numbered up to around 1.7 million personnel by some estimates (MERIP). In most countries in the region, however, the array of internal security forces in the Arab countries did not prevent the outbreak of protest. There would seem to be no correlation between the size of the security forces and the initiatives taken to launch uprisings or project reformist demands. Nor, furthermore, did the exercise of repression either always provoke or always crush protests: the deployment of Saudi tanks crushed protest – at least for a time – in Bahrain (although these protests rose again at the second anniversary of the uprising), whereas in Syria the massive and immediate deployment of the army correlated with the expansion of protest. These observations, like those above, point towards the significance of the form of contestation itself and to the highly variable initiatives and repertoires that eventuated under repressive conditions. In the first instance, the capacity of the crowds of urban poor in Egypt and to some extent in Tunisia to defeat the police in spectacular, pitched battles in urban settings (something that has not been achieved in Syria) inflicted a severe blow on the incumbent regimes. This was above all of central importance in Egypt, where the regime was thoroughly panicked by the destruction of its central pillar of internal population control. I was told a story from a firsthand source of a senior intelligence official who appeared in the morning of 29 January 2011 with his bags packed, ready to flee the country. This factor weighed less heavily in Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Syria and a whole series of other countries. In Syria, where the structure of repression was different, the crowds never took on the police as they did in Egypt.41 But in Egypt, between 80 and 100 police stations were burned to the ground, numerous armoured vehicles were torched or otherwise neutralized; tear gas was thrown back at the police by ‘hunters’; Molotov cocktails were used to unblock bottlenecks between thoroughfares and popular quarters. Suez was in part the pioneer of such crowd’s action, an element that likely stemmed from a local history of confrontation with the forces of the state going back to the 1967 –73 period.42 News from Suez



fortified protestors in Tahrir to maintain the occupation there during the first days of the uprising. This achievement of the crowd was partly spontaneous, but it also grew out of a history of confrontation between the popular quarters (and even the football fans and their organizations (ultras)) and a violent and corrupt police force.43 The army stood aside in Egypt not just because of an autonomous decision among the top brass. It was partly because the officer corps could not be relied upon (and were not trained) to shoot on civilians, a sentiment that was in turn influenced by the massive demonstration of the popular will by the uprising of more than one million – in terms of worthiness, unity, numbers and commitment. That the crowds greeted non-belligerent army units as saviours, engaged in extensive fraternization44 and proclaimed the real enemy to be the regime itself and not the army, which was identified with the ‘people’, both helped to maintain the army’s overall neutrality and gave the top brass the idea that it could ride this wave of popularity to seize the reins of power. In other words, it would seem here that the form of contestation itself, and the kinds of demands that were raised and the contentious performances adopted, had an impact on immediate outcomes with regard to the repressive and coercive apparatuses of the state. There is a tendency to suggest that in Egypt everything was ‘over’ relatively quickly: a few days of protest, the president is ousted and everyone goes home. Of course, this underestimates the before and the after of the 18 days. But it also underestimates the solidarities that were forged and the tenacity of the protestors in the face of repression during the 18 days themselves. When activists in Tahrir were confronted by the thugs of the ‘Battle of the Camel’ they did not stand down, while to the observers around the world and on the spot this was anything but a foregone conclusion. The use of the call ‘Isbat! Isbat!’ (Stand your ground!) by those temporarily blinded, choked, or rendered stupefied or shocked by tear gas was one of those ‘micro’ technologies of solidarity and repertoire that played a role. Small groups made the collective decision, on the basis of consensual, deliberative and affectionate procedure, to maintain their place in the protest, in spite of the risks of sniper fire and the urgings of parents



via mobiles that enough was enough, that there was going to be a massacre, that Mubarak had promised concessions, and it was time to go home. ‘We discussed it together’ one Egyptian, British-based academic told me, ‘and we decided that come what may, we would stay.’ Or as Tamer al-Wageeh, an Egyptian journalist, described those who strode defiantly into the sniper fire that picked off protestors entering the street alongside the Ministry of Interior: ‘The noblest thing I ever saw.’ In other words, such forms of protest were certified as ‘noble’ and not ‘reckless’ or ‘fanatical’. Had the crowds left the streets after the fly-by of the Egyptian air force on February 2011, or after the Battle of the Camel, or after snipers positioned on rooftops downtown had killed several hundreds, or after fears of released prisoners had led people to post guards outside homes and at the ends of streets at the entrances to neighbourhoods, then it is hard to see that Mubarak would have stepped down or the Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) assumed the reins of power. One factor at work was the way in which the popular committees that were quickly formed when the police were stood down or disappeared from the streets, became vehicles for revolutionary solidarity and organization. The absence of the police, and the formation of these popular committees, signalled a very dramatic racheting up of uncertainty – and the perception that the regime was in chaos and that politics was actually in the hands of the people. The form of repression, in other words, was always interpreted. In short, a major aspect of the dynamics of the situation in Egypt came as a result of crowd actions, in a clearly complex and non-linear relationship to the quantities of repression at the disposal of the state. It should surely be considered as some surprise that the protestors in Syria did not cease their activism following the encounter with massive repression from the state. Had they done so, it would have been easy – as in the case of Bahrain – for an analysis that suggested that massive repression stopped the protest. This certainly presents one simple and possibly too-simple explanation for the significant diminution in the number of protest events in Bahrain following the deployment of Saudi troops there. But in Syria repression did not correlate with a diminution of protest. Why this might have been so



has not necessarily been adequately explored. Leenders suggests that migration circuits might have had something to do with it. Provincial towns like Dar’a were linked to migration circuits that provided resources and networks that crossed borders; it could therefore evade repression and these elements supported protests.45 But the correlation between networks, resources, border-crossing conduits and instances of protest is not overwhelmingly demonstrated in the article. There were many areas with much outmigration that did not witness such protests. Moreover, there were areas that protested without demonstrable links to migration. Leenders’ article is suggestive in other ways, however. The rural officials and provincial and ‘lesser notables’ of Dar’a were known for having some wasta with the regime; they were loyalist and they acted as intermediaries between the regime and the population. But their representations to the regime following the murder and torture of secondary school pupils in their area were snubbed. This dishonouring encounter with the state was enough to make some of those with a stake in being local intermediaries turn their resources to protest. Here it was the relational undermining of crucial forms of intermediation and the codes and expectations of regime-linked patronage networks and intercession that turned former loyalists into challengers. Through this encounter, which arguably could have gone a different way, the breaking of this particular form of ‘state – society’ linkage (a form of disorganization) paved the way for re-organization, for the re-direction towards opposition of capacities linked to associative networks. Provincial figures of some standing may have initially seen such moves in strategic terms as a way to recover their influence with the regime, but the turn that they initiated often developed into a movement that they could not completely control. Another factor at work in the persistence or even expansion of protest in the face of massive repression had to do with the cycle of killing, funerals and further killing that increased the numbers and broadened the geographic scale of confrontation with the regime. Especially in cases around the northern town of Irbid, state-initiated violence led to funerals of those peaceful protestors who were murdered. Such funerals were attended by relatives, who were likely



aware of the risks of attendance, but nonetheless went along because of the fundamental norms associated with the necessity and desirability of mourning the dead that were rooted in a powerful nexus of custom, justice, emotional attachment, family ties and religion. Those who attended these funerals, for whom politics in the formal sense might have been the furthest thing from their minds, would be treated by the security forces as rebels, spies and subversives, possibly linked to foreign plots, who defied the authority of the state. They were shot at without mercy. This would lead to more funerals and more killings. Those who fled such scenes might become fugitives – seeking refuge, for example, in the outhouses of farms of family or relatives. At this point the whole extended family, even those living outside the region, would become marked and hunted. In this way, the geographic breadth and the numbers of those sucked into de facto opposition to the regime increased very rapidly. Furthermore, information about who was wanted by the army might leak out in one way or another. Wanted lists were smuggled out and/or leaked to family members. This circuit of information, enabled both by the leakiness of a partly conscript army and the importance of family ties, would in turn increase the numbers of those who knew that they were wanted – and thus the number of fugitives – as well as of those implicated in sheltering them. This in turn increased the number of those brought into opposition to the regime. Challengers’ bravery can hardly be put in question. But in other respects their choices were very limited. In the face of massive repression, people acted in self-defence. Sides would have to be chosen very quickly, sometimes on the spur of the moment. And battle lines were quickly drawn. Polarization proceeded apace in the face of acute regime violence. The expansion of protest under repression as society refused to behave in anomic and purely passive, or individualistic and strictly self-interested, terms had further effects. Arguably, it helped cause defections from the army, which numbered in the tens of thousands by 2012. This operated in part as follows: loyal soldiers, of humble or rural origins, who believed or acquiesced in the regime’s propaganda that armed gangs of spies and imperialist saboteurs were responsible for chaos and killing, would suddenly discover that a friend or



relative had been implicated by the regime, or killed. These soldiers, through their intimate knowledge of the friend or relative, would thereby discover that what the regime was saying was false. As the sphere of repression widened, the greater the probability became that the labelling of challengers as merely spies or Israelis could be falsified by actual experience. Hence the insistence by those who came across the bodies of massacred civilians that these are ‘not Israelis, not Israelis, not spies, not spies’ as one distraught local man insisted while shooting a video of those massacred by regime artillery fire in the northern village of Kafr Owaid (on 20 December 2011) that was uploaded onto YouTube. Once conscripts and others had satisfied themselves that their friends or relatives had indeed been killed by the regime, they would come under enormous pressure of conscience, of justice, of right, of family loyalty, and many decided to defect under these circumstances, in spite of the enormous risk to life and livelihood that defection entailed. Defectors would quickly announce, or would explain when interviewed, that the regime had become a criminal gang. Observations such as these may help to explain how and why ordinary people continued to protest in one way or another, even in the face of massive repression. Whether they can help explain the diminution of Bahrain following repression is beyond the scope of this chapter. But the significance of protest tenacity in Syria should not be underestimated. There are strong grounds for seeing such tenacity – in regard to the protests of ordinary people in rural areas, which for a very long time, at least a year, continued basically unaided by arms or money from the outside world – as the central dynamic in the unfolding situation. Certainly the other forces at work in the political field were those of the status quo. In this sense, contestation made a tremendous difference in Syria, and by now this difference has reverberated onto the regional and international scene.

Conclusion This discussion has aimed to steer between objectivism, structuralism and determinism on the one hand, and a purely relational,



dynamic and social constructionist analysis on the other. Objectivism and structuralism will not do: economic problems, the rise of the new media and the loss of the legitimacy in the formerly revolutionary republics did not automatically impel uprisings that were then directly constrained by oil rents, sect, geopolitics and state repression. Structural processes and forms of power did not involve automatic provocations and constraints. This is because these factors were rooted to begin within complex political, cultural and social forms. Economic problems were read in a context of the attrition of a previous post-independence hegemony and the failure of the formerly revolutionary republics to build viable, new hegemonic forms. The collapse of the former state monopoly of the media unleashed a variety of currents that pointed in different directions in regard to the form and content of contestation. Oil rents did not create a viable political order. They did not save the regime in Libya, or dissolve widespread protest in Kuwait. State repression and geopolitics was always interpreted and embedded and did not provoke or even, strikingly, constrain in any linear fashion – although continued to play specific, context-laden roles. The question of sectarianism certainly weighs in the balance, but is also a matter of construction and politicization in given contexts. Fears about civil war in Syria and recent histories of civil war in Lebanon, Algeria and Iraq arguably played just as important role as pre-existing sectarian or minority statuses. Much, clearly, depended on the capacity of challengers to construct viable movements. Such movements found their ground in the gaps and fractures in the existing structures of political consent: they were enabled – but not in any linear sense caused or shaped by – the disorganization of existing forms of consent and the break-up of the tissues of cultural hegemony. In Syria, much depended on whether co-ordinating committees, defecting soldiers, rural and urban protestors and organized political forces both inside and outside the country could build up worthiness, unity, commitment and numbers. In both Egypt and Syria, much depended on the fact that the urban poor and those drawn from different walks of life with diverse grievances against the police could come together on a single platform. In Syria, protestors failed to build an alliance with



Christians and sometimes Kurds and the divisions among the opposition have sometimes been caused not by pre-existing cleavages but by actual failures of leadership. In contrast, the militant bloggers in Egypt, who included Copts, showed some genius in uniting their cause to that of the grievances (related to police corruption and violence) held by the urban poor and other groups (who included Copts) by picking National Police day to stage the popular uprising. In Syria, it is clear that for all the tenacity of the protests, the opposition has been less capable of uniting – or of winning over elements among the educated elite – than in Egypt or Tunisia. This may have something to do with fear of civil war and with issues of sectarianism, but leadership also matters. In Syria, the uprising has been diminished by the absence of the labour movement, unlike in Tunisia or Egypt; while the FSA made mistakes on the ground by looting factories and shops – alienating elements in the local population. The capacity of the crowds of urban poor in Egypt and to some extent in Tunisia to defeat the police in spectacular pitched battles in urban settings (something that was not been done in Syria) inflicted a severe blow on the incumbent regimes. But these initiatives did not happen in a vacuum. They fed off weaknesses in existing structures of power and hegemony, both organizational and ideational. Unruly collective action had to rearticulate and capture anew the political imagination, resources, forms of organization and political positions. Protestors in national contexts often looked across borders for inspiration and support – a form of time– space compression that has in fact given ideational shape and regularity to the otherwise diverse initiatives that take place in given national contexts. Indeed, rentierism, repression, geopolitics and the manipulation of sectarian fear by ruling elites clearly played a role, and put acute limits on what protest in the name of bread, dignity and freedom could achieve. This style of analysis allows us to specify not just the strengths of the forms of contestation extant in the uprisings, but also some of their weaknesses. Above all, it is significant that the uprisings, although capable of specifying a minimum programme in terms of bread, dignity and freedom, and in demanding at their most concrete



the ‘fall of the regime’, have not succeeded in presenting and elaborating an alternate project of moral/religious, political or intellectual leadership. In this, they can be contrasted with the revolution in Iran (1978–9), or the revolutionary movements under the banners of Third Worldism and Arab socialism of the 1950s and 1960s. It is arguably as much for this as for any other reason that previously existing programmatic forces were able to seize the initiative in post-uprising countries such as Tunisia and Egypt. In other words, in pointing to the significance of initiative in the uprisings, the weaknesses, as well as the strengths, of the new challenges can be specified. Overall, to refuse objectivism and subjectivism alike in the Arab uprisings can help to specify the significance and role of initiative, interpretation and creativity in this major episode of political contention, without dissolving entirely the role of history and context or omitting the significance of material forms of domination. Initiative and creativity certainly exist, and contestation makes a difference, but it does not operate in a vacuum. Transgressive contention makes use of the dissolution and disarticulation of existing hegemonic structures, the sudden appearance of new possibilities, and recombines disorganized and disarticulated elements in new patterns. But the success of such initiatives is limited by the complex forms of domination that they confront, and by no means always succeed in overthrowing.

Notes 1 Marc Lynch (ed.), The Arab Uprising Explained: New Contentious Politics in the Middle East (2014, New York: Columbia University Press, 2014). 2 See Abrahamian Ervand, Iran between Two Revolutions (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982); Gabriel Baer, Studies in the Social History of Modern Egypt (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1969); Hanna Batatu, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq: A Study of Iraq’s Old Landed and Commercial Classes and of its Communists, Ba’thists, and Free Officers (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978); Joel Beinin, and Zachary Lockman, Workers on the Nile: Nationalism, Communism, Islam and the Egyptian Working Class (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987); Edmund III Burke, Prelude to Protectorate in Morocco: Precolonial Protest and Resistance, 1860– 1912 (Chicago. IL: Chicago University Press, 1976); John Chalcraft, The Striking Cabbies of Cairo and Other Stories: Crafts and Guilds in Egypt, 1863– 1914 (Albany, NY: State


3 4



7 8

THE ARAB UPRISINGS University of New York Press, 2004); Fred Hallidary, Arabia without Sultans (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974); Andre´ Raymond, Artisans et commercants au Caire au XVIII e Sie´cle (Damascus: Institut Franc ais de Damas, 1973); Judith Tucker, Women in Nineteenth Century Egypt, (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985); Donald Quataert, Ottoman Manufacturing in the Age of the Industrial Revolution (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993). Quitan Wiktorowicz, (ed.), Islamic Activism: A Social Movement Theory Approach (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004). Doug McAdam, John D. McCarthy and Mayer N. Zald, Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements: Political Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures, and Cultural Framings (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996). Lila Abu-Lughod, ‘The Romance of Resistance: Tracing Transformations of Power through Bedouin Women’, American Ethnologist Vol. 17 No. 1 (1990): 41–55; Lila Abu-Lughod, Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998); Janet Afary, The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906–1911: Grassroots Democracy, Social Democracy and the Origins of Feminism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996); John Chalcraft, and Yaseem Noorani, (eds), Counterhegemony in the Colony and Postcolony (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007); Julia Clancy-Smith, Rebel and Saint: Muslim Notables, Populist Protest, Colonial Encounters (Algeria and Tunisia, 1800–1904) (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994); Stephanie Cronin, Subalterns and Social Protest: History from Below in the Middle East and North Africa (London, UK: Routledge, 2008); Michael Johnson, All Honourable Men: The Social Origins of War in Lebanon (London, UK: I.B.Tauris, 2001); Laleh Khalil, Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Charles Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004); Zachary Lockman, (eds), Workers and Working Classes in the Middle East: Struggles, Histories, Historiographies (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1994a.); Zachary Lockman, ‘Imagining the Working Class: Culture, Nationalism and Class Formation in Egypt 1899–1914’, Poetics Today Vol. 15 (1994b.): 157–90; Pravin Paidar, Women and the Political Process in Twentieth-century Iran (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995); Michael Provence, The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rose of Arab Nationalism (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2005); Elizabeth Thompson, Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000). Joel Beinin and Fre´de´ric Vairel (eds), Social Movements, Mobilization, and Contestation in the Middle East and North Africa (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013). Charles Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004): 166. Geoff Eley, A Crooked Line: From Cultural History to the History of Society (Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 2005), p. 201.



9 Rogers Owen, The Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for Life (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012). 10 Salwa Ismail, Political Life in Cairo’s New Quarters: Encountering the Everyday State (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2006). 11 Reem Saad, ‘State Landlord, Parliament and Peasant: The Story of the 1992 Tenancy Law in Egypt’, in Alan Bowman and Eugene Rogan (eds), Agriculture in Egypt from Pharaonic to Modern Times: Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. 96 (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1999): 387– 404. 12 Mike Davis, Planet of Slums (London, UK: Verso, 2007); Farha Ghannam, Remaking the Modern: Space, Relocation and the Politics of Identity in a Global Cairo, (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002). 13 John Chalcraft, The Invisible Cage: Syrian Migrant Workers in Lebanon (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009), p. 3. 14 Julia Elyachar, Markets of Dispossession: NGOs, Economic Development and the State in Cairo (Durhan, NC: Duke University Press, 2005). 15 J. Walton, and D. Seddon, Free Markets and Food Riots: The Politics of Global Adjustment (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1994). 16 Joel Beinin, ‘A Workers’ Social Movement on the Margin of the Global Neoliberal Order, Egypt 2004– 2009’, in Joel Beinin and Fre´de´ric Vairel (eds), Social Movements, Mobilization, and Contestation in the Middle East and North Africa (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011), pp. 181– 201. 17 Marsha Posusney, ‘The Moral Economy of Labour Protest in Egypt’, World Politics Vol. 46 No. 1, (2003): 83 – 120. 18 Eberhard Kienle, A Grand Delusion: Democracy and Economic Reform in Egypt, (London, UK: I.B.Tauris, 2001). 19 Diane Singerman, Avenues of Participation: Family, Politics and Networks in Urban Quarters of Cairo (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996). 20 Eberhard Kienle, A Grand Delusion: Democracy and Economic Reform in Egypt (London, UK: I.B.Tauris, 2001). 21 Jason Brownlee, Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007). 22 Jason Brownlee, Democracy Prevention: The Politics of the U.S. – Egyptian Alliance (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012). 23 Marie Duboc, ‘Egyptian Leftist Intellectuals’ Activism from the Margins: Overcoming the Mobilization/Demobilization Dichotomy’, in Joel Beinin and Fre´de´ric Vairel (eds), Social Movements, Mobilization and Contestation in the Middle East and North Africa (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011): pp. 61–82. 24 J. Walton, and D. Seddon, Free Markets and Food Riots: The Politics of Global Adjustment (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1994). 25 Beinin, ‘A Workers’ Social Movement on the Margin of the Global Neoliberal Order, Egypt 2004– 2009’, 2011, pp. 181–201. 26 Interview, 14 February 2011. 27 Manuel Castells, Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2012).



28 Marc Lynch, Voices of the New Arab Public: Iraq, Al-Jazeera and Middle East Politics Today (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007). 29 Merlyna Lim, ‘Clicks, Cabs and Coffee Houses: Social Media and Oppositional Movements in Egypt, 2004 – 2011’, Journal of Communication Vol. 62 No. 2 (2012): pp. 231– 48. 30 Wael Ghonim, Revolution 2.0: The Power of the People is Greater than the People in Power (London, UK: Harper Collins, 2012). 31 Adam Hanieh, Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). 32 G. Okruhlik, ‘Rentier Wealth, Unruly Law, and the Rise of Opposition: The Political Economy of Oil States’. Comparative Politics, (1999) 31, pp. 295 – 315. 33 Joseph Kostiner, (ed.), Middle East Monarchies: The Challenge of Modernity (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2000). 34 Charles Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004). 35 Jason Brownlee, Democracy Prevention: The Politics of the U.S. – Egyptian Alliance (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012). 36 Reuters,, 25 January 2011. 37 The Times, 10 February 2011, ddleeast/article2905628.ece. 38 William Quandt, ‘U.S. Policy and the Arab Revolution of 2011’, in Fawaz AlGerges (eds), The New Missle East: Protests and Revolution in the Arab World (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014): 418 – 28. 39 Michael Hardt, and Antonio Negri, ‘Arabs are Democracy’s New Pioneers’, Guardian, 24 February 2011. 40 Walter Armbrust, ‘The Trickster in Egypt’s January 25th Revolution’, Comparative Studies in Society and History. Vol. 55, No. 4 (October 2013), pp 834–64. 41 Salwa Ismail, ‘The Egyptian Revolution against the Police’, Social Research, 79 (2012): pp. 435– 62. 42 Alia Mossallam, ‘Hikayat Sha’b – Stories of Peoplehood: Nasserism, Popular Politics and Songs in Egypt 1956– 1973’, Unpublished PhD Thesis, 2012, London School of Economics and Political Science. 43 Salwa Ismail, ‘The Egyptian Revolution against the Police’, Social Research, 79 (2012): pp. 435– 62. 44 Neil Ketchley, ‘The People and the Army are one Hand! A Micro-sociology of Fraternisation in the Egyptian Revolution’, Paper presented at Brismes Annual Conference, 26– 28 March 2012 (forthcoming in Comparative Studies in Society and History). 45 Reinoud Leenders, ‘Oh Buthaina, Oh Sha’ban – The Hawrani is not Hungry, We Want Freedom!’ ‘Revolutionary Framing and Mobilization at the Onset of the Syrian Uprising’, In Joel Beinin and Fre´de´ric Vairel (eds), Social Movements, Mobilization and Contestation in the Middle East and North Africa (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013): pp. 246– 64.


In the light of events in the Arab world since the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011, the issue of ‘monarchy versus republic’ has emerged as of prime importance in the analysis of Middle East politics. There is visibly a consensus among analysts and academics that a wide gap exists between monarchies and republics when it comes to assess the different trajectories since 2011. At the same time, the debate continues whether the analysis of this gap in terms of statehood is of any help at all in understanding and explaining these diverse trajectories.1 The year 2011 was marked by an unprecedented regional dynamic of political upheaval inaugurated by the protests that had started in Tunisia in late 2010, after Tunisian President Bin Ali had left his country in January 2011. The Tunisian protests were the trigger for political change, other protests and mass mobilization in many parts of the region, from Morocco to the Gulf. Protesters soon rallied around the slogan: ‘The people want the fall of the regime’, and around secular catchwords such as freedom (hurriyya) and justice (‘adala). International political analysts were immediately inclined to perceive



the protests against dictatorship as sufficient evidence for a democratic breakthrough.2 But with hindsight, the different trajectories of the Arab Spring have shown that this narrative was premature, leading some scholars to speak of an authoritarian transformation rather than a democratic transformation.3 First, we observe some countries – Tunisia and Egypt – passing through a process of regime change with open-ended conflicts and negotiations with the remaining elites of the old regime. Second, we see the resilience of authoritarian rule like in Algeria where the collective memory of the civil war in the 1990s seems to discourage protests and consolidate the place of the ruling elite. Third, there are countries like Syria, Yemen and Libya that are not only in danger of falling apart and descend into in civil war, that also reflect new geopolitical realities in the region and beyond (including external interventions by international and regional actors). Fourth, there are Arab monarchies which have tried to reduce public pressure for change by offering political and constitutional reforms in addition to generous direct payments to their citizens. At a first glance, we might be inclined to conclude that the monarchies are equipped with more effective means to defend their legitimacy. But the question remains: is it only the type of statehood that makes the difference and thus provides us with a different institutional framing of rulership? Or is it a narrow way of looking at our topic? Are we therefore in need of a broader conceptual approach, beyond the simple distinction of republics and monarchies? The literature offers alternative approaches beyond and independent of the question of the state as a normative point of reference. For example, it focuses on the underlying social order between individuals, or informal contracts between the rulers and the ruled, which may generate legitimacy and prevent the collapse of a regime. Social order, following Mielke, Schetter and Wilde,4 encompasses the ‘structuring characteristic of social interaction . . . It constitutes a framework for action in which humans organize themselves in any circumstances’. The authors concept rests on several premises and is deeply rooted in a sociological approach: one premise seems to be particularly interesting for our research



question. The authors argue – based on empirical data from Central Asia and Afghanistan – that social order always exists independently of the state. The type of regime may change, but the structure of social order remains in place.5 Thus, there is no doubt that it may be useful to set aside the ‘state’ as a normative frame of reference and look in a more general way at what makes a particular group of people accept the legitimacy of a political order and rule by one or more individuals. At first sight, this seems to be extremely helpful for the analysis of young and/or emerging states – in our case, the Gulf monarchies – which have developed from a tribal, clan-based society into a modern state within a few decades. Hence, Mielke et al. seem to have significantly improved our understanding of the nature of political processes, in particular in contexts where the state is not yet in existence.6 But does it also help us understand and explain the fall of dictators ruling over republics and the survival of the monarchs in the Arab Spring? The following points emerge from an analysis of the Gulf monarchies: First, the question of monarchy versus republic is of essential importance for the analysis of Middle East politics in light of the Arab Spring. Second, the state – and the history of statebuilding – as a normative frame of reference is central to the understanding of political change and its nature. To put it more simply: in the following discussion of the durability of the Gulf monarchies, the processes of political change and the impact of political and social order on legitimacy, there is a need to get more ‘state’ into the analytical framework, not less.7 Hence, by discussing the nexus of statehood, legitimacy and social order, we shall get a better picture of the resilience of Gulf monarchies that transcends rent-based explanations with their widely acknowledged limits beyond the macro-level.8 In a first step, the nexus of state-building and tribalism is elaborated by outlining the state of research. In doing so, the most prominent explanatory categories of the durability of the Gulf monarchies (i.e. rents, modernity, tradition, tribalism and monarchical solidarity) are included. These variables are then related to the state as a normative frame of reference and to the role of social order independent of the state.



Tribes and State-building There is no doubt that the Gulf monarchies, compared to the republics in the southern and eastern Mediterranean, had a very different experience of the colonial and/or imperial penetration by European powers. The Gulf monarchies did not experience revolutionary upheavals similar to those that experienced the 1950s and 1960s with their post-colonial modernization promises in the form of Nasserism, Pan-Arabism and Arab socialism (e.g. Egypt, Syria, Libya et al.). Eventually, as confirmed by the Arab Spring, in the republics the promises of post-colonial modernization and even democratization9 fell victim of strong states that rather than guaranteeing development and independence perpetuated authoritarian regimes.10 At a later stage the strong state adopted limited policies of political and economic liberalization which turned out to be nothing more than a ‘Grand Delusion’11 and often consolidated quthoritarian rule.12 Meanwhile, modern state-building in the Gulf region began by default or, following Lisa Anderson,13 by ‘historical accident’ many years after the revolutionary decade of the 1950s, when Great Britain announced the withdrawal from its imperial possessions east of Suez. As we know them today, the monarchies in the Gulf owe part of their existence to British protection in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Yet, in sharp contrast to most other cases in the Middle East, such protection – as vividly shown by Christopher Davidson for the UAE – was based on local realities that existed at the time those agreements were concluded. This prepared the ground for the ruling families to view themselves as royals.14 For Davidson, the local realities were the result of eighteenth century movements of loose tribal confederations from Central Arabia towards the Persian Gulf and the subsequent power struggles, making it nowadays ‘one cultural lake with many tribes and families stretching across borders’.15 Since then, the local tribal roots of the states have been successfully translated into a legitimacy of the ruling dynasties’ mandate to rule until the very present. If, this is how tribal chiefs became monarchs in a modern state, it remains to be shown how this step it happened in a social order still without a state.



Before elaborating on this very decisive point, one may argue that the state was built around and within the ruling family by co-opting allied families, clans and relevant social groups such as the Muslim clergy.16 In brief, the monarchies as such already existed before the establishment of the modern state.17 This laid the ground for the interwoven character of the state and the respective ruling family in Gulf monarchies to this day; but unlike in the region’s republics, each ruling family built a state from scratch and did not make use of an existing polity. In her seminal article on resilience of monarchy in the Middle East, Lisa Anderson argues: ‘These monarchies took root . . . because there is an affinity between monarchy as a regime type and the projects of nation building and state formation.’18 She continues: ‘Monarchy is particularly well suited to the requirements of state formation, especially in its early stages.’19 If this is true, we have to focus even more on the question why the monarchy has remained the defining frame of reference even after these ‘early stages’ of statebuilding. Due to such rather late state-building – except for Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies were established between 1961 and 1971 – the relevant literature took years to acknowledge the sub-regional difference of the Gulf monarchies beyond previous assumptions that they were traditional, reactionary, tribal societies harmful to Arab unity and destined to fade into history like the monarchic episodes in Egypt (1952), Iraq (1958) and Libya (1969).20 One of the first to acknowledge the difference of the monarchies as compared to the republics was Michael Hudson, who in the 1970s wrote: ‘Ruling monarchs are nearly extinct outside the Arab world, but within this region their remarkable persistence suggests that the legitimacy formula they embody exhibits greater congruence with socio-cultural values than observers have thought.’21 This was a turnaround compared to Samuel Huntington’s well-known ‘King’s Dilemma’22 which maintains that limited reforms introduced from the top often increase rather than decrease bottom-up demands for more radical change.23 At the same time, Hudson and others remained critical of the capacity of traditional monarchies to retain their legitimacy in view of indispensable modernization processes.24



In the recent literature we find a more realistic appraisal of monarchies in the Middle East in general and in the Gulf in particular. Authors develop several categories to grasp similar features of state, power and sources of legitimacy in the Gulf. Among others, Michael Herb called these monarchies ‘family dynasties’,25 Russell Lucas referred to ‘monarchical authoritarianism’26 and Katja Niethammer described them as ‘family enterprises’.27 They all mirror features of the ‘republic–monarchy gap’, but they also go one step further in distinguishing between Jordan and Morocco on the one hand and the Gulf monarchies on the other. Accordingly, Herb (1999) in his seminal work All in the Family, defines the family dynasties of the Gulf as: regimes in which the ruling dynasty, the family, monopolizes the highest state offices, have a power monopoly by distributing family members throughout the state bureaucracy (including ministries); they have, more or less, sound institutional settings to settle disputes over succession, and, thus, can be classified as a corporate power unit.28 In this case, we might be inclined to question or to put aside the widely used differentiation between state and regime when the latter29 is an integral part of the state, which was and still is not the case in Tunisia and Egypt under Bin Ali and Mubarak where the state had legitimacy independent of the collapsing authoritarian regime.30 To return to the question of the Gulf monarchies’ durability, the relevant literature apart from coercice capacities highlights three explanatory dimensions that it frequently puts in a historical perspective: (i) rents;31 (ii) external legitimacy based on regional or international alliances including ‘monarchical solidarity’32; and to a lesser degree (iii) tribalism in a modern state.33 As a matter of course the literature identifies yet other distinctive features of the Gulf monarchies such as formalized patterns of succession34 and (neo) patrimonial networks that may be related to diversification strategies or efforts of foreign policy branding.35 Nonetheless, these variables are dependent on the rentier state, on state-building in a tribal society, and on (sub) regional similarities



and/or strategic interests of international actors. The same applies to widely used religious arguments. In terms of the rightness of rule, some Gulf monarchs indeed retrieve legitimacy from their role as guardians of holy sites but, except for Saudi Arabia, the explanatory power of this argument seems to be much overestimated with regard to the durability of their rule.36

Legitimacy and Social Order in the Gulf The history of state-building in the Gulf region is essential for an understanding of what makes the ruling families’ rule legitimate, for the role played by the state in their claim to legitimacy and the extent to which the population accepts such claims. Here, legitimacy encompasses two but related dimensions. It refers to a set of shared political norms and values that make political rule possible. It also refers to the extent to which a substantial part of the population perceives that the ruler(s) behave in accordance with this shared set of norms and values.37 In other words, the level of legitimacy is dependent on the positive or negative perception by relevant parts of the population of the behaviour of the ruler(s) or the regime. Thus, political rule ‘is more legitimate the more that it is treated by its citizens as rightfully holding and exercising political power.’38 Based on this notion of legitimacy, do the Gulf monarchs face a legitimacy crisis? At a first glance, they seem to face multiple crises that could endanger their legitimacy: population growth; intrafamily conflicts, for example over succession matters (which remain a ‘black box’ in most cases);39 fundamental deficits in education; high unemployment rates among young graduates; the presence of millions of migrant workers who do not benefit from generous statefunded programmes (e.g. social safety nets); the subsequent changes in public life; implications of the integration into the world economy (e.g. implementation of World Trade Organization or International Labour Organization rules); plus country-specific social cleavages (such as the ‘Hadar– Bedouin cleavage’ in Kuwait40 or Sunni– Shi’i cleavages across the Gulf region). All these factors challenge fundamentally the monarchs’ claim to be the legitimate rulers.41



Yet, at the time of writing, the fall of the Gulf monarchs does not seem to be around the corner, whereas the republics that experienced the Arab Spring are on the edge.42 This empirical assessment of the gap between republics and monarchies needs a more thorough explanation, despite some recent predictions of the collapse of the Gulf monarchies in the next two to five years.43 Whether it is the shared set of norms and values between the rulers and the ruled (derived from a pre-state social order) that makes the monarchies durable, or the type of statehood, will now be examined.

Rent – the Limits of an Analytical Concept Many analysts quickly refer to oil wealth in the Gulf when trying to explain the region’s unique characteristics. For many years the concept of the ‘rentier state’ was the model of first choice to describe the political, economic and social cleavages in countries that are blessed with one of the largest stocks of oil and gas resources worldwide. In this view, almost unparalleled wealth accounts for the resilience of the Gulf monarchies, for example in the Arab Spring. Yet, it is debatable whether rents are of help in the discussion of the republic– monarchy gap in the Middle East. Of course, much of the Gulf monarchies’ legitimacy is based on an ‘informal contract’ between the ruler and the ruled, on which a diverse literature on the Middle Eastern rentier state has extensively focused. In brief, the rentier state argument explains the lack of democratic governance in oil-producing states (or other rent-seeking states) through a reversal of the Boston Tea Party slogan of 1773: ‘No taxation without representation’. The oilrich rentier state does not need to tax its people as its objective is to distribute oil wealth in exchange for political obedience or exclusion from political representation or participation. Thus it is possible to explain that relevant parts of the population consider their rulers as legitimate and as rightfully holding and exercising political power if the ‘informal contract’ continues to be honoured. At a first glance, the rentier state argument offers a partial explanation of the durability of the Gulf monarchies. But does it in any way correlate with the type of statehood? Does it have anything



to do with the specifics of an underlying social order? It does not Rentier states can be either republican or monarchical, as Algeria and Saudi Arabia show par excellence. At this point, the aim is not to elaborate on the appropriateness of rentierism as an analytical tool. There is no doubt that rentierism helps to understand an important aspect. The discovery of oil and the subsequent profits were powerful triggers in transforming tribal, clan-based societies very quickly and smoothly into societies of citizens within a modern state. Hence, the establishment of a state bureaucracy was essential to make the informal contract between the ruler and the ruled possible and to create complex patterns of distribution. The ‘informal contract’ is now an important legitimizing factor of political rule in the small Gulf monarchies in particular (but not in Saudi Arabia). However, this does not sufficiently explain why it is monarchical rule that so obviously managed to survive the quest for political change in 2011. The strong causal relationship of rents and regime type in the Middle East and even beyond (except, for example, in Norway) does not allow imply a similar linkage between rents and forms of statehood.

Monarchical Solidarity Another widely used argument centres on the notion of a ‘club of monarchies’ that aims to be surrounded by other monarchies. Despite rivalries over disputed territories and many other contentious issues, the six Gulf monarchies have pushed ahead with regional patterns on the Arab peninsula (excluding Yemen). The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was founded in 1981 as a regional organization comprising Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman. Initially, the objective was to confront new security challenges collectively – in particular the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Hence, the union of six monarchies was prompted by an external enemy, by similarities in state and power, and by a (more or less) common tribal background. Holthaus calls this bond ‘external regime legitimacy’.44 In view of the Arab Spring, this has gained even more empirical relevance. When protests in Bahrain were sparked off by the regional



dynamics of political upheaval, it was Saudi Arabia that pushed for common action by the GCC.45 It is clear that congruence of interests is the defining element in the decision whether the Gulf States support or oppose actors of political change. Hence, in March 2011 the GCC’s heads of state decided to send troops and security personnel to Bahrain in order to back the Sunni ruling family against the insurrection of the Shi’i majority. Officially, the troops were sent to help protect the territorial integrity of the country against subversive elements from abroad. In a further step, in May 2011, Jordan and Morocco were invited to apply for full membership in the GCC. In this case, the GCC would have become a club of authoritarian Sunni monarchies. It remains to be seen whether this proposal will ever materialize. At the very least, it clearly shows that the Gulf monarchies came together in the early 1980s in response to external threats. Thirty years later this co-operation mechanism is still driven by external threats: on the one hand, Iran, and, on the other, political unrest in a region that remains contagious in view of porous national borders and modern communications technology. Monarchical solidarity derived from a common background and a common social and political order, and strengthened by a shared desire to foster the power base of the ruling families – a fact essential for understanding how the six Gulf monarchies position themselves in the region and beyond. Yet, it is the regional order of states that is the frame of reference, not a ‘cultural lake with many tribes and families stretching across borders’.46 Monarchical solidarity itself is not related to the ‘cultural lake’ but a result of common strategic interests vis-a`-vis potential adversaries in the region. Much more explanatory power seems rest in the individual, but similar practices of Gulf monarchs to construct a narrative of modernization based on a common tribal past that becomes a tool-box in the formalization of relations between state and society.

Modernity: Making the Impossible Possible Gulf monarchies were built around and within a ruling family by coopting allied families, clans and relevant social groups. Tribal chiefs



became royals in a modern state by historical accident.47 This had fundamental consequences in terms of the legitimacy of their rule. Pre-state societies suddenly became societies of citizens, including new (formal) modes of interaction between the ruler and the ruled plus new patterns of loyalty. The narrative of modernization, the path of a tribal society to a modern twenty-first century society under the guidance of an ‘enlightened monarch’ as a new normative frame of reference, and the focus of a yet-to-be-finished genesis of national identity are factors of decisive importance in the Gulf monarchies. Substantial legitimacy arises from the Gulf monarchs’ selfproclaimed role as ‘modernization managers’ – as enlightened monarchs who pave the way to modernity. Whether we refer to the tallest building on earth (Dubai), the most luxurious hotel on the globe (Abu Dhabi), or the bid to host the FIFA World Championships in 2022 (Qatar), the narrative is one of making the impossible possible. In particular, the smaller monarchies in the Gulf have been trying hard to transform their societies from ones organized along tribal lines, and thus exhibiting pre-state loyalties, to societies based on the political loyalties of a modern (nation) state. At this point, reliance on tradition becomes a major tool and a means of suggesting continuity in times of fundamental social change. Traditional, prestate modes of interaction derived from the time of tribalism do not vanish. Moreover, they are now institutionalized as part of the altered setting and challenges of the (nation) state, but remain a normative point of reference in this new, modern context. The emir, sultan or king fulfils the roles of modernization manager and traditional ruler in one person, and thus derives legitimacy to the extent to which the ruled – that is to say, the citizens – perceive that he behaves according to the shared set of norms and values derived from a pre-state era, which are also accompanied by the distribution of rents. At this point it is indispensable to look into the meaning of tradition – also in the light of the much criticized distinction between tradition and modernity. Tradition means the reproduction and transmission of habits, norms and modes of behaviour within a social group and/or between generations. Tradition encompasses more than practices, customs and morals, because it is derived from



institutionalized regularities and modes of constructed, but transferred, social action. These regularities of social action should not be understood as static, but as fluid products of permanent reflexivity and constituitive part of the present.48 Being fluid,49 the border separating practices, customs and morals from tradition makes differentiations difficult, particularly in view of other ritualized acts of groups and individuals.50 In this chapter, tradition encompasses the recourse to historically grown and transferred modes of rule and interaction that precede the establishment of the twentieth-century state as a normative frame of reference. These modes may either be religiously determined (e.g. shura: see note 55) or reformulated modes of action, interaction and organization of the tribes of the Arab peninsula (e.g. majlis: see note 54; in sharp contrast Hobsbawm’s and Ranger’s concept of ‘invented tradition’51). Traditional forms of rule from the time of tribalism, long before the emergence of modern states, are not abrogated, but rather modified in order to make them fully applicable (e.g. majlis, shura, diwaniyya). The latter implies a certain degree of social pluralism, laying the foundations for a traditional tribal corporatism that is reshaped and formalized in the context of the modern state. This is part of a ‘ruling bargain’52 that consists of informal rules of decision making and compromise between the ruling famillies and their citizens. The arrangement keeps the political system intact and the ruling family in power, but allows for formalized patterns of participation (majlis) and consultation (shura). In the Gulf monarchies, these norms and values of social order are older than the state-building processes that began with Britain’s sudden withdrawal. Although this Gulf-specific, pre-state social order can be considered essential in understanding the durability of the Gulf monarchies today, the state is now the more or less accepted normative frame of reference within which these practices unfold.53 In the first half of the twentieth century, these non-state monarchies became state actors and launched the institutionalization of pre-state modes of rule, interaction (majlis54) and consultation (shura55). Different forms of the pre-state social order were reformulated in a new context, but at the same time they became sources of normative



inspiration (for instance parliament-like assemblies in most Gulf monarchies are called majlis al-shura). Although traditional social interaction and interaction between the ruler and the ruled, continue to coexist side by side, they are almost completely incorporated within the framework of the modern state. We may even term these traditional features neo-traditional since they are embedded in new modes of interaction created by the modern state; electronic consultations in the social media based on the principles governing the workings of the Majlis are a case in point. Lucas argues that ‘the survival of both types of monarchical regimes [those of Morroc and Jordan on the one hand and those in the Gulf on the other] can be traced not to “tradition” but to institutional flexibility in attentive management of the coalition of supporters and society at large’.56 Indeed, it is both: it is flexibility in making use of historically grown modes of interaction and rule on which institutions are built. Menaldo is right when arguing that ‘a monarchical form of government is effective at sustaining cultural norms through traditions and rituals that foster historical memory and predictability . . . The king’s actions are anticipated and predictable because they are part of a standardized routine’57 The consultative assemblies of the Gulf monarchies and their designation as majlis al-shura offer telling examples. The monarchies even stress the consultative element of this institution as an unchangeable element in their respective constitutions.58 On the one hand, using historically developed modes of interaction and rule may be seen as an institutional flexibility to enable the ruling family to maintain its power base. On the other hand, it also promotes continuity in times of rapid social change. It suggests a bond between the past of a society and its presence that is blessed with modern comforts under the guidance of the ‘enlightened monarch’. Besides parliament-like chambers of consultation in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Oman, there are also chambers in Kuwait and Bahrain that deserve to be called parliaments in the narrow sense of the term. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to elaborate on the parliamentary character of Kuwait’s majlis al-umma and Bahrain’s majlis al-nuwwab. However, the



Kuwaiti example shows convincingly how a tradition of participation rather than consultation gained ground and automatically had to be included in the constitution and, despite setbacks in the 1970s and 1980s, became part of the political reality.59 In Bahrain we see how a tradition of political activism along confessional lines of contention shaped the country’s political and social order and vice versa.60 Hence, the pre-state social order becomes formalized in the modern state and remains a substantial source of legitimacy for the monarch. But these practices now take place within the state as the widely accepted normative frame of reference.

Conclusion In the debate on the durability of monarchies in the Middle East in general and the Gulf region in particular, there is a plethora of different arguments and variables. In the case of the Gulf monarchies, three explanatory dimensions were identified, with numerous subcategories. Many of the latter were not mentioned here, especially those relating exclusively to Arab monarchies outside the Gulf region, such as networks of privilege around the king (e.g. makhzen in Morocco) or the symbolic unity of the nation in the person of the king (e.g. in Jordan). However, this discussion has highlighted a more complex conclusion. Four points emerge: First, distinction state and regime is futile in case of the Gulf monarchies as both terms are inextricably interwoven in a situation where the state was built by and around a pre-state regime. The name of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia provides a telling example. Research on autocracies in the Middle East has only rudimentarily taken account of this, as it was probably too much influenced by works on authoritarian regimes in republics. Second, the understanding of the durability of political rule in the Gulf political change included must refer to the state as a normative frame of reference – a state-centred approach – despite the evidently valid impact of pre-state settings that are now incorporated in the state as the accepted normative frame of reference. Third, analytical approaches, focusing on social order,61 are also extremely helpful in



understanding the genesis of young states whose social and political order is derived from tribalism and where in spite of a ‘face-lift the older order remains a source of normative inspiration’ in the structure of the state. Fourth, a state-centred approach is needed to identify the role of this social order in terms of legitimacy of political rule. This is because the ruling dynasties – and thus the states – rely on this prestate social order for state-building, of a still ongoing process of nation building, and in reasons of legitimlacy. Incorporating tradition into modernization is used to create a narrative of common descent within the modern state as the widely accepted point of reference.62 On the one hand, this narrative is fundamental for the ruling families this narrative in legitimating their rule. On the other hand, for the scholarly observer this nexus offers an additional explanation for how political change does or does not take place in the Gulf monarchies, and the specific rules of the games by which it is determined.

Notes 1 This chapter is based on an argument developed in a paper co-authored with Claudia Derichs, published in the Journal of Arabian Studies 4/2 (2014). 2 Larry Diamond, ‘A Fourth Wave or False Start? Democracy after the Arab Spring’, Foreign Affairs 90/3 (2011), available at; Roy, Olivier, ‘The Transformation of the Arab World’, Journal of Democracy 23/3 (2012), p. 6. 3 Holger Albrecht, ‘Revolution oder Coup d’E´tat? Die Rolle des Milita¨rs in der a¨gyptischen Politik’, in H. Albrecht and T. Demmelhuber (eds), Revolution und Regimewandel in A¨gypten (Baden-Baden: Nomos Publishing House, 2013), pp. 63 – 86. 4 Katja Mielke, Conrad Schetter and Andreas Wilde, ‘Dimensions of Social Order: Empirical Fact, Analytical Framework and Boundary Concept’, in Centre for Development Research, Working Paper Series 78 (University of Bonn, 2011), p. 5. 5 Ibid., p. 5. 6 Ibid. 7 For a similar but more general claim, see Andre´ Bank, ‘Die neue Autoritarismusforschung: Ansa¨tze, Erkenntnisse und konzeptionalle Fallstricke’, in Holger Albrecht and Rolf Frankenberger (eds), Autoritarismus Reloaded. Neuere Ansa¨tze und Erkenntnisse der Autokratieforschung (Baden-Baden: Nomos Publishing House, 2010), p. 36. 8 Steffen Hertog, Princes, Brokers, and Bureaucrats: Oil and the State in Saudi Arabia (London: Cornell University Press, 2010), p. 10.



9 See the first constitutional documents of the republics, in which the people are the sole source of sovereignty and power. 10 See for example John Waterbury, The Egypt of Nasser and Sadat. The Political Economy of Two Regimes (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983). 11 Eberhard Kienle, A Grand Delusion. Democracy and Economic Reform in Egypt (London: I.B.Tauris, 2001). 12 Thomas Demmelhuber and Stephan Roll, ‘Herrschaftssicherung in A¨gypten. Zur Rolle von Reformen und Wirtschaftsoligarchen’, in Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, SWP-Studie 20 (Berlin, 2007). 13 Lisa Anderson, ‘Absolutism and the Resilience of Monarchy in the Middle East’, Political Science Quarterly 106/1 (1991), p. 6. 14 Christopher Davidson, Dubai. The Vulnerability of Success (London: Hurst & Co., 2008) and Abu Dhabi. Oil and Beyond (London: Hurst & Co., 2009). 15 Jill Crystal, ‘Political Reform and the Prospects for Democratic Transition in the Gulf’, FRIDE Working Paper, no. 11 (2005) Madrid, p. 5. 16 For an outstanding case study on Saudi Arabia, see Steffen Hertog, Princes, Brokers, and Bureaucrats. 17 Russell E. Lucas, ‘Monarchical Authoritarianism. Survival and Political Liberalization in a Middle Eastern Regime Type’, International Journal of Middle East Studies 36/1 (2004), p. 106. 18 Anderson, ‘Absolutism and the Resilience’, p. 3. 19 Ibid., p. 4. 20 See also Malcom H. Kerr, The Arab Cold War: Jamal ‘Abd al-Nasser and His Rivals, 1958– 1970 (London: Oxford University Press, 1971) and Andre´ Bank, Thomas Richter and Anna Sunik, ‘Long-Term Monarchical Survival in the Middle East: A Configurational Comparison, 1945– 2012’, Democratization, online first, 2013, available at 13510347.2013.845555#.UtQMFLQUmd4. 21 Michael C. Hudson, Arab Politics. The Search for Legitimacy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977), p. 25. 22 Samuel P. Huntington, ‘The Political Modernization of Traditional Monarchies’, Daedalus 95/3 (1966), pp. 763– 88 and Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven, CT, 1968, Yale University Press). 23 See also Daniel Lerner, The Passing of Traditional Society (New York: The Free Press, 1964) and Manfred Halpern, The Politics of Social Change in the Middle East and North Africa (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963). 24 Hudson, Arab Politics, p. 165. 25 Michael Herb, All in the Family. Absolutism, Revolution, and Democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies (New York: State University Press of New York, 1999). 26 Lucas, ‘Monarchical Authoritarianism’, p. 106. 27 Katja Niethammer, ‘Familienbetriebe mit Anpassungsschwierigkeiten. Perspektiven und Grenzen politischer Reform in den Golfmonarchien’, in Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), SWP-Studie 19 (Berlin, 2008).



28 Michael Herb, All in the Family, pp. 1 – 19. See also Gerd Nonneman, ‘Rentiers and Autocrats, Monarchs and Democrats, State and Society: The Middle East between Globalization, Human “Agency”, and Europe’, International Affairs 77/1 (2001), pp. 155–7. 29 The term ‘regime’ is defined, first, as a group of actors that enforces its power claim on the top of the power pyramid, and second, by establishing and embarking on formal and informal mechanisms (such as clientelism and patronage) that are not only vertical but may also be horizontal in their ties to relevant factions/elites within the ruling elite. Mechanisms need not be part of the institutional order; they may be created used to circumvent institutional mechanisms and consolidate authoritarian rule. 30 Thomas Demmelhuber, ‘Der Pharao, das Regime und der Staat. Regime- und Elitenwandel nach Mubarak’, in H. Albrecht and T. Demmelhuber (eds), Revolution und Regimewandel in A¨gypten (Baden-Baden: Nomos Publishing House, 2013), p. 53. 31 Hazem Beblawi and Giacomo Luciani, The Rentier State (London: Croom Helm, 1987); Jill Crystal, Oil and Politics in the Gulf. Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990) and Kuwait. The Transformation of an Oil State (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992); Steffen Hertog, Princes, Brokers, and Bureaucrats. 32 Leonie Holthaus, Regimelegitimita¨t und regionale Kooperation im Golf-Kooperationsrat [Gulf Cooperation Council] (Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang, 2010) and Bank, Richter and Sunik, ‘Long-Term Monarchical Survival’, de/artikel/32405. 33 Davidson, Dubai. The Vulnerability of Success and Abu Dhabi. Oil and Beyond; Paul Aarts, ‘Post-War Kuwait and the Process of Democratization. The Persistence of Political Tribalism’, in A. Abd al-Karim (ed.), Change and Development in the Gulf (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999). 34 Joseph A. Ke´chichian, Succession in Saudi Arabia (New York: Palgrave, 2001) and Power and Succession in Arab Monarchies: A Reference Guide (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2008); John E. Peterson, ‘The Nature of Succession in the Gulf’, Middle East Journal 55/4 (2001), pp. 580– 601. 35 Mehran Kamrava, ‘Royal Factionalism and Political Liberalization in Qatar’, Middle East Journal 63/3 (2009), pp. 401– 20; John E. Peterson, ‘Qatar and the World: Branding for a Micro-State’, Middle East Journal 60/4 (2006), pp. 732 – 48; Justin Dargin, ‘Qatar’s Natural Gas: The Foreign-Policy Driver’, Middle East Policy 14/3, (2007), pp. 136– 42. 36 Hossein G. Razi, ‘Legitimacy, Religion, and Nationalism in the Middle East’, American Political Science Review, 84/1 (1990), pp. 69 – 91. 37 Ibid., p. 70. 38 Bruce Gilley, ‘The Determinants of State Legitimacy: Results for 72 Countries’, International Political Science Review 27/1 (2006), p. 48. 39 The exception proves the rule. The Hollywood-like succession debate in Ras alKhaimah (UAE) and the struggle of the two sons of late Emir Saqr al-Qasimi





43 44 45

46 47 48 49

50 51 52 53 54

THE ARAB UPRISINGS will definitely not become a role model for other dynasties (see Associated Press, ‘Shaykh Saqr al-Qasimi, Ruler of Arab Emirate, Dies at 90’, in New York Times, 27 October 2010). The Hadars – mostly Sunni – became urban dwellers a long time ago, beginning in the nineteenth century, and were the first to benefit from the oil boom. They now occupy higher positions in the state or the economy and almost exclusively make up the Kuwaiti merchant class. This is in contrast to the Bedouin tribes that settled in the later twentieth century and occupy less prestigious professions (see Peterson 1977). See Thomas Demmelhuber, ‘Political Reform in the Gulf Monarchies. Making Family Dynasties Ready for the 21st Century’, Orient – German Journal for Politics, Economics and Culture of the Middle East, I (2011), p. 8. For a conceptualization of the legitimacy crisis in the republics, see Christoph Schumann, ‘Folgt der Revolution die Demokratie, Die Perspektiven der Arabischen Welt nach dem Jahr 2011’, in H. Neuhaus (ed.), Demokratie – Hoffnung und Krise (Atzelsberger Gespra¨che 2012) (Erlangen: Universita¨tsbund Erlangen-Nu¨rnberg, 2013), pp. 65–99 and ‘Die politische Artikulation der Gesellschaft. Politische Ordnung und Revolte in der Arabischen Welt’, in M. Reder, H. Pfeifer, and M.-D. Cojocaru (eds), Was ha¨lt Gesellschaften zusammen? Der gefa¨hrdete Umgang mit Pluralita¨t (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2013), pp. 67–88. Christopher Davidson, After the Shaykhs. The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies (London: Hurst & Co., 2012), p. ix. Holthaus, Regimelegitimita¨t und regionale Kooperation, artikel/32405. Not surprisingly, the protests in Bahrain got only limited coverage on AlJazeera and were first and foremost presented as if they were exclusively driven by foreign forces. This has been in stark contrast to the prominent and outspoken role played by the Qatari royal satellite channel in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, or more recently in Syria. Crystal, ‘Political Reform’, p. 5. Anderson, ‘Absolutism and the Resilience’, p. 3. Edward Shils, Tradition (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 13. Max Weber, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (Tu¨bingen: J. C. B. Mohr, Paul Siebeck, 1972, 5th edn), pp. 191– 92 and Shmuel N. Eisenstadt, Tradition, Wandel und Modernita¨t (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1979), pp. 43 – 6. Gerald L. Bruns, ‘What is Tradition?’, New Literary History 22/1 (1991), pp. 1–21 and Dean C. Hammer, ‘Meaning and Tradition’, Polity 24/4 (1992), p. 558. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (eds), The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, UK, 2006). Davidson, Abu Dhabi. Oil and Beyond (Power and Politics in the Gulf) (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011). Exceptions include, for example the Biduns (stateless Bedouins) in Kuwait. Majlis may be understood as a socio-political practice in traditional, kin-based organizational structures, which implies an open meeting by a member of



56 57

58 59

60 61 62


the royal family hosting lower ranking members of his community – e.g. associated families or tribal groups. Traditionally, it was the only possibility to get in direct touch with the ruler, to complain or simply to ask for financial assistance. The ruling family deduced autonomous legitimacy and power monopoly from this traditional form of responsible interaction between the ruler and the ruled. Shura stands for consultation and it is believed to be the method by which the pre-Islamic Arabian tribes selected leaders and made major decisions. Mentioned twice in the Qur’an, it was used as a consultative mechanism in the history of Islamic empires. Lucas, ‘Monarchical Authoritarianism’, p. 117. Victor Menaldo, Why an Arab Spring May Never Arrive: Political Culture and Stability in the Middle East and North Africa’s Monarchies (University of Washington, 2011, download under¼1977706) (article in review), last accessed on 4 August 2012, pp. 14–5. See: Omani constitution, Article 9, Basic Law of 1996. See: Mary Ann Te´treault, Stories of Democracy. Politics and Society in Contemporary Kuwait (New York, 2000, Columbia University Press) and Michael Herb, ‘Emirs and Parliaments in the Gulf’, Journal of Democracy 13/4 (2002), pp. 41 – 7. See: Michael Schmidmayr, Politische Opposition in Bahrain. Stabilita¨t und Wandel in einem autorita¨ren Regime (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2011). Katja Mielke, Conrad Schetter and Andreas Wilde, ‘Dimensions of Social Order’, (Bon, 2011). Shmuel N. Eisenstadt, Tradition, Wandel und Modernita¨t, p. 280.



It is striking to see that in the 1950s and 1960s Arab monarchies seemed doomed, challenged by the growth of Arab nationalism and the underlying idea that power had to rest with the people, even if in practice the people were not really empowered. Although many regimes aggregated considerable power, some of them were quite popular, such as Egypt under Nasser. Five monarchies disappeared and formally became republics: Egypt (1952), Tunisia (1957), Iraq (1958), Yemen (1962) and Libya (1969),1 and the winds of change seemed to blow towards the demise of yet other monarchies. At the beginning of the 1960s Manfred Halpern, Professor of Politics at Princeton University, wrote that in a changing Middle East two trends were noticeable: kings, feudalists, landlords and the traditional urban upper class were declining elites, being superseded by a new middle class that included salaried civilians and military politicians, whom he saw as both a revolutionary and a stabilizing force.2 This kind of approach, inspired by modernization theory and highly popular at the time, proved to be partly wrong, at least when



it came to kings. Indeed, no other king was toppled after Qadafi had seized power in Tripoli, even if some went through difficult times. Most notable among these were King Hassan II of Morocco, who survived two military coups in 1971 and1972, and King Hussein of Jordan, who was involved in a violent confrontation with the Palestinian resistance movement at the beginning of the 1970s. Today, in the aftermath of the ‘Arab Spring’, the situation looks much more unstable in republics than in monarchies. Granted, not all Arab republics witnessed sustained protests (Algeria, Iraq3), but the fact remains that the countries where the protests were sustained and stronger were overwhelmingly republics. In three cases (Egypt, Tunisia, Libya) former regimes were overthrown, sometimes by military might, with help from outside (Libya). In other cases, the future of regimes is uncertain, to say the least: protest was repressed by the rulers, leading either to a shaky compromise (Yemen) or to a bloody war (Syria). Comparatively, the eight monarchies in the Arab League4 passed more easily through these difficult times. Only in Bahrain did we witness an armed intervention, to crush a protest led by Shi’is. In the majority of monarchies, either nothing happened at all (Qatar, United Arab Emirates), or calm was quickly restored (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman). Finally, in two cases, Morocco and Jordan, the protests were peaceful but enduring, leading to institutional changes that demonstrated the adaptive strategy employed by these monarchies. This is not a guarantee of long-term survival, but it has at least mitigated protest for the time being. The different paths taken by republics and monarchies have been repeatedly emphasized,5 but systematic explanations are scarce. One exception is an article by Yom and Gause.6 After dismissing the culturalist approach, which stresses the traditional religious and tribal legitimacy of Arab kings, as well as the institutional approach, which focuses on the peculiar nature of kingship, allowing the ruler to stand above everyday politics, they conclude that the new monarchical exceptionalism can best be explained strategically by a combination of three actors: broad-based coalitions; hydrocarbon rents; and foreign diplomatic, economic and military patronage. This explanation is far from satisfactory. Indeed, Egypt under Mubarak



was based on a large coalition of networks of local notables gathered under the umbrella of the ruling National Democratic Party, and it could rely on the strong support of the Western world, especially the United States. It can even be argued that Egypt had a multi-stranded rent economy based on a mix of hydrocarbon exports, remittances from migrant Egyptian workers in the Gulf, incomes from tourism and royalties from the Suez Canal. However, despite those three structural assets, Mubarak lost power very quickly. On the other hand, monarchies that had fewer assets (like Morocco and Jordan, with their total lack of hydrocarbon rents) were able to cope successfully with the agitation of the Arab Spring. Thus we end up returning to the institutional factor: the organization of power around a king may have explanatory value in order to understand at least why some monarchies – especially those deprived of high redistributional capacity – were able till now to negotiate their way rather skillfully among many obstacles.

The Virtues of Monarchies Monarchy is one of the oldest political regimes, proven able to survive despite the democratic zeitgeist that goes so directly against the embodiment of power in one chosen person. Monarchy rests on two basic principles. First, it is hereditary in nature: kingship is handed down from one king to another because they are linked by blood ties (except when there is a takeover by another family that sets up a new dynasty). Succession may be based on various rules. In Europe, it is primogeniture: by law or custom, the first-born son inherits the crown (in the twentieth century, primogeniture has generally been extended to women in all major European kingdoms). In the Arab world, succession rules are generally different: they operate within the extended family, not necessarily along patrilinear lines7 (as in Morocco), but sometimes on a collateral basis (among brothers as in Saudi Arabia). This system is complex to manage, as there is considerable uncertainty concerning inheritance of power, but it also has the advantage that qualified kings can be chosen within the family, while in a primogeniture system the ‘risk of



having children, monsters, or imbeciles for rulers’,8 as Jean-Jacques Rousseau once wrote, is high. However, the hereditary principle ensures the continuity of the domination of a family; it guarantees stability in the transfer of power. The second asset of the monarchy is its strong symbolic function – it embodies the permanency of the state. Governments are taking care of the day-to-day management of the state; parliaments, through the passing of laws, take part in the functioning of the state. However, the king represents the state above and beyond political contingencies. Of course, the real powers of kings vary widely: quite limited in Europe, they are very extensive in Arab monarchies. Monarchies, however, always display what Max Weber called ‘traditional authority’, i.e. domination ‘established on a belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions and the legitimacy of those exercising authority under them’.9 If we apply these two principles on which monarchies are built to the Arab world, we arrive at two observations. The hereditary rule worked generally rather well in monarchies that kept their monarchic features from the time of independence till today. In many cases, succession came about without too many obstacles. There were some palace revolutions, as in Oman when Qabus Ibn Said toppled his father (1970) and became the new sultan. There were also some last-minute changes in the order of succession, as when on his deathbed King Hussein removed his brother Crown Prince Hassan as the designated heir and replaced him by his own son, Prince Abdullah, who became king two weeks later (February 1999). However, these unexpected changes have not structurally weakened the hereditary principle. The symbolic function of the monarchy has also been an asset. Generally speaking, Arab monarchies cannot, with the exception of Morocco, claim a long historical tradition as they were creations of the twentieth century. The advent of monarchy is inseparable from British colonialism. British rulers introduced in all their colonies the monarchic principle that was familiar to them. However, they did not empower just any tribal family, but the one that gradually rose above others (Al Bu Sa’id in Oman, Al Sabah in Kuwait, Al Thaˆni in Qatar, Al Khalifa in Bahrain). A dynastic legitimacy was thus built.



What is more, a direct religious legitimacy played a strong role in Jordan and Morocco, where the kings claimed to be sharifs, descendants of the Prophet Mohamed. The source of authority makes a decisive difference between monarchies and republics and unquestionably gives an advantage to the former, because they recognize the specific legitimacy of the king. Indeed, even if some monarchic constitutions state that ‘sovereignty belongs to the Nation’ (Constitution of Morocco, 2011), ultimate authority belongs to the king as ‘Head of State, His Supreme Representative, Symbol of the unity of the Nation, Guarantor of the permanence and of the continuity of the State and Supreme Arbiter between the institutions’ (Article 42, Constitution of Morocco). The authority of the king is institutionally independent of popular will. The best embodiment of this autonomy is the fact that the succession of the king is not subject to an election, but is hereditary and thus removed from popular will. The situation looks quite different in republics. As stated in the constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt (1971): ‘Sovereignty is for the people alone and they are the source of authority’ (Article 3). So long as democracy is the rule (with regular elections), there is no major problem. However, as soon as there is a contradiction between principles and reality, difficulties arise. This was precisely the case before 2011 in Arab republics where the gap between lofty rhetoric and harsh reality was generally wide. This crying contradiction was stressed already 20 years ago by Lisa Anderson, who wrote: The republican state maker, in appealing to notions of popular sovereignty to justify his rule, finds much sentimental support among the previously disadvantaged. But he also lays himself open to challenge as an autocrat betraying his own principles. Certainly the populist regimes in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria have all faced serious criticism as traitors to the egalitarian ideals they so fervently espouse.10 What is more, not only did republican statesmen act in complete violation of the principle of popular sovereignty that they pretended to



cherish, many also played with the idea of establishing a republican dynasty, which is completely at odds with republicanism. Only one leader succeeded in his endeavour – Hafez al-Asad, who was succeeded by his son Bashar in 2000, but others dreamed of doing the same: Muammar Qadafi with Saif al-Islam, Hosni Mubarak with Jamal. Arab presidents for life,11 as Roger Owen calls them, wanted precisely to build monarchical presidential regimes, an institutional oxymoron. Indeed, in such cases we have two maximalist contradictions: one between the ritual glorification of the power of the people (by the constitution, the political rhetoric of the leadership) and their sheer political impotency; another between the renewal of the executive in republics and the will to build a trans-generational republican dynasty. Monarchies are more at ease on those two points: they are based on an institutional limitation of popular power (the king has his own legitimacy) and the hereditary transmission of power from the king to another member of his family is entirely legitimate. In times of trouble, authoritarian republics thus have more to fear than monarchies (both authoritarian and more liberalized), because the former are very quickly short of legitimacy while the latter are not. And these times of troubles are more prone to arise precisely when the regimes are trying to consolidate a monarchical presidency in order to keep power within the family. It is surely not by sheer coincidence that the collapse of the Egyptian and Tunisian regimes came about while Hosni Mubarak was in power since 1981 and Zin El Abidine Bin Ali since 1987, both contemplating ways to perpetuate the power of their ‘family clans’. Because, by definition, Arab republics lack well-established rules for family succession, they are particularly vulnerable when this question arises. Till now we have treated monarchies as a bloc and contrasted them with republics. However, it is obvious that a fault line divides dynastic from non-dynastic monarchies.

Familial and Personal Monarchies Almost 15 years ago Michael Herb drew a distinction between dynastic and non-dynastic monarchies.12 He calls dynastic



monarchies those monarchies of the Gulf where the ruling family controls key ministries (finance, defence, foreign affairs).13 Conversely, non-dynastic monarchies (Jordan, Morocco) are the ones where the king’s relatives do not maintain any sort of monopoly over key cabinet posts. The label ‘dynastic/non-dynastic’ is not particularly felicitous, because by definition kingship is based on the dynastic principle. We can keep the distinction, which is indeed a seminal one, by rephrasing it in order to contrast ‘family monarchies’ with ‘personal monarchies’. In the former, the ruling family monopolizes the highest offices of state and controls the main state institutions; in the latter, the monarch, as the head of state, is the pivotal figure of the institutional framework, but ministerial and top bureaucracy positions are not filled with family members. In family monarchies, because the ruling family closely dominates the state and its resources, the regime is deeply entrenched. Coup-making is rather difficult; succession is subjected to a regulated deliberation among family members that facilitates a smooth transfer of power.14 Herb’s argument that ‘no such regime has fallen to revolution’ has been confirmed by the developments of the last three years. Indeed, either nothing happened at all (Qatar, United Arab Emirates) or calm returned rather quickly (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman). The only exception is Bahrain, where the growing protests were repressed by military means (in March 2011, the Peninsula Shield forces, made up of Saudi and Emirati soldiers, entered Bahrain), but have nevertheless continued in a more subdued way since then. However, Bahrain does not invalidate Herb’s theory, because the archipelago is in a very specific situation with a royal dynasty coming from the Sunni minority (30 per cent of the population), and ruling over a Shi’i majority which is subjected to various discriminatory policies. This dynastic monarchism helped to put in motion immediate redistributive policies, which assuaged the willingness to protest. In February– March 2011, Saudi Arabia presented a welfare plan that included:



the building of 500,000 houses, the setting of a minimum wage of 3,000 Saudi Riyals (560 Euros) in the public sector, one-time bonus payments for incumbent civil servants, the creation of a general unemployment assistance scheme, budget increases for various public credit agencies, supplementary funds for a number of religious organizations as well as the creation of more than 100,000 new jobs, among them 60,000 new jobs in the Ministry of Interior.15 Oman and Bahrain took very similar measures. In Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE the measures were more low key just because they were not really needed, as protest was minimal or non-existent. The fact that these familial monarchies are also rentier states was thus an asset, but it is the combination between disposable oil revenues and dynastic monarchism that helped them to contain the Arab Spring (once again, with the exception of Bahrain). The rent argument in itself does not explain anything. Of more interest than family monarchies are the two other monarchies, Morocco and Jordan, which are very often lumped together, for good reason. Indeed, they have much in common. First, the king’s relatives do not maintain any sort of monopoly over key cabinet posts. Of course key positions (defence, foreign affairs, interior) are always handed to strong political supporters, because the regime requires absolute loyalty in strategic positions. Second, both countries are poor non-rentier states, having neither oil nor natural gas to fill the coffers of the state with financial resources that can be redistributed to the population in order to buy social peace. Third, they have been shaken by political instability, which has of course varied over time. It was more severe in the 1970s, with assassination attempts against both Hassan II and Hussein, but did not altogether disappear afterwards. It took the form, mainly in the 1980s, of socalled ‘bread riots’ which spread after the lifting of subsidies for essentials (wheat, rice, sugar). Fourth, both countries are built on the same institutional basis: in the generic sense, they are constitutional monarchies that have followed a similar path, leading them from strong authoritarianism towards a more liberalized regime with a



more open political scene. This adaptive strategy has been used again since January 2011 in both countries. Because our argument stresses the constitutional monarchism of Jordan and Morocco, we should clarify what exactly we mean by that. Indeed, the expression ‘constitutional monarchism’ suffers from a double misunderstanding. On one hand, it is overstretched and used to describe every monarchy endowed with a parliament and a constitution (or a constitutional charter or basic law). Such a definition means that Qatar and Oman are treated as constitutional monarchies, which is rather excessive. No general election has ever taken place in Qatar, and in Oman the majlis al-shura is devoid of any effective power.16 On the other hand, monarchies described as constitutional are quite often only those modern monarchies, predominantly located in Europe, where the king/queen has mainly a symbolic role and where power rests almost exclusively within an elected chamber of deputies (Sweden, Norway, Spain). In many ways, apart from the fact that the head of state is an hereditary king/queen, few features distinguish these kingdoms from republics, as they share a common adherence to representative democracy. In many ways, these countries could be best described as royal democracies (or crowned democracies) rather than constitutional monarchies. The latter expression should be kept – if we want to use it as an analytical tool – for political regimes that have three characteristics: (i) the king rules (and not only reigns); (ii) he has to share power, in various ways, with one chamber, elected by universal suffrage on a regular basis, in free elections, and which has genuine legislative power (a second ‘upper’ chamber, called a senate or council, may eventually complete the parliamentary structure); (iii) there is a constitutional framework that limits the temptation of the arbitrary and protects basic rights, even if imperfectly. If we adopt that definition, Jordan and Morocco – together with Kuwait and Bahrain – are formal constitutional monarchies that find themselves along a continuum from limited monarchy, where the power of the royal ruler remains central (Bahrain), to a semi-parliamentarian monarchy, where power is more evenhandedly distributed between the king and the parliament (Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco).



Morocco and Jordan: an Adaptive Strategy If we concentrate our attention on the two ‘personal’ constitutional monarchies, Morocco and Jordan, we can see that in the last 20 years preceding the Arab Spring they followed a similar path of liberalization of authoritarianism, with some differences. Under King Hassan, Morocco was for a long time a clearly authoritarian monarchy. Before the constitutional revision of 1992, political competition was strongly controlled, on the one hand, with several pro-monarchical political groupings (Rassemblement National des Inde´pendants, Constitutional Union) which played a pivotal role in government and, on the other, the ‘historic parties’ (Istiqlal, Union socialiste des forces populaires, Party of Progress and Socialism) which played the role of ‘legitimate’ opposition. However, this incorporation of opposition parties into the political system was an important first step in the rebuilding of the political pact between the monarchy and all political actors. In 1993, the first fair elections took place and paved the way to two important developments during next general elections. In 1997, the first Islamists entered the House of Representatives (9 out of 333) and the leader of the largest opposition party, Abd alRahman Youssoufi (USFP), became prime minister. Ten years later, in 2007, Abbas El Fassi, the leader of Istiqlal, another ‘historic’ party, became head of the government while the Islamist Justice and Development Party took second place in the lower chamber. The last 20 years have thus shown that the monarchy was able to agree to a gradual democratization of the political game in exchange for an overall recognition of the centrality of the monarchy by all political forces. In Jordan, the political opening started in 1989, renewing an electoral cycle that was interrupted in 1974 by the dissolution of the chamber. This move was a direct consequence of violent riots in Ma’an, in the south, among the Transjordanian sector of the population who had been presumed loyal to the regime. This pattern is a recurrent one: disturbances among the ‘pillars’ of the regime hurt by an economic policy that affects them negatively, leading to a



calculated move by the monarchy to ease unrest. After the lifting of martial law and the introduction of a multi-party system at the beginning of the 1990s, the electoral process became more or less regular, but the structural difficulty of the Jordanian monarchy remained unchanged: how to liberalize politically without undermining the supremacy of the king and the global stability of the system? The answer was to have free elections, but constrained by electoral rules and practices that would ring-fence any disruption. Two main tools have been used. The first is the introduction of the single non-transferable vote system, under which every voter choses one candidate within a district. The result is obvious: voters tend to prefer the worthy candidates who share the same tribal or clan affiliation, to the detriment of those who have a clear political agenda. The second tool is gerrymandering, with electoral districts designed in such a way that they penalize big cities (the capital Amman, Zarqa, Irbid) while favouring smaller cities in the south and, even more, the so-called Bedouin districts. Thus in the Amman governorate with its seven districts, one deputy represents around 100,000 residents, while in Kerak with its six districts one deputy represents 25,000 residents. In the so-called Bedouin districts (nine deputies) the imbalance is even more marked. These inequalities in apportionment have a clear aim: to limit the political weight of the Palestinian population, concentrated in cities, of whom the regime is suspicious and, conversely, to strengthen the weight of the East Bankers (Bedouins, urbanized notables) who are the sociological basis of the regime. The internal tension within this ‘contained liberalization’ helps to explain that the degree of inclusiveness of the Jordanian monarchy has been much more limited than that of its Moroccan counterpart. Indeed, before the Arab Spring, the unfair rules of the game have led twice (1997, 2010) to the boycott of general elections in Jordan by the main opposition party, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), spearhead of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose strongholds are in urban Palestinian areas. The dynamics we have seen during the 1990s and 2000s, with a growing and gradual inclusion of former opposition forces in Morocco and a containment of the main Islamist opposition party at



the periphery of the political system in Jordan, have been at work again since 2011. In the Sharifian kingdom, King Mohamed VI responded swiftly to the first large sit-in in Casablanca in late February. Four months later, on 1 July, a new constitution was approved via referendum by almost 98 per cent of the voters (threequarters of the registered voters). It innovated in three areas: it strengthened the powers of the prime minister (among other things, by securing his majority in the House of Representatives); it created independent institutions for the protection of basic rights; and it redefined the king’s arbitration and decision-making powers. At the end of November 2011, the Islamist Justice and Development Party became the first party (with 107 seats out of 395) and its leader Abd al-Illah Benkirane was designated as prime minister by the king. With this ‘broad and conservative reform’,17 the constitutionalization of the monarchy has progressed and the demonstrations in the streets stopped altogether. In Jordan, Abdullah II walked much more on a tightrope, not least because he faced cotrasting agendas for reform. The more outspoken criticisms came, once again, from the ‘loyalist’ East Bankers, who were angry with the king because the redistribution of funds by the state declined as wealth increased in the Palestiniandominated private sector. While some of the East Bankers wanted a ‘conservative revolution’, asking for a strengthening of the traditional link between Transjordanians and the monarchy, others asked for a genuine political reform empowering parliament. This last demand was even more clearly raised by the IAF, which had much to win from such a move. Although the IAF was part of the National Front for Reform headed by Ahmad Obeidat, it adopted a rather cautious strategy of contestation due to its heavily Palestinian-Jordanian membership, which laid it open to be accused of disloyalty.18 Faced with such a heterogeneous opposition, the king chose the small-step strategy with cosmetic constitutional amendments (creation up of a constitutional court, supervision of elections by an independent election commission). On the much disputed question of the electoral system he adopted a half-hearted reform, keeping the single-vote system for 108 deputies while



introducing a small amount of proportional representation on a national level for 27 seats (in addition, 15 seats are reserved for women under a quota system). Once again, the IAF and other smaller opposition groups boycotted the January 2013 general elections, criticizing this half-measure. As expected, loyalists easily got the upper hand, even if Islamists were elected as independents. Although the range of the reform in Jordan was much more limited, the monarchy was able to contain the protest and, despite its shortcomings, to present itself as a pillar of stability in a region in dramatic turmoil.

Two General Lessons The development of Arab monarchies in the wake of the Arab Spring leads us to draw two conclusions. The first is to revisit the ‘King’s Dilemma’, identifed almost fifty years ago by Samuel Huntington at a time when developmentalist theories were on a roll. Faced with the pressure of modernization and calls for reform, traditional monarchs have three choices, according to Huntington:19 Transformation: they can give up ruling and content themselves with reigning without power, as pure symbols, like almost all the monarchs in Europe. Coexistence: they can try to combine monarchical and popular participation while keeping in place the overall architecture of the system. Maintenance: they can try to keep the monarchy as the principal source of authority and minimize the disruptive effects of modernization. The king faces the following dilemma: can he succeed in integrating into the polity new social groups produced by modernization, while keeping real power? As Huntington puts it: ‘Can he escape the dilemma of success vs. survival?’ His answer negative. If the king opens the system in order to incorporate new groups, he might survive but will be deprived of power; if he does not move, or moves



cautiously, he will be carried away by the flood of modernization. Huntington’s conclusion is straightforward: the future of the existing traditional monarchies is bleak . . . the existing monarchies will lose some or all of whatever capability they have developed for policy innovation under traditional auspices before they gain any substantial new capability to cope with problems of political participation produced by their own reform.20 This gloomy perspective clearly has to be revised. Indeed, in order to avoid their bleak fate, Arab monarchies have taken two paths. Family/dynastic monarchies were able to cope with the pressures of modernization by handing out oil or gas rents to their subjects. In exchange for economic wealth, the ruled owed obedience to the king, who was able to keep his political power almost intact. Thus the strategy of maintenance worked. The fate of personal/non-dynastic monarchies is much more telling. As they could not indulge in rent distribution, they had to tackle much more head-on the question of political opposition, which led them to liberalize authoritarianism. This strategy was easier for them than for (semi-)authoritarian republics. Indeed, in the latter, elections always look threatening to the ruling party. If, starting from a monopoly of power, it has to relinquish some attributes, the ones it wants to keep for itself will be contested because the rulers are seen as deprived of any legitimacy. In monarchies, the picture looks different. Indeed, monarchs can hold more open elections, give space to political competitors and still remain monarchs, because they will retain powers that lie outside the purview of popular will. Thus, contrary to Huntington’s prediction, coexistence – the combination of monarchical and popular participation – is a valid option for monarchies in order to survive. Arab monarchies are not doomed to collapse because they are structurally unable to cope with modernizing trends; on the contrary, they have an institutional basis of which republics are deprived. The second conclusion has to do with the interplay between the regimes and their main opponents. In both Arab republics and



monarchies, the main contenders for political power are Islamist movements (in different forms). In authoritarian republics, it was a zero-sum game: the Islamists were public enemy number one. Repression was severe and all they could hope for was a limited, controlled opening that could always be closed off (the Mubarak regime vs. the Muslim Brotherhood). In monarchies, the game is more subtle: repression can take place, but can be supplemented by compromise with the Islamists. Actually it is much easier for monarchs to find a compromise with Islamists, who generally lean towards social conservatism, than with left-wing nationalists who are often tempted by republicanism. The traditional authority of monarchs, who can sometimes claim centuries-old legitimacy (Morocco), is also an asset. So is the fact that monarchies have closeness to religion that republics rarely have: both Mohamed VI and Abdullah II claim to be sharifs Mohamed and to descend from the prophet. Building a bridging pact with the proponents of political Islam is thus easier for monarchs than for presidents. In Morocco, it succeeded greatly. The Justice and Development party was integrated into the political system and its leader Abd al-Illah Benkirane became prime minister. Only the Justice and Charity organization led by Abd alSalam Yassine (till his death in December 2012) remained on the margins of the system, because it objected to one of the basic claims of the monarchy – the fact that the king is also a religious figure with the title of Commander of the Faithful (Amir al-Muminin). In Jordan, the picture is more mixed, because the political configuration is less amenable to a lasting compromise. King Hussein long maintained an ambiguous ‘working relationship’ with the Muslim Brotherhood, which became an effective defender of the throne against the monarch’s main contenders, the Palestinian nationalists. Things changed during the 1990s after the signing of the peace treaty with Israel, which was strongly criticized by the IAF. Abdullah II was unable to reverse the trend and was able to get only an erratic participation from the Muslim Brotherhood in the electoral process. Still, the monarchy enjoys considerable deference and almost nobody is calling for its downfall – in striking contrast to the situation in Egypt and Syria, where the people quickly asked for the overthrow of the regime.



Conclusion Untill now Arab monarchies have passed through the Middle Eastern political turmoil more safely than republics. It is even somewhat ironic to notice that, with the exception of Syria where a bloody war has been raging for four years, the countries where the protest movement or rebellion was most vigorous were former monarchic countries (Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya). Can we argue that if these countries had remained monarchies their regimes would not have been swept away by ‘revolutions’? Such a counterfactual demonstration could be intellectually challenging, but quite difficult to prove. I will claim only that the collapse of three republican regimes (the Yemeni situation is different) shows that they clearly did not have the resources to meet popular challenges, while non-dynastic monarchies, where the protests were strong, had the political capacity to channel them within the system.

Notes 1 Libya was not, strictly speaking, a republic but something sui generis, a jumhuriyya, a kind of ‘popular democracy, at least in name. 2 Manfred Halpern, The Politics of Social Change in the Middle East and North Africa (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963). 3 Of course, I exclude here attacks against civilians (Christians, Shi’is), which are linked to a completely different element, the instability of post-Saddam Iraq. 4 There are eight monarchies among 22 member states. However, if we set apart three countries at the margins of the Arab world, Somalia, Djibouti and Comoros, monarchies made up almost half of the Arab countries. 5 See for instance, Jean-Pierre Filiu, The Arab Revolution: Ten Lessons from the Democratic Uprising (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 137, where he writes: ‘Monarchies have proved so far more robust than republics led by life-long presidents.’ 6 Sean Yom and Gregory Gause III, ‘Resilient Royals: How Arab Monarchies Hang on’, Journal of Democracy (October 2012), 23/4, pp. 74 – 88. 7 However, there is a tendency within Arab monarchies to adopt the patrilinear model, sometimes explicitly linked with ‘adaptive primogeniture’, i.e. the eldest son is in principle the heir unless the king has chosen another successor among the royal family (Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco). 8 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Du contrat social (Paris: Garnier-Flammarion, 1966), p. 114.



9 Max Weber, Economy and Society (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1968), vol. 1, p. 215. 10 Lisa Anderson, ‘Absolutism and the Resilience of Monarchy in the Middle East’, Political Science Quarterly, 106/1 (Spring 1991), p. 14. 11 Roger Owen, The Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for Life (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012). 12 Michael Herb, All in the Family: Absolutism, Revolution and Democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1999). 13 Michael Herb treats Oman as an intermediate case because the sultan rules alone surrounded by advisers and palace politicians. However, as he states himself, Oman strongly resembles the other dynastic monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The main difference lies in the fact that, whereas in other Gulf countries, relatives of the king occupy key ministerial positions, in Oman the sultan holds directly the main portfolios – prime minister, minister of finance, foreign affairs, finance, and governor of the Central Bank. 14 Michael Herb, All in the Family, pp. 136– 39. 15 Steffen Hertog, ‘The Costs of Counter-Revolution in the GCC’, http://www.sci (accessed 9 December 2013). 16 Michael Herb adopts this broad definition of constitutional monarchies in his article, ‘Princes and Parliaments in the Arab World’, Middle East Journal, 58/3, (Summer 2004), pp. 367–84. 17 Jean-Noe¨l Ferrie´ and Baudouin Dupret,‘Maroc: re´former sans bouleverser’, in Fre´de´ric Charillon and Alain Dieckhoff, Printemps arabe: trajectoires varie´es, incertitudes persistantes, Afrique du Nord Moyen-Orient 2012 –2013 (Paris: La Documentation Franc aise, 2012), pp. 147– 55. 18 The positions of the different groups are very well analysed in the International Crisis Group’s report, Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (IX): Dallying with Reform in a Divided Jordan (March 2012). 19 Samuel P. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996 [1968]), pp. 177 – 91. 20 Ibid., p. 191.


Untouched by the famous ‘third wave’ of democratization’,1 the majority of Arab states appeared as havens of continuity – falsely interpreted as stability – until late 2010, when peaceful popular protests at an unprecedented level began to spread from Tunisia to most of the other autocracies. In spite of various and sometimes important differences in terms of initial demands, extent, intensity, participant actors and repertoires of contestation, this collective action expressed long-standing grievances that could not be effectively voiced or addressed under authoritarian rule. Within two months the seemingly irremovable presidents of Tunisia and Egypt resigned, the former after some 25, the latter after 30, years in office; a few months later their Libyan counterpart was overthrown after more than 40 years of basically unchallenged rule. Even in the largely calm oil monarchies in the Gulf, tensions rose as discontent repeatedly generated public protests; demonstrations took place in parts of Saudi Arabia and developed into a sustained popular movement in Bahrain. Political regimes in the Arabic-speaking countries had not faced challenges or undergone transformations of similar importance since



the ‘socialist’ revolutions of the 1950s and 1960s that had brought to power Jamal Abd al-Nasser in Egypt and the Ba’thist rulers of Iraq and Syria. Similar popular contestation on a regional scale had not been witnessed since the period of decolonization, when protests against foreign domination occurred roughly simultaneously in several Arab states. From the outset, actors and observers alike have referred to the protests as revolutions, sometimes even as one single Arab revolution reminiscent of the ‘Arab revolt’ that contributed to the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. Others, more cautiously, preferred to interpret developments as belated transitions to democracy that would finally bring an end to the ‘Arab exceptionalism’ that for decades seemed to have delayed the advent of the predicted ‘end of history’.2 Both readings may ultimately be borne out by events, because revolutions and transitions take years and decades to unfold; however, they may also overemphasize temporary change where important continuities persist. The most obvious revolution so far has occurred at the level of individuals who transformed themselves from subjects into citizens, ready and able to take their destiny into their own hands. Politically, however, most of the ‘revolutions’ remain unaccomplished and the ‘transitions’ beauties in the eyes of the beholder.

Similarities With regard to protests and regime transformation, numerous similarities are suggested by their near simultaneous eruption in various states with visible ripple effects in others. Explanations based exclusively on the contagion effect, encapsulated in the domino metaphor, appear to be incomplete. They cannot explain why the various authoritarian regimes had been weakened to the extent that contagion could fall on fertile ground. Above and beyond their diversity, the trajectories of the various countries converge to the extent that for decades their rulers had prevented discontent from being articulated effectively and alleviated through appropriate policy changes. The similarity thus resides in the ultimate and



simultaneous failure of the authoritarian regimes to absorb, deflect, or oppose pressures from ‘below’. Nonetheless, the role and relevance of economic factors is more complex and possibly less pervasive than an increasingly dominant narrative claims. Challenging this emerging orthodoxy, some sources suggest that, perhaps with the exception of Tunisia, different economic indicators in the countries concerned or even overall economic performance remained constant or moderately improved in the decade up to 2008,3 and that inequality as measured by GINI coefficients may not have greatly increased.4 At least subjectively, of course, not everybody benefited to the same extent or was equally insured against losses and decline, including segments of the population that had hitherto been shielded from such impoverishment and economic precariousness.5 Matters clearly took a turn for the worse around 2008, when food, energy and other commodity prices sharply increased (with ups and downs), partly related to the global financial crisis, which affected Arab countries in other ways as well. Even then, however, growth rates declined far less than in other parts of the world, for instance in Latin America, and expansionary budget policies reduced some of the losses incurred by the less well-off.6 No less importantly, discontent was rife not only among the losers but also among many winners of the economic reforms that had been implemented since the late 1980s. If in some places and at some moments protests primarily mobilized the poor, the marginalized and the downwardly mobile,7 other demonstrations and gatherings mobilized the better-off and the upwardly mobile.8 The initial protests in Sidi Bouzid9 in December 2010 and those in Suez a month later largely represented the former, but the large demonstrations on Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis and Tahrir Square in Cairo that brought down Bin Ali and Mubarak included many of the latter.10 There is a Tocquevillian dimension11 to many of the protests in the sense that the upwardly mobile no longer accepted authoritarian rulers and crony capitalists denying them access to markets and decision making. They were even less ready to countenance regression, as illustrated by the heavily rigged parliamentary elections in Egypt in autumn 2010 and another glorious ‘re-election’



of Bin Ali in Tunisia. Over the past years and decades, processes of political transformation in most Arab countries boiled down to stagnation or recession; slight improvements at a low level of advancement that the Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI), for instance, records for Syria and Libya is not incompatible with an important gap between reality and expectations.12 Rather than reflecting growing poverty, impoverishment and decline, the protests simply thus more broadly represented the inability of the authoritarian regimes to respond to the needs and wishes of populations that were increasingly socially diverse. They remind us of the mismatch between political institutions on the one hand and economic and social change on the other that Samuel Huntington considered a key challenge to existing forms of political order.13 The growing sociological diversity of the populations cannot be disassociated from developments such as the growth of the private sector, the related increase in income differentials, and the intensification of ties with the outside world that are part and parcel of policies of external and internal economic liberalization and ultimately of broader global transformations. One might be tempted to embrace modernization theory, if it was not tainted by dubious teleological claims or by the equally problematic distinction between modernity and tradition. In the light of the increasing alienation between the rulers and the ruled and the increasing importance of global standards as a reference at home, the efforts by Mubarak, Bin Ali, Qadafi, Saleh and Asad to promote the political and business careers of their sons and family members became all the more problematic. The attempts to establish monarchical republics where power would be passed on from father to son challenged considerations not only of interest, but also of dignity.14

Differences The rapid spread of contestation across state boundaries should not obscure important differences among and even within these countries. Differences pertaining to the protests, the responses by



the incumbents and the political dynamics that the protests have generated point to the limited validity of the domino metaphor and of its underlying assumption that the stakes were the same everywhere. Contestation in one country spread to others because it spoke to constituencies that felt unable to voice their grievances effectively and to seek redress under authoritarian rule. Nonetheless, beyond this common denominator and a number of other similarities, the grievances were not identical, nor were their effects once they became articulated in public. The extent and the forms of protest have varied from country to country, as has their impact on the various forms of authoritarian rule prevailing in the area. These differences may appear yet more distinctly over time, as diverging dynamics of regime transformation and governance progressively unfold and take shape.

Country Trajectories In order to discuss the trajectories of different countries it is useful to make a first and basic distinction between (i) countries in which large-scale peaceful contestation rapidly entailed major though not necessarily lasting forms of regime transformation with little or no violence and without foreign intervention; (ii) others where more limited peaceful contestation has led the rulers to concede equally limited political adjustments; (iii) yet others were initially peaceful contestation was met by violent repression that either (a) led to a prolonged stalemate marked by temporary or continuous fighting between the incumbents and their challengers, or (b) was followed by overt foreign intervention to resolve the impasse; and (iv) countries where contestation has remained narrowly circumscribed, if it occurred at all, and the political regimes remained essentially untouched. So far, Tunisia is the country where the transition from authoritarian rule in the wake of large-scale collective action is most advanced. Epitomized by the Constituent Assembly elected in October 2011. Following several free and competitive elections, the new political order may well develop into that of a fully-fledged



liberal democracy, where the rulers are chosen by the ruled and where positive liberties are continually underpinned by negative liberties. The absence of an outright winner in the 2011 elections and the power-sharing agreement15 reached by three of the major parties, including the Islamist Al-Nahda, were a first step towards the dual institutionalization of competition and co-operation that characterizes democracies. No doubt, political tensions continued to run high, two party activists were assassinated, and the Constituent Assembly only managed to draft a new draft constitution after the Federation of Trade Unions (Union Ge´ne´rale Tunisienne du Travail, UGTT), the Employers’ Association (Union Tunisienne de l’Industrie, du Commerce et de l’Artisanat, UTICA) and human rights organizations brokered an historic compromise between the government – dominated by the Islamist Al-Nahda – and the non-Islamist parties. Saddening as it may be, a new political order is not always established without such delays, commotions and deeds that contradict the very values on which it is supposed to be erected. During the French Revolution, which was supposed to defend human rights based on freedom, equality and fraternity, Jean-Paul Marat was stabbed to death in his bathtub, Olympe de Gouge was guillotined and the Grande Terreur costs innumerable lives. However, the demise of the leaders, associates, and institutions of the ancien re´gime has not yet prompted the departure or complete marginalization of its many supporters in the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the police, and the private sector. Only the major representatives of the former regime party, the RCD (ex NeoDustur), were prevented from standing for election; more sweeping legislation has been debated, but (reasonably) not been passed. Nida Tuns, a party established after the 2011 elections, includes many of those who like Beji Caid Essebsi elected president in 2014 had links with the old regime without overtly compromising themselves. No doubt the armed forces pushed former president Zin al-Abidine Bin Ali to step down and leave the country, but little else is known about them except for their relatively small size, which allegedly prevented them from opposing a government or regime that enjoys popular legitimacy. The issue of size may be misleading, though, as



Tunisia is a far smaller country than Egypt and the ratio between military personnel and inhabitants is not much lower than in Egypt. Rather, the distinctive feature seems to be the role historically played by the Tunisian armed forces, which in the absence of major external conflicts did not accumulate as much moral capital as their Egyptian counterparts. Whatever their victories and failures on the ground, the Egyptian armed forces fought some major wars that were popular at home and they managed to appear as the protector of the people. Former representatives and other advocates of the old order may be no more than an obstructive force with little appeal to the broader population, which can be kept in check by the new regime. The same applies to new forces that are ambiguous about the merits of democracy, such as various ‘defence’ leagues and Salafi groups who largely operate outside elected bodies. However, even nuisance groups are able to sabotage and derail institutional reforms and policies. The future influence of both categories of actors will also depend on the extent to which the new regime will be able to meet the demands and expectations of an economically and socially increasingly diverse population. The input legitimacy inherent in the democratic aspects of the new regime will have to be matched by output legitimacy, and thus by policies that cater to the interests of the majority, or to those of constituencies that are sufficiently strong to ensure the stability of the new regime. In a nutshell, the consolidation and survival of an emerging democracy like Tunisia depend on factors similar to the triad of repression, legitimacy and co-optation that stabilizes authoritarian regimes.16 In Egypt, transition from authoritarian rule remains a distant prospect at best. What initially looked like a transition seems to have been reversed by the combined effects of successive attempts by the Muslim Brothers and the armed forces to sideline their respective opponents. The departure of President Hosni Mubarak, his friends and family, and the decision to disband the National Democratic Party have not entailed the departure of other components of the ancien re´gime, in particular the armed forces, which remain the most organized and powerful actor shaping current political transformations. The sustained large-scale protests that took place in January



and February 2011 in and around Tahrir Square in Cairo, in Alexandria, Suez and other cities had prompted the military commanders to withdraw their support from President Mubarak, himself a former air force officer. In their eyes, his failure to defuse the protests threatened the survival of the entire regime. His attempts to pass power on to his son Jamal further alienated the armed forces, who had no sympathies for the crown prince and his economic reforms that collided with their own interests. As Egypt’s dependency on external actors, in particular the United States and possible sympathies for the protesters in the lower ranks of the armed forces and among the conscripts ruled out repression, the only viable option consisted in controlled political reforms and attempts to build a new coalition of political forces willing to accept the privileged position of the military. Until summer 2012 the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) chaired by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s long-serving minister of defence, continued to (almost) monopolize the means of coercion and to control vast economic and other resources instrumental to influence the course of events. The major winners of the 2011– 2 parliamentary elections, the Muslim Brothers-backed Freedom and Justice Party, who (together with smaller allies who had joined their list) obtained some 47 per cent of the seats in the People’s Assembly, seemed happy to enter into a tactical alliance with the officers and trade their own participation in the exercise of power for a continued, if indirect military influence. Shortly after being elected president, Mohamed Mursi, a Muslim Brother, retired Tantawi and other high-ranking officers, only to replace them with others that by and large had been members of the now dissolved SCAF. Unsurprisingly, the new Islamist-inspired constitution promulgated in late 2012, despite major popular protests, granted special rights and privileges to the military including a defence budget removed from parliamentary scrutiny. Following renewed heavy protests fuelled by increasing economic difficulties, inappropriate and incoherent government responses, the Islamist reorientation of domestic and foreign policies and attempts by the Muslim Brothers to monopolize power, the military



establishment deposed President Mursi and called on the president of the Supreme Court, Adli Mansur, to temporarily assume presidential powers. The latter appointed a new prime minister, who formed a government dominated apparently by ‘secular’ political forces, but in actual fact by the military under the leadership of the Minister of Defence, General Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi (ironically, appointed by Mursi to succeed Tantawi). Yet another new constitution was drafted and Sisi was duly elected president in May 2014. As previously with Mubarak and the NDP and then with Mursi and the Muslim Brothers, the military establishment now seeks to defend its interests in alliance with part of the leftist and centrist ‘secularists’. More or less openly, the officers will no doubt seek to defend for many years to come the economic interests of the armed forces, in particular their control of important industries, their numerous other entitlements, their political influence, and the vision of Egypt as a regional power strengthened by conservative moral values, a relatively egalitarian social contract and a nationalist ideology. Morocco and Jordan form a second group of countries where the monarchies managed to absorb more limited contestation by way of moderate adjustments that reconfigure or ‘upgrade’ authoritarian rule17. Less extensive and less intense than in Tunisia and Egypt, contestation could be channelled into policy changes that address a variety of socio-economic grievances, and new constitutional provisions that strengthen elected bodies and the judiciary without endangering the dominant role of the rulers. For instance, under the new Moroccan constitution the king remains the ‘Commander of the Faithful’, a position that invests him with religious legitimacy and enables him to circumvent other provisions of the constitution with complete legality. Similarly, the president of the council of ministers (as the new constitution renames the former prime minister) presides over cabinet meetings only as long as the agenda does not include security and strategic issues. By implication, the domestic balance of power has not been amended in favour of the forces of contestation. Constitutional changes have been even more modest in Jordan, and so have their political effects. The limits to both contestation and adjustments seem to confirm the advantages not of monarchies per se,



but of monarchies endowed with mechanisms of popular representation. These mechanisms strengthen regime legitimacy and provide new opportunities to co-opt individuals and groups, and thus to contain demands for broader change. The cases discussed so far differ from a third group of countries where contestation, although strong and sustained, has (so far) failed to bring about the transformation of political regimes. In Yemen, protests at times faced severe repression that temporarily turned violent, and as yet have not resulted in a new stable political order. In Syria, continued violent repression of peaceful protests after some four or five months led small groups of opponents and army deserters to take up arms. Today, more than four years after the first protests erupted in Dar’a in March 2011, armed groups including the ‘Islamic State’ control large parts of the country and engage government forces in constant military action. To the extent that the political incumbents announced ‘reforms’, these remain rhetorical or devoid of substance, such as the official end to the state of emergency decreed by President Bashar al-Asad in Syria or the new constitution that he put to referendum. Developments in Bahrain and Libya illustrate a fourth trajectory, which in part may be seen as a variation on the previous one. Unlike in Syria and Yemen, decisive foreign intervention in support of one of the sides has (in Bahrain at least temporarily) settled the conflict between advocates and opponents of the old status quo. In Bahrain, the arrival of Saudi troops consolidated the embattled monarchy; in Libya, the intervention by NATO forces brought about the demise of the Qadafi regime. Societal cleavages as deep as in Syria and Yemen separated the rulers of Libya from large parts of the population and continue to do so in Bahrain. Narrow family, ‘tribal’ and regional ties provided the social basis for the Qadafi regime, while the Bahraini monarchy has consistently staked its future on support from the Sunni minority and has thus marginalized the vast Shi’i majority. The conclusions of an inquiry published in November 2011 were able to be critical of government repression, precisely because the regime felt relatively secure again; they did not ease repression, as



illustrated for instance in the trials of opponents before the Court of Appeal in late 2012. Although in Libya the domestic balance of power has been reversed in favour of those who fought Qadafi, their coalition of sorts rapidly disintegrated as militias and army units began to challenge and fight each other. Above and beyond ideological differences, the population is divided into solidarity groups based on regional, family and ‘tribal’ identities similar to those that supported the old regime.18 The latter represented some of these groups who obviously continue to command the loyalty of their members even after they lost their privileged access to power and resources. In their eyes the new regime lacks legitimacy, a deficiency that is exacerbated by the (however limited) means of coercion that they continue to control. Under these conditions, post-conflict efforts at state building face tremendous challenges. The fifth trajectory is that of most member states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Algeria, where contestation has been narrowly circumscribed if not almost absent. The countries in this category are major oil and gas exporters, even though the cases of Libya and, to a lesser extent, Bahrain, illustrate that not all rentier states have been immune to contestation. In the latter two countries, cleavages between solidarity groups based on strong sub-state identities exacerbated differences between the rulers and many of their subjects and thus counterbalanced the soothing effects of rents. Another exception, Kuwait, did experience contestation, but largely as part and parcel of a conflict that for decades has set the ruling alSabah family against the advocates of constitutional monarchy. Protests related to the ‘Arab Spring’ have also been narrowly circumscribed in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine where conditions differ from those prevailing in the other Arab countries. Neither the Lebanese nor the Iraqis live under fully fledged authoritarian rule, even though they suffer from various and serious restrictions on their positive and negative liberties. In both countries, many of these restrictions are in fact imposed by sub-state identity groups that exercise a sort of authoritarianism ‘from below’. From a formal and procedural point of view both states are democracies, obviously with



important shortcomings and deficiencies. Their parliaments, governments and presidents are elected, and in the recent past elections have changed parliamentary majorities and the composition of governments. Protests focused on the inefficiencies of government, the absence of good governance and, occasionally, on the consociational aspects of the political regimes, but not on their authoritarian features. Frequently, the consociational nature of political representation and the exercise of power contained mobilization within sub-state groups and prevented other parts of the population from joining in. Finally, authoritarian rule by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip appears to many Palestinians as a by-product of the intrinsically authoritarian nature of Israeli occupation and encirclement, which at the same time it helps to combat – an ambiguity that limits the potential for contestation. In the three countries, protests have been a permanent feature of politics, not only over the past 15 months but for many years, and have been only partly affected by recent events in other Arab countries.

Explanatory Factors Contestation from below, responses from above and regime transformations in the various Arab countries correlate with a number of features, some of which have already been referred to. These correlations suggest a considerable degree of dependence of the various country trajectories on processes of state formation and other long-term developments that have structured economies, societies and polities. To the extent that past socio-economic transformations help to explain events since December 2010, they also provide some indication – however tentative – as to how far current changes are likely to favour the emergence of democratic government. The countries where discontent has failed to translate into effective contestation and those where protests were contained are all major oil and gas producers. The correlation thus tends to confirm ‘traditional’ assumptions about the political effects of rents, which enable rulers to alleviate socio-economic grievances on the one hand and to strengthen mechanisms of control and repression



on the other.19 In spite of various limitations and hesitations, the oil-producing countries in the Middle East have adopted such policies for decades. From the early days of the protests, the swift increase in subsidies, additional cash handouts and the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs in government administrations no doubt further stabilized the regimes.20 In Algeria, memories of the civil war that followed the aborted 1992 elections may have further reduced readiness to challenge the rulers. Everywhere the soothing effects of expansionary budgetary policies have been reinforced by repression, limited ‘authoritarian upgrading’, or combinations thereof. Developments in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman amply illustrate variations on this theme. The argument may hold some truth even for Sudan, even though the roughly simultaneous accession to independence of its southern parts created a quite unique situation. The countries where rents failed to stabilize authoritarian rulers or regimes differ in at least two important ways. In Bahrain and Libya, the highly unequal distribution of income from hydrocarbon resources coincided, or at least seemed to coincide, with deep societal cleavages that separated solidarity or We-groups groups based on ascriptive criteria that generate family, ‘tribal’, religious or regional identities.21 Thus in Bahrain, large parts of the Shi’i majority were heavily disadvantaged. In both countries, however, foreign intervention played a crucial role in perpetuating or toppling the regime in place. Qadafi fell as a consequence of NATO intervention, while King Hamad of Bahrain consolidated his position thanks to the arrival of Saudi and other GCC troops. None of the other rentier states is internally divided to a similar extent and they are therefore in a far better position to avoid massive popular contestation. Protests in Saudi Arabia with some exceptions have been circumscribed geographically; they partly reflected the concerns of sub-state solidarity groups such as the Shi’is in the eastern provinces, but these populations were relatively smaller than in Libya and Bahrain. In the countries where contestation remained limited and led to no more than the upgrading of authoritarianism, the rulers not only



derive their legitimacy from sources other than popular choice, but also rely on representative institutions and mechanisms that allow them to deflect criticism. In Morocco and Jordan, authoritarian monarchies have promulgated constitutions that fall short of transforming them into constitutional monarchies in the narrow sense, but provide for a degree of popular representation. In Morocco, such representation already existed prior to the recent demonstrations and bordered on participation and co-decision powers in some policy areas; the amendments to the constitution that were introduced in 2011 in order to diffuse the protests further strengthened these participatory features, while containing them within limits compatible with the dominant position of the king. Elections and parliaments with limited effects and powers not only postpone the moment when discontent turns into protests; as easy targets they also absorb both, thus shielding the unelected seat of power from criticism and attacks.22 The Jordanian example shows that even prime ministers and governments that are responsible to the king rather than to parliament may serve as protective fuses, as long as it is understood that their term in office may be terminated in response to popular discontent. In Kuwait, where voters and deputies tend to present their demands forcefully, the very existence of a representative parliament may also have contributed to give the ruling Sabah family a permanently renewable lease of life. The creation of institutions and mechanisms able to deflect criticism is an option not open to all authoritarian regimes. Only monarchies may allow parliaments and even governments to be elected in ways that somehow reflect the preferences of the voters; they enjoy this advantage simply because the powers of these bodies always remain subordinate to those of the unelected sovereign. In contrast, the continuity of authoritarian rule in republics crucially depends on heavily rigged elections or on ‘elections without choice’;23 unlike in monarchies the head of state derives his or her legitimacy from the people and therefore needs to be elected. This said, not all authoritarian monarchies have tried or managed to establish representative bodies that would effectively shield them against unrest. The assemblies created or slightly strengthened by



some GCC rulers in the 1990s have remained too obviously dominated by the monarchs to play such a role.24 The countries in which strong and sustained popular contestation was rapidly met by violent and sustained repression display deep societal cleavages that pit against each other sub-state solidarity groups with differential access to power and resources. In fact, prolonged and violent domestic conflict has marked all countries displaying such divisions, except where groups considering themselves disadvantaged were relatively small in number or weak. In Bahrain and Libya, the dialectics of protests and repression were disrupted only by decisive foreign intervention. However, the ensuing ‘civil war’ in Libya also illustrates the unintended effects of such intervention which, as earlier in Iraq, could leave their imprint on Syria and Yemen as well.

State Formation Contestation and its transforming effects also – and more importantly – seem to differ in line with the broader ‘nature’ of the state as shaped by long-term processes of state formation. Both Tunisia and Egypt, where peaceful contestation on a large-scale led to major attempts at regime transformations (so far successful in Tunisia while unsuccessful in Egypt), come closer than most other Arab states to the ideal type of the nation state, defined as a political arena whose physical boundaries coincide with those of an imagined community25 commanding the ultimate loyalty of its members. For centuries, the successive masters of both countries have ruled over roughly the same territory and population and have thus been able to pursue not only state- but also nation-building strategies with some degree of success. These strategies have reduced internal divides, or at least contained their disruptive effects, even though the possibly growing mutual and reciprocal alienation between Christians and Muslims in Egypt illustrates their possible failure. Like the classic nation states that emerged in Western Europe, Tunisia and Egypt have for a considerable length of time both been ruled by central governments that applied the same rules and



practices to a population living roughly within the same borders.26 At least the heartlands of contemporary Tunisia have formed a political entity since before the advent of the Husseinid dynasty, which ruled effectively from the early eighteenth century and nominally till independence in 1957.27 Although much older, Egypt has increasingly turned into a coherent political entity from the early nineteenth century, when Mehmet (Mohamed) Ali Pasha and his successors managed to assert their independent vis-a`-vis the Sublime Porte.28 From at least the mid-nineteenth century, the two entities gradually differentiated themselves from the rest of the Ottoman Empire in terms of composition of elites, institutions, policies and collective identity, even though the empire remained a point of reference far longer than is often assumed.29 No doubt the reach of the respective central governments was strongest in the capital cities and central parts of the country, in the Nile Delta in Egypt and the Sahel or coastal regions in Tunisia. In more peripheral regions such as the south in Tunisia or the Sinai in Egypt, central authority was and often remains much weaker. Nonetheless, even there the central government has made itself felt as much as it can, reminding people of its claim to power and authority. The rulers of Egypt also managed to project their might and power beyond these boundaries, making claim to the Sudan at times, or invading the Fertile Crescent to challenge the Ottoman Sultan. However, these were relatively short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful expansion initiatives that failed to lastingly affect the boundaries and territory of the existing polity. The United Arab Republic that merged Egypt and Syria into one state from 1958 to 1961 turned out to be another example of Egyptian domination, although one that in the beginning had been explicitly requested by Syrians. As a matter of course, rulers changed over time and so did policies. In Egypt, for instance, the dynasty founded by Mehmet Ali was ultimately overthrown in the so-called 1952 revolution, and was succeeded by a republican regime dominated by military officers from an entirely different social background. Under the impact of the recent contestation, important rifts appeared in the coalition of army



officers, regime party loyalists and crony capitalists that over the years had formed around Jamal Abd al-Nasser and his successors. The military establishment separated itself from the party and its associated business circles, temporarily entering into an alliance of sorts with the Muslim Brothers, who hitherto had been excluded from power and frequently persecuted. In spite of various continuities, the policies pursued by the monarchy and its British patrons differed in many ways from those pursued by President Nasser, which in turn differed from those of the later Presidents Sadat and Mubarak. Thus the development strategy that from the mid-1950s onwards focused on a dominant public sector, from the mid-1970s and in particular from the late 1980s increasingly privileged external and internal economic liberalization. In Tunisia, policies under the bey Mohamed III as-Sadiq differed from those under the French protectorate imposed in the 1880s, as well as from those after independence, which included phases characterized by etatism and others characterized by limited economic liberalization. Nonetheless, and in spite of the unequal geographical reach of policies, the population throughout the entire country benefited or suffered at every stage from the same government decisions. Whatever its complexion, the central government always sought to govern the inhabitants (who until recently were subjects rather than citizens) through laws, decrees and other actions establishing their duties and, occasionally, their rights and entitlements. Practical measures with symbolic connotations unified the countries and differentiated them from their neighbours. In Egypt, a currency separate from the Ottoman currency was introduced in 1834; the government began to print its own postal stamps in 1866, shortly after taking responsibility for the mail service. In Tunisia, the first postal stamp explicitly labelled Tunisian was introduced in 1888 (by the French, but sold only on Tunisian territory). Tunisia’s first constitution was promulgated in 1861, four years after the Fundamental Pact that allowed for a degree of political participation and separation of powers. Although subject to British interference, Egypt has a parliamentary history based on appropriate legislation



that stretches back to the 1881 Urabi revolt, and in a sense even to the 1866 Consultative Assembly. The decisions made by the rulers of Tunisia and Egypt were often of such a kind that one might think they would prevent the creation of bonds of loyalty between them and their countries on the one hand, and their subjects on the other. Unsurprisingly, many of these decisions revolved around taxation and conscription. Thus in Egypt, young men were forcibly recruited into the army from the early nineteenth century, in Tunisia from the mid-nineteenth century.30 Yet even such extractive measures impress on their victims that they are part of a specific category of people: those targeted by certain policies. Except for extreme totalitarian situations as described, for instance, by Hannah Arendt,31 situations that never obtained in Tunisia or Egypt, the shared experience of victimhood creates ideational links and possibly solidarities that may lead to shared coping or even resistance strategies. Draft dodgers in one place recognize the plight of their fellow victims in neighbouring villages, even if they hope that the fickle finger of fate will point to the latter. At the height of discontent, the comrades of misfortune turn into an imagined and possibly real community of protesters and revolutionaries. In an almost Renanian sense, the circle of the former victims of repressive or extractive policies constitutes the recruiting ground for participants in collective action against the masters. The boundaries of oppression turn into those of the ‘nation’. Naturally, policies of extraction and repression have been accompanied by policies of education and indoctrination, which through the teaching of official history and geography are aimed at strengthening loyalty to the rulers and the political entity. In Tunisia, for instance, the Colle`ge Sidki educated the future administrative elites from 1875, increasingly extending its intake from well-to-do capital dwellers to provincials benefiting from grants.32 Outside the classroom, everybody saw the same faces on fiscal stamps and had to sing the same anthem under the same flag. For those well-enough educated, official maps provided additional orientation as to their geographical and political belonging. No less importantly, the borders of the political entities concerned influenced



the flows of people, goods and capital and thus created a space of exchanges separate from the surrounding countries. Over time, taxation, conscription, education and other policies that applied to individuals qua inhabitants of a certain geographical area helped the rulers to partly succeed in replacing old loyalties to small social units and their leaders with loyalty to the people of the country and its masters. Daughters and sons were subject to the same rulers and rules as their mothers and fathers, or at least to policies emanating from the same seat of power, relayed by the same institutions. Habits and traditions formed and contributed to homogenize representations and actions within the borders of the country, while differentiating them from those in neighbouring countries. As in Western Europe, these processes of centralization and homogenization resulted in an imagined community roughly co-extensive with the population living within the boundaries of the state. They did so all the more because they could be, and often were, described by the rulers as an answer to the domination by hostile foreign powers that became ever more influential during the nineteenth century. The ‘nationalization’ of Egypt and Tunisia in the sense of their transformation into nation states remained nonetheless comparatively partial and limited. The main reason is that, unlike in Europe, the twin processes of internal centralization and homogenization and differentiation vis-a`-vis the outside world were not underpinned – or indeed initiated by – the dynamics of the capitalist revolution and thus, at some stage, by the creation of a strong internal market. This does not mean that the more consolidated nation states of Europe display no internal divisions at all – not to mention states such as Belgium or the United Kingdom, which in some respect border on the territorial state. Nor does the ‘nationalization’ of Tunisia and Egypt provide a lasting and definite insurance against a higher degree of political violence and descent into chaos in periods of exacerbated political conflict. The social glue called nation failed to prevent the mass killing of Muslim Brother loyalists at Rab’a Adawiyya in Cairo after the destitution of president Mursi as in earlier periods it failed to prevent the Spanish ‘civil war’ or the mass execution of supporters of



the Paris Commune in 1871. Abandonded even by their former Salafi allies the Muslim Brothers were purged and hunted down by the new military rulers. The role that the Egyptian armed forces have played for decades in wars and state (re)building and the hardly questioned narrative of that role cannot be disassociated from the at least temporary return to authoritarianism that Tunisia so far was able to avoid. In contrast, Syria, Yemen and Libya are territorial states that mainly claim or aspire to be nation states.33 They are not only deeply divided internally, as already pointed out; sometimes their external borders as well have been redrawn substantially over time, thus further complicating the imagining and building of a community of solidarity coextensive with the population of the state.34 The contemporary state of Syria, for instance, only began to become a political entity after World War I, far later than Egypt or Tunisia. The Syrian borders were drawn by the victors, France and Britain, who legitimated their action and rule through the mandates that they granted themselves via the newly created League of Nations. Under the Ottoman Empire, neither administrative subdivisions nor the movement of people, goods and capital or popular representations had created an entity co-extensive with the boundaries of mandatory Syria. Palestine, for instance, had long been known as Southern Syria, and Haifa had been one of the ports of the Hawran and neighbouring areas of the new Syria. France also decided to establish a separate political entity in Lebanon, parts of which already under the Ottomans had been governed by specific rules and institutions imposed by the European adversaries of the Sublime Porte. However, these rules and institutions had never concerned areas like the Bekaa Valley, which the French included in Lebanon. In 1939, after a disputed referendum, France moreover transferred the sandjak of Alexandretta to Turkey, thus further reducing the size of Syria. In the meantime it had temporarily divided the country into several ‘states’ with their own administrations and policies. In a nutshell, the territory that in 1946 became the newly independent republic of Syria not only had its external boundaries drawn late and redrawn several times, but had also been intentionally fragmented internally.35



The nationals of this state had been exposed to the same policies only since 1939, after France had reunited the country under a central government in Damascus and ceased to fiddle with its borders. And of course it is only since then that policies directed at the inhabitants of this entity ceased to be also directed at the inhabitants of neighbouring entities (until much of 1939, legislation for Syria applied to Alexandretta/Hatay no less than to Damascus). In terms of the highly symbolic area of communications, postal stamps labelled as specifically Syrian were printed only from 1925, by the French, and frequently with additional reference to the ‘states’ into which mandatory Syria had been divided (earlier stamps printed by the short-lived ‘Arab government’ under King Faysal and the Syrian General Congress did refer to Syria, which, however, in 1920 meant a territory much larger than mandatory Syria). Whereas in Egypt, countrywide and country-specific fiscal, educational and other policies over decades and centuries contributed to the emergence of an imagined community co-extensive with the borders of the state, their absence left Syria internally divided and externally porous. Possibly such policies might not have been equally successful. While the population of Egypt is said to be divided only into Muslims and Christians, Syria is seen to be divided into Sunnis, Shi’is, Alawites, Ismailis, Druze and various Christian denominations in terms of religion, and into Arabs and Kurds in terms of language. Depending on historical circumstances, attempts at homogenization and nation building may indeed exacerbate such divisions among We-groups rather than reduce them. However, a number of examples illustrate that religious and linguistic divisions need not necessarily preclude the emergence of an overarching imagined community constructed on a basis that transcends these divisions; Switzerland and the Netherlands are cases in point. While such policies could have exacerbated internal divisions in Syria, it is nonetheless safe to say that they were only attempted rather timidly and late after independence, and are not at the origin of current cleavages.36 Simultaneously, attempts to homogenize policies and representations within this political entity, to create loyalties to it and its



population and to transform it into a viable and accepted space of exchanges, always run up against cross-border loyalties with inhabitants of neighbouring countries like Lebanon, who had earlier been part of the same political entity. It is not surprising that many Syrians began to think that the legitimacy of their state depended on its attempts and success to dilute itself within a larger, Arab, state that would put an end to unwanted borders and, at the same time, defuse conflicts among Syrians.37 From that point of view it is only natural that they should have pushed for the short-lived United Arab Republic with Egypt in 1958 and several other even less successful initiatives of the sort. In territorial states like Syria, conflict over power and resources easily develops into a more fundamental and severe conflict between We-groups. In the case of political entities closer to the nation-state model, contestation and repression target members of the same imagined community rather than ‘others’ and therefore tend to be less violent. By implication, there is far more mutual trust among individuals in nation states than in territorial states. In the former case, the fact of being contested is not immediately seen as a matter of life and death; in the latter case it quickly is. In Egypt, for instance, the use of excessive force by the police and the armed forces caused numerous deaths and injuries over the past years, but in spite of the Cairo bloodbaths of Maspero in 2012 and Rab’a Adawiyya in 2013 the overall level of violence remained far lower than in Syria. In Egypt, former President Mubarak received a prison sentence handed down by a court with the possibility to appeal; in Libya the ‘guide’ of the revolution was lynched in public. The argument may also apply to Morocco and provide an additional explanation for the peaceful nature of contestation and regime response in the kingdom. Morocco is not only a monarchy endowed with the representative mechanisms referred to above, but also by and large an historically consolidated entity which, like Tunisia and Egypt, comes closer than other members of the Arab League to the nation-state model.38 Much of the territory of contemporary Morocco has formed a political entity for centuries (beginning in a sense under the Idrissides in the eighth century AD and certainly under the Merinides from the



thirteenth century), even though rulers belonged to successive dynasties and periods of contestation and political disintegration were part and parcel of its history. The currently ruling Alawite dynasty came to power as early as 1664; even the French protectorate imposed in 1912 relied on it. Although rationalized as an act of national reunification, the occupation and annexation of the former Spanish Sahara took place at a moment when Morocco was already largely consolidated as a state and as an imagined community. Unlike in Bahrain, societal divides never prevented the incorporation of different solidarity groups into the state, no matter how selective and differential this may have been. Tamazight (Berber) has been recognized as a second official language rather late, but some of those who speak it as their mother tongue have for long played an important role in the administration and in the armed forces.39 The cases and comparisons referred to demonstrate that independently of important similarities, recent popular uprisings in Arab states, government responses and ensuing political dynamics need to be examined in the light of features that have structured these states over time economically, socially and politically. Of particular relevance are diverging processes of state formation, producing some polities that are closer to the nation state and others that are closer to the territorial state model. Even the relevance of one of the other factors – internal societal cleavages – is heavily influenced by processes of state formation, which through centralization and homogenization impact on the fate of We-groups at the sub-state level.

Notes 1 S. P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993). 2 F. Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: The Free Press, 1992). 3 M. Amin, et al., After the Spring: Economic Transitions in the Arab World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012). J. Voelkel, ‘The BTI 2012: Looking Back at the Arab Spring: An Interpretation of Recent Political Developments’, in Bertelsmann Stiftung (ed.), The Arab Spring: One Year After (Guetersloh: Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2012), pp. 13–36.



4 S. Bibi, and M. Nabli, ‘Equity and Inequality in the Arab World’, ERF Policy Research Report 33 (2010). I. Diwan, ‘Understanding Revolution in the Middle East: The Central Role of the Middle Class’, ERF Working Paper 726 November 2012 (Cairo: Economic Research Forum). 5 N. Belhaj Hassine, ‘Inequality of Opportunity in Egypt’, World Bank Economic Review, 26/2 (2012), pp. 265– 79. S. Bibi, and M. Nabli, ‘Equity and Inequality in the Arab World’, ERF Policy Research Report 33 (2010). I. Diwan, ‘Understanding Revolution in the Middle East: The Central Role of the Middle Class’, ERF Working Paper 726 November 2012 (Cairo: Economic Research Forum). Marotta et al., ‘Was Growth in Egypt between 2005 and 2008 Pro-poor?’, World Bank Policy Research Paper No. 5589, (Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2011). 6 P. Cichello, H. Abou-Ali, and D. Marotta, ‘What Happened to Real Earnings in Egypt, 2008– 2009?’, ERF Working Paper 755 (2013). S. Hertog, ‘The Cost of Counter-Revolution in the GCC’, Foreign Policy (31 May 2011 (accessed 24/9/2013). 7 S. Ben Nefissa, ‘Mobilisations sociales et politiques: les socie´te´s en mouvement’, in S. Ben Nefissa, and B. Destremeau, (eds), Re´volutions civiles: transformations du politique dans la Me´diterrane´e arabe: Special Issue Revue Tiers Monde (2011), pp. 5–24. 8 A. Bayat, ‘The Post-Islamist Revolutions’, Foreign Affairs, 26 April 2011, pp. 11 – 16. 9 C. Hmed, ‘Re´seaux dormants, contingence, et structures: gene`se de la re´volution tunisienne’, in Revue francaise de science politique, 62/5– 6 (October – December 2012), pp. 796– 820. 10 I. Diwan, ‘Understanding Revolution in the Middle East: The Central Role of the Middle Class’, ERF Working Paper 726 November 2012 (Cairo: Economic Research Forum). E. Kienle, ‘Egypt without Mubarak, Tunisia after Bin Ali: Theory, History and the “Arab Spring”’, Economy and Society, 41/4 (November 2012), pp. 532–57. 11 A. de Tocqueville, Œuvres comple`tes d’Alexis de Tocqueville (Paris: Gallimard, 1964). 12 Bertelsmann Stiftung (ed.), Transformation Index BTI 2012 (Guetersloh: Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2012). S. Heydemann, ‘Apre`s le se´isme: gouvernement e´conomique et politique de masse dans le monde arabe’, Critique internationale, no. 61 (October – December 2013), pp. 69– 84. J. Voelkel, ‘The BTI 2012: Looking Back at the Arab Spring: An Interpretation of Recent Political Developments’, in Bertelsmann Stiftung (ed.), The Arab Spring: One Year After (Guetersloh: Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2012), pp. 13–36. 13 S. P. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1968).



14 A. El-Meehy, ‘Transcending Meta-Narratives: Unpacking the Revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia’ (2011),¼8616 (accessed 24/9/2013). R. Owen, The Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for Life (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 2012). 15 P. G. Roeder and D. Rothchild, (eds), Sustainable Peace: Power and Democracy after Civil Wars (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005). 16 W. Merkel, et al., ‘Diktatorenda¨mmerung in Nordafrika und dem Nahen Osten: von der Schwa¨che autokratischer Regime und der Sta¨rke einer neuen Oppositionsbewegung’ (Berlin: 2011, Wissenschaftszentrum, WZB Mitteilungen, 2). 17 S. Heydemann and R. Leenders, (eds), Middle East Authoritarianisms (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2012). 18 A. A. Ahmida, The Making of Modern Libya (New York, NY: SUNY Press, 2011). M.-M. Ould Mohamedou, ‘The “Iraqization” of Libya’, Europe’s World (Spring 2012), pp. 124– 9. 19 H. Beblawi and G. Luciani, (eds), The Rentier State (New York/London: Croom Helm, 1987). M. Herb, ‘No Representation without Taxation? Rents, Development, and Democracy’, Comparative Politics 37/3 (2005). M. L. Ross, ‘Does Oil Hinder Democracy?’, World Politics, 53/3 (2001). 20 S. Colombo, ‘The GCC Countries and the Arab Spring: Between Outreach, Patronage and Repression’, IAI Working Papers 12/09 (March 2012). S. Hertog, ‘The Cost of Counter-Revolution in the GCC’, Foreign Policy (31 May 2011) (accessed 24/9/2013). 21 A. A. Ahmida, The Making of Modern Libya (New York, NY: SUNY Press, 2011). F. Barth, Introduction in F. Barth (ed.), Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Cultural Difference (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1969). G. Elwert, ‘Boundaries, Cohesion and Switching: On We-groups in Ethnic, National and Religious Form’, in Bulletin de l’APAD, no. 10, http://apad.revues. org/1111 (accessed 24.9.13). L. Louer and J. King, Shiism and Politics in the Gulf (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012). 22 J-N. Ferrie´ and J-C. Santucci, (eds), Dispositifs de de´mocratisation et dispositifs autoritaires en Afrique du Nord (Paris: CNRS Editions, 2006). M. Ottoway and M. Riley, ‘Morocco: From Top-down to Democratic Reform?’, Carnegie Paper, no.71 (October 2006). 23 G. Hermet, R. Rose, and A. Rouquie´, Elections without Choice (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 1978). 24 S. Colombo, ‘The GCC Countries and the Arab Spring: Between Outreach, Patronage and Repression’, IAI Working Papers 12/09 (March 2012). A. Ehteshami and S. Wright, ‘Political Change in the Arab Oil Monarchies: From Liberalization to Enfranchisement’, in International Affairs 83 (2007), pp. 913 – 32. 25 B. Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 2006).



26 E. J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999). 27 L. C. Brown, The Tunisia of Ahmed Bey 1837– 55 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974). K. J. Perkins, A Modern History of Tunisia (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004). 28 A. Lutif al-Sayyid, A History of Egypt from the Arab Conquest to the Present (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007). 29 L. C. Brown, The Tunisia of Ahmed Bey 1837– 55 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974). D. M. Reid, Whose Pharaohs? Archaeology, Museums and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War One (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002). E. R. Toledano, State and Society in mid-Nineteenth Century Egypt (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990). 30 K. J. Perkins, A Modern History of Tunisia (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004). E. R. Toledano, State and Society in mid-Nineteenth Century Egypt (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990). 31 H. Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York, NY: Benediction Books, 2006). 32 N. Sraı¨eb, Le Colle`ge Sadiki de Tunis 1875– 1956: Enseignement et nationalisme (Paris: Editions du CNRS, 1994). 33 B. Korany, ‘Alien and Besieged Yet Here to Stay: The Contradictions of the Arab Territorial State’, in Ghassan Salame´ (ed.), The Foundations of the Arab State (New York and London: Croom Helm, 1987). 34 A. A. Ahmida, The Making of Modern Libya (New York, NY: SUNY Press, 2011). N. Brehony, Yemen Divided (London: I.B.Tauris, 2011). E. Kienle, Ba’th v. Ba’th: The Conflict between Syria and Iraq, 1968– 1989 (London: I.B.Tauris, 1990). M. Ottoway and C. Boucek, Yemen on the Brink (New York: Carnegie Endowment, 2010). D. Vandevalle, A History of Modern Libya (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006). L. Wedeen, Peripheral Vision: Publics, Power and Performance in Yemen (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2008). 35 R. Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009). P. Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate, 1920– 45 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987). A. Raymond, (ed.), La Syrie d’aujourd’hui (Paris: Editions du CNRS, 1980). 36 M. Seurat, ‘Les populations, l’e´tat, la socie´te´’, in A. Raymond (1980), pp. 87–140. 37 Ibid.



38 R. Leveau, Le fellah marocain, de´fenseur du troˆne (Paris: Presses de Sciences-Po, 1985, 2nd edn). D. Rivet, Histoire du Maroc (Paris: Fayard, 2012). M. Willis, Politics and Power in the Maghreb (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012). 39 M. Benhlal, Le colle`ge d’Azrou: une e´lite berbe`re civile et militaire au Maroc, 1927 –59 (Paris: Karthala, 2005). R. Leveau, Le fellah marocain, de´fenseur du troˆne (Paris: Presses de Sciences-Po, 1985, 2nd edn). D. Rivet, Histoire du Maroc (Paris: Fayard, 2012). M. Willis, Politics and Power in the Maghreb (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012).


Arab regimes were able to institutionalize their authoritarian rule through co-optation and coercion from the 1950s until the 2000s. Their authoritarian strategies seemed to falter by the end of the 2000s, which was evident during the wave of Arab uprisings. Although the political economy of Arab uprisings and the reasons for social tumult were similar, the regimes reacted differently to these mass protests. Presidents Bin Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt were ousted rather quickly and peacefully, while longer waves of social contestation and violence erupted before Ali Abdullah Saleh left office in Yemen. Libya and Syria were the states that saw the most violence, and their leaders were willing to go to civil war rather than lose power. Why did these countries experience different political outcomes when the causes of their citizens’ grievances and unrest were similar? This chapter argues that economic liberalization in the region fomented public discontent and contestation. However, the ensuing violence and willingness/unwillingness of incumbent dictators to



relinquish power depended on three main factors: the state-building process after decolonization; the institutionalization of the coercive apparatus, especially the army; and the international contexts that interacted with domestic structural forces. A comparison of Egypt and Syria illustrates this argument. Both were ruled by populist, authoritarian regimes, which had gradually moved to liberalize their economies and upgrade their repressive systems. However, with the spark of the first wave of uprisings, they reacted differently to social tumult. Mubarak left power rather quickly, which brought the army back to the forefront of politics, while Asad was more resilient and has moved the country into civil war. The chapter will first show how the nature of both the stateformation process and the state-coercive apparatus is essential in the regime’s reaction to social contestation and in whether the outcome is regime change or civil war. Second, it will examine the extent to which the Asad and Mubarak regimes have managed the political economy in their respective countries to advance a crony capitalist system. Finally, the geostrategic interests of the international community, mainly the United States and the EU, and of the regional powers, mainly Saudi Arabia and Iran, are analysed to understand why Asad is still in power three years after the first wave of uprisings, while Mubarak is long gone from the political scene.

The Nature of State Formation State expansion was pervasive in developing states after the end of colonialism. The need to develop and maintain security and to establish control over the ‘nation state’ was immediate. Newly established and decolonized states in general wanted to achieve economic prosperity and social welfare for their citizens.1 This was mirrored in the Arab world, though with some specificities such as the land reform programmes of the 1950s and 1960s, the expansion of the public sector, and the effects of the exodus of foreign officials and businessmen from Egypt and North Africa after the end of the colonial era.2 In line with Huntington’s perception of its ‘praetorian guard’3 role in developing countries, the army clearly played a major



part in politics and development throughout the Middle East. It was especially important in pushing policies of industrialization in various countries of the region. Popular perception of the army in the Arab world is often favourable, because of its role in decolonization.4 After the wave of Arab uprisings and the unfolding of events, the army is again at the forefront of Middle Eastern politics. In Egypt, the army has enjoyed widespread popular support prior to and after the ousting of Mohamed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood president. On the other hand, in Syria the army has faced widespread discontent because of its role in instigating violence and civil war.

State Formation and the Coercive Apparatus in Egypt State power and expansion started to develop in Egypt with the ascendancy of Jamal Abd al-Nasser to the presidency after the 1952 revolution, the British withdrawal from Egypt in 1954 and in particular the Suez Crisis in 1956. Nasser’s regime strengthened the police and security apparatus and enlarged the armed forces. Economic reform was also initiated, through successive land reforms, the building of the Aswan high dam and the development of the Helwan iron and steel complex. In addition, large-scale nationalization stimulated state-led development in the 1950s and 1960s.5 Nasser introduced laws that further enhanced his popularity. He guaranteed state employment to all university and high school graduates and introduced national insurance policies that facilitated the emergence of a new social contract.6 He guaranteed economic rights to the working class and the peasantry, and the latter submitted to his authoritarianism.7 In 1952 the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) launched the Liberation Rally as a mobilizational instrument whose functions resembled those of a dominant or ruling party. In 1956, another type of mobilizational organization closer to a political party, the National Union (NU), replaced the RCC. The NU was in turn replaced in 1962 by the Arab Socialist Union (ASU).8 The regime retained political power and influence through fostering a dominant political party system under which all opposition would be suppressed.9 The judicial apparatus was the only institution that was



left alone until the late 1960s. In 1968 Nasser attempted to bring the judiciary under his control, through creating the Supreme ‘Court’, by a presidential decree. In addition a Supreme Council of Judicial Organizations was established, which was given authority over promotions in the judicial ranks. This council was effectively situated under executive oversight. Although the military regime under Nasser monopolized all political, social and cultural institutions, this trend was soon to change with the rise to power of Anwar Sadat. When Sadat became president in 1970 he continued to emphasize a strong presidency, in particular through the 1971 Constitution.10 He selectively liberalized the political system and legalized some political parties. He established the National Democratic Party (NDP), as a centrist party, and became its leader. As a consequence, members of the ASU left the party and joined the newly established and dominant NDP. In the meanwhile, Sadat marginalized the army through decreasing the number of generals in the government, unlike Nasser who had placed senior army officers in civilian posts.11 The rising tide of domestic and international terrorism in the 1990s and early 2000s boosted the power and status of the internal state security apparatus, especially the police. The budgetary allocation to the interior ministry increased, and Mubarak hailed the police for its role in reducing terrorist attacks. Meanwhile international support, especially from the United States, for the police force and the army intensified in order to protect US interests against terrorism in the region.12 Human rights abuses by the police against citizens were the rule rather than the exception, but the regime turned a blind eye to such atrocities. The police repeatedly used force against civilians, especially during demonstrations, when large numbers of political and social activists were detained. During the last decade, ‘security’ services consistently operated against political activists and terrorists, while they refrained from detaining corrupt public officials who were linked to the regime. This helped to temporarily strengthen the Mubarak regime, but at the same time it led to deterioration in the authority and credibility of the state.13 The army as an important arm of the coercive apparatus increasingly valued professionalism and non-intervention in politics.



According to Mohamed Abd al-Salam, the idea of military professionalism and the separation of the army from politics started to appear after Egypt’s defeat in the 1967 Six Day War. Professional personnel took command of the army in an attempt to rebuild it and liberate the lands occupied by Israel in 1967.14 Sadat tried to institutionalize this trend, and when the bread riots of 1977 occurred, he was hesitant to bring the army in to protect public order. Although he asked for its intervention to restore public order, the army returned immediately to its barracks. In the same vein, in 1986 when the Central Protection Force demonstrated, Mubarak asked the army to intervene, but once again they returned to their garrisons after ‘security’ was restored.15 In his attempt to groom his son for the presidency in the mid-2000s, Mubarak tried to secure the loyalty of the army by increasing the number of officers in economic and bureaucratic positions. He also increased the army’s economic power through allowing its unchecked influence to increase in this sphere. According to Zeinab Abou el Magd: There are three major military bodies engaged in civilian production: the Ministry of Military Production, running eight factories; the Arab Organization for Industrialization, running 12 factories; and the National Service Products Organization, running 15 factories, companies and farms. They produce a wide variety of goods, including luxury jeeps, infant jeeps, infant incubators, butane gas cylinders, plastic tubes, canned food, meat, chicken, and more. They also provide services, like domestic cleaning and gas station management.16 Hence, even though the army became increasingly professional, it also continued to ensure and expand its economic privileges. The uprising of 25 January was a further evidence of the army’s hesitancy to intervene, as in the 1977 and 1986 incidents. Nevertheless, with the failure of the ministry of interior to suppress the uprising the army did take action, but this time against Mubarak’s wishes. The army decided unilaterally to intervene after the clear incompetence of the police and of Mubarak’s government to



stop the demonstrations. At this stage, the army wanted to ensure its own legitimacy in the Egyptian street, and thus it was no surprise that it refrained from using force against civilians. This decision instantly brought the power of the army back into politics as the sole legitimate actor.17 By January 2011 the army had long established its role in the economic sphere, in addition to its already powerful status as a ‘professionalized institution’, and thus it did not consider an end to the Mubarak presidency as an end to its own power. On the contrary, getting rid of an ailing autocrat with his crony capitalists strengthened the army’s political and economic position. For example, during its 14month tenure, the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF) appointed an increasing number of former army officers to various civilian bureaucratic and economic positions.18 Although Egypt’s successive presidents attempted to personalize their rule and consolidate their power over the coercive apparatus, the police and the army continued to recruit from all parts of Egyptian society.19 For instance, professionalization ensured that any person could be promoted to higher ranks.20 The country’s rulers from Nasser to Mubarak did not so much attempt to change the nature of the Egyptian state, but rather to weaken the state vis-a`-vis the regime.21 Almost two years after the overthrow of Mubarak, Mohamed Mursi, a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood, won the first free and relatively fair presidential elections in June 2012. However, one year later, popular discontent and mobilization led to a military coup against Mursi, which ended in his ouster and the advent of an army-backed civilian government. As events are still unfolding, it is important to note that a major reason for public discontent and for military intervention was to preserve the ‘nature’ of the Egyptian state, which Mursi and his Brotherhood affiliates had threatened. Mohamed Mursi had aroused concerns among the Egyptian people and the army, for many different reasons, including his contradictory economic policies, and his readiness to relinquish southern Egyptian territory to Sudan, but the army’s major concern was Mursi’s call on jihadists to fight in Syria and giving amnesty to several jihadists who had been imprisoned for life in Egypt.22



State Formation and the Coercive Apparatus in Syria Unlike Egypt’s uncontested legitimacy as a nation state, the Syrian regime was challenged by its heterogeneous society. State formation in the Levant was not an organic development from within, but was rather a Western imposition. Regimes there did not try to foster a modus vivendi of sorts among classes, nationalities or religious groups. On the contrary, they papered over the differences and exploited them by turning groups against each other. ‘The group in power has no structural autonomy from society, but continues, while in government, to represent in a “literal” sense the society from which it derives.’23 The short union between Syria and Egypt in 1958 entailed some additional state expansion strategies. State capacity increased, especially in regard to the police, the armed forces, and the public sector. A land reform was decreed, but large parts of the land concerned were not redistributed. It remained under state control and provided the central government with an opportunity to entrench its power in rural areas. The regime took on the old landed elite and attempted to replace it with a system of direct administration through the police, the government ministries and the Ba’th Party.24 After various coups d’etat Hafez al-Asad became president in 1971 and tried to expand the social base of the regime. In the same year he established a People’s Assembly whose members were ultimately appointed by himself and his close associates. In 1972 he included some smaller parties into the new National Progressive Front led by the Ba’th Party. However, the new Constitution decreed in 1973 granted extensive powers to the president, including the authority to dissolve the Assembly and assume its legislative functions.25 The president also appointed the judges and provincial governors.26 Two decades later he again attempted to enlarge or rather redefine his social base, this time by further liberalizing part of the Syrian economy. Throughout his tenure he heavily relied on the armed forces and intelligence services27 and the Ba’th Party.28 His close circle of trusted allies included mainly other members of the country’s Alawite minority; the minority-dominated military regime increasingly came to be identified with the minority itself. The second circle was of



non-Alawite Ba’thist officers, mostly Sunnis, who were close to Asad. The third circle was the broader officer corps.29 Eva Bellin argues that the military elite has been directly linked to the existence of the regime, because of the organization of the army along patrimonial lines: The military elite becomes deeply invested in the regime’s survival and perceives regime change as possibly ruinous. Under such conditions, the military leadership has significant reason to consider using lethal force against civilians in the name of defending regime survival.30 According to Weber, patrimonial regimes are opposed to change, since patrimonialism means co-optation, favouritism, patronage and fostering divisions in society.31 Patrimonial ties have also extended the reach of Alawites to associate some Sunni allies. The Asad regime was consolidated through an alliance of the Alawite officers with the largely Sunni business circles, especially their Damascus components.32 In 1982, Rifaat al-Asad, the president’s brother, did not hesitate to massacre tens of thousands of civilians in Hama associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, whose protests and rebellion directly threated the army’s control.33 When Bashar al-Asad succeeded his father in 2000, he continued to rely on the armed forces and the Ba’th Party. However, unlike his father, Bashar alienated party cadres by reducing some of the power and patronage they had enjoyed. He dissolved the second level and sub-branch leadership of the party, which marginalized important stakeholders in the Asad regime, especially in rural areas. The security services should have filled this void, but they were underpaid and unable to extend their patronage to villagers, especially the notables and tribal elders.34 Meanwhile, the peasant and worker unions, along with the party apparatus, were consistently marginalized, denied state funds, and perceived as obstacles to economic reform.35 According to Salwa Ismail, there were signs of regime weaknesses after the so-called Damascus Spring in 2005:



On the one hand the historical alliance between the Alawitedominated military regime and the Sunni merchants is under increasing strain and may be dissolving. On the other, the alliances of earlier eras – for instance, the alliance between shaykhs and merchants – are being resurrected.36

Political Economy The public sector in Egypt and Syria was an important means of legitimation for the populist leaders from the 1950s until the early 1980s. The public sector was used to enhance the rulers’ legitimacy through creating jobs, subsidizing food and extending patronage to the regime and its constituencies.37 With the decline in oil prices and revenues in the 1980s, Arab regimes in oil and non-oil-producing states alike faced an economic crisis that prompted the rulers to ‘upgrade’ their authoritarian exercise of power. The countries needed to be reintegrated into the capitalist world economy, which required a capital-friendly investment climate and an export-led strategy that marginalized workers’ rights and increased international competitiveness. There was a need to encourage owners of capital, while sidelining peasants and workers who hitherto had provided the backbone of the populist regimes.38 Throughout the early 2000s both Egypt and Syria actively pursued a policy of ‘co-optation through clientelism’39 to ensure stability. Nevertheless, this choice ultimately reduced regime power and legitimacy in both countries. Cronyism, corruption, and mutual dependency between the governing elite and the economic elite became essential to sustain authoritarianism. The economies of the two countries were permeated by informal arrangements between the political establishment and the business elite. Patronage networks increasingly replaced what had remained of the rule of law and enhanced their own economic power.40 With the advent of the 1990s, Mubarak developed economic liberalization projects and agreed on a programme of economic reform negotiated with the IMF and the World Bank, which was built on the twin pillars of macroeconomic stabilization and structural adjustment that included privatization and balanced budgets.



In particular the neoliberal aspects of the project were pushed by Mubrarak’s son Jamal and his friends in business circles. Instead of strengthening the economic institutions, the judiciary, civil society and political parties, the regime chose to undermine the rule of law and to further strengthen crony capitalism. Economic liberalization and privatization became associated with ever-closer ties between the regime, its party, and certain businessmen. Investment Law 8 enacted by the Egyptian government in 2005 exempted investors from having to observe numerous regulations and offered additional exemptions from taxes and duties. These measures frequently led to the replacement of public sector by private sector monopolies and oligopolies.41 The Egyptian government developed partnerships with the business elite, who in turn embezzled public resources.42 A marriage of convenience was established between the political and economic elites. The most successful businesses were associated with the political elite; Ahmad Ezz, initially a steel tycoon, became the secretary of organizational affairs in the National Democratic Party (NDP) and a member of parliament. The NDP became highly centralized, with Mubarak holding the highest office as party chairman. His son Jamal was appointed the secretary of the NDP’s policy committee and in 2006 he was appointed one of the NDP’s assistant secretary generals.43 The other influential party representatives were also closely associated to the Mubaraks. When on 5 February 2011 both Mubaraks resigned from the party leadership, the party itself quickly disintegrated before it was officially dissolved in April. Economic reform was accompanied by more authoritarian restrictions of liberties, thus further accentuating a trend that Eberhard Kienle already described for the 1990s: The presidential candidate of the NDP has always stood unopposed. The activities of other political parties have remained circumscribed to their headquarters, offices and papers . . . The state of emergency has been in force since Sadat was assassinated in 1981; and though invisible on the stage, the military has always remained present in the wings.44



The combination of increased economic pressure on the middle classes, high unemployment, and extensive corruption further encouraged the regime to keep the public and political spheres under a lid. Opposition political parties were tolerated, but they had no chance of coming to power. Some scholars have gone as far as to define these political parties as part of civil society rather than political society.45 Instead of becoming vehicles for mobilizing citizens against the rulers, opposition parties have disengaged citizens from political participation, if they were not detached from the population at large. Formal civil society associations have long been present in the Egyptian public sphere, but their role was mainly to complement government provision of social services to the poor. The number and scope of civil society organizations increased exponentially, from almost 10,000 in 1998 to almost 30,000 in 2008.46 Half of these were development and religious associations, while the rest were composed of sports, youth and social clubs, trade unions and chambers of commerce. Only a very few attempted to promote human rights, political reform and civil rights.47 Historically, trade unions and chambers of commerce have ultimately been dominated by the state. Thus the increase in the number and scope of civil society organizations was intended to promote economic and social development under the auspices of the state, rather than to promote reform or democratization. With the door closed on the inclusion of citizens into the political sphere, a wave of protests began, epitomized by the ‘Kifaya’ (‘Enough’) movement that emerged in 2004. Subsequently many other movements were created such as ‘Youth for Change’ and ‘6 April’, which called for economic and political reforms. The regime tried to accommodate some of the socio-economic demands of the protestors; however, a crackdown on political activists remained the rule rather than the exception. By January 2011 public discontent against the Mubarak regime was mounting, with mass protests sparked by the overthrow of Bin Ali in Tunisia. The first waves of protest in Egypt concerned three major cities – Suez, Alexandria and Cairo – calling for ‘bread, freedom and social justice’.



In Syria, the economic difficulties that appeared from the late 1980s were tackled by austerity measures that slashed social benefits, froze public sector employment and strengthened the private sector, but without privatizing state-controlled entities. This led to a drop in the percentage of government spending from one half to one quarter of GNP.48 The effect was a decline in the purchasing power of the publicly employed middle class, which occupied a central position in Asad’s support base. Faced with increased economic and social pressure the 1991 investment law was intended to attract foreign direct investment and develop private ownership in industry, and later, private banking.49 Business partnerships developed between the largely Sunni private sector and the largely Alawite officers who all intended to make economic liberalization work for their own interests.50 According to Raymond Hinnebusch, the outcome of the liberalization process was the economic suffering of the lower and middle class citizens, while a four-fold coalition between the state bourgeoisie, the crony capitalists, the commercial bourgeoisie and the rich peasants took shape.51 The Ba’ath slowly shifted its social base from peasants and public sector workers to the wealthier segments of the former and to owners of capital without questioning the privileged role of army officers.52 When Bashar al-Asad inherited the presidency from his father he had to make important decisions about further reforming the economy and privileging distributional measures including subsidies and state employment to consolidate his power.53 According to Bassam Haddad, the private sector in Syria made some progress after 2005, though under state auspices: ‘In reality, the larger segments of private sector assets and capital are those of individuals under the umbrella of the regime; they were accumulated in the shadow of the state, often directly through state authority and using the state’s own mechanisms and agencies.’54 Asad positioned his own loyalists through changing leaders and party cadres in the 2005 Party Congress. He moved the old guard from power and weakened powerful interests by developing clientelist networks different from those supporting his father. For instance he further strengthened networks around his own and the Makhlouf family, with a heavy concentration of power and patronage



in the hands of a few. Increasingly also family members took precedence over party members, thus redefining and partly narrowing the regime’s base of support. The trend was reinforced by the relative marginalization of the workers and peasants unions whom Asad perceived as obstacles to his vision of economic development and whom he refused to fund at previous levels.55 However, he opened up opportunities for further private investment and relaxed labour protection laws. This increased Syria’s foreign trade and shifted it towards China, Iran, Turkey and the Arab world, away from the United States and Europe.56 At the beginning of his time in office, Asad seemed to have opened up the public sphere by temporarily tolerating what was then called the Damascus Spring. New possibilities for political participation seemed to emerge with the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. With the assassination of the then Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, Syria’s international vulnerability yet increased and the Syrian opposition tried to unite. Different channels of dialogue were opened between the Kurds, the secular opposition, the left, and the Muslim Brotherhood. However, after Syrian activists and intellectuals signed ‘The Statement of the One Thousand’ demanding political reforms, the regime cracked down and imprisoned many of them.57 Civil society existed in many forms in Syria, yet very few associations were granted licences, and those that received them were dominated by regime figures, such as the development associations headed by Bashar al-Asad’s wife. Professional syndicates, trade and peasant unions were dominated by members of the Ba’th party.58 Although on a smaller scale than in Egypt, civil society organizations and groups provided resources for economic and social development but never promoted political reform or democratization. Political parties were also present on the Syrian scene, but even more so than in Egypt their activities were curtailed, they remained unknown to most of the public, and unable to impact events.59 Under these conditions the Syrian opposition remained fragmented when the Arab Spring started in the southern town of Dar’a. As Dar’a had been a stronghold of the regime in the 1990s, the triggering of protests from this area showed the weakening of the old



social contract in the country. It was also a sign of the formal opposition’s inability to lead or influence events.

International and Regional Dynamics: A Catalyst for Change? Although contestation in both countries has to be analyzed in the respective local context, the role of international and regional powers cannot be overlooked. In the case of Egypt, the stance of the United States was critical. After the first mass demonstrations on 25 January 2011, the United States was reluctant to support the uprising due to its long-standing alliance with Mubarak. Nevertheless, by the end of the 18-day uprising the Obama administration had decided to align itself with ‘the people’ and improve its image in Arab public opinion. The stability of Egypt had long been important for the United States, not least because of the Suez Canal and the peace treaty with Israel. According to Marc Lynch: the administration worked vigorously to engage with a wide range of actors, government and opposition, while carefully calibrating its public rhetoric. It paid particular attention to its relationship with the Egyptian army, persuading it to restrain violence and to urge its leadership to step in when Mubarak proved unwilling to reform. While it is impossible to know what the Egyptian military might have done on its own, the Obama administration spent a great deal of time and effort communicating with it at all levels: at least six phone calls were made by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to the top leadership, and ongoing communication with junior and senior officiers took place through all channels.60 After the overthrow of President Mursi and the fall from power of the Muslim Brotherhood Washington sought to maintain stability by working closely with the armed forces. Lynch argues that the Egyptian army, even after some tension with the United States, remains Washington’s biggest ally, and Egypt’s stability continues to be a major US strategic interest.61



Syria, in contrast, has become a microcosm of regional and international competition. The Asad regime is an important ally for Iran, ensuring the latter’s influence in Lebanon and its access to the Mediterranean. Much of the opposition on the other hand is directly supported by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council states. For Iran, an end of the Asad regime would mean an end to its influence in the region. Asad also is an important ally of Russia and China who seek to challenge US power in the region. At the same time, Israel and the United States oppose Asad precisely to end Iran’s influence in the region and to perpetuate their own hegemony.62 Thus competition among external forces for influnce continues to exacerbate the conflict in Syria.

Conclusion Although the political economies of Egypt and Syria and the cooptation strategies of their regimes resembled each other in many ways, state-building processes relying on an important role for the coercive apparatus and the army precipitated different outcomes after the uprisings. Thanks to a greater degree of social homogeneity and cohesion, Egyptian institutions and in particular the army and police recruited from all parts of society and thus represented the country at large. At the same time, the army was more institutionalized and professionalized than in Syria, and state hegemony over the public sphere in Egypt was less coercive. Alongside repression, the Mubarak regime also used soft authoritarian measures to co-opt opposition forces and control political dissent. The Syrian regime, however, resorted more readily to outright repression, including large-scale detention and torture. In response to the uprisings in 2011 the regimes in both Egypt and Syria used violence against the protesters, albeit at an entirely different scale. More importantly, the role of the army was substantially different in the two countries. In Egypt, it decided to abstain from violence to maintain or gain popular support. In Syria, parts of the armed forces, the secret services and the paramilitary troops loyal to the regime had no hesitation to engage in heavy-



handed and large-scale repression. Truncated processes of state formation had left the country with armed and ‘security’ forces that were riven by sectarianism and whose most effective parts were dominated by individuals and networks close to the rulers. With the first wave of popular demonstrations in March 2011, the Syrian army opted to side with the regime, since the regime’s existence was crucial to its own survival as well. After this strategic decision, the army used force against civilians to protect its own powerbase. Different foreign interests in Egypt and Syria were catalysts for the emergent ‘stability’ and continuation of the Egyptian state, and for the everincreasing ‘instability’, violence and civil war in Syria.

Notes 1 Roger Owen, State, Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East (London: Routledge, 2004, 3rd edn). 2 Ibid., p. 24. 3 See Samuel P. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1968). 4 Fuad Khouri, ‘The Study of Civil-Military Relations in Modernizing Societies in the Middle East: A Critical Assessment’, in: Roman Kolkowicz and Andrzej Korbonski (eds), Soldiers, Peasants and Bureaucrats: Civil-Military Relations in Communist and Modernizing Societies. (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1982), pp. 9 – 27. 5 Owen, State, Power and Politics, p. 24. 6 Maye Kassem, Egyptian Politics the Dynamics of Authoritarian Rule (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2004). 7 Raymond Bush, Economic Crisis and Politics of Reform in Egypt (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999); and Kassem, Egyptian Politics. 8 Aley Eddin Hilal, The Egyptian Political System: 1981– 2010, Between the Legacy of the Past and Future Aspirations (Cairo: Al-Dar al-Misriyya al-Libnaniyya, 2010 [Arabic]). 9 Enid Hill, Mahkama! Studies in the Egyptian Legal System (London: Ithaca, 1971). 10 Joshua Stacher, Adaptable Autocrats: Regime Power in Egypt and Syria (Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012). 11 Zeinab Abou el Majd, ‘Egyptian Republic of Retired Generals’, Foreign Policy: The Middle East Channel (May 2012), see: 2012/05/08/the_egyptian_republic_of_retired_generals, accessed 5 June 2013. 12 See for example Eva Belin, ‘Reconsidering the Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Lessons from the Arab Spring’, Comparative Politics 44/2 (2012), pp. 127– 49.



13 Ibid. 14 Mohamed Abd Elsalam, ‘The Military and the Developments in its Role in the Arab World’, in Carsten Jensen (ed.), Developments in Civil-Military Relations in the Middle East (Copenhagen: Royal Danish Defence College, 2008), pp. 65 – 74. 15 Ibid., p. 71. 16 Zeinab Abou el Majd, ‘The Egyptian Republic’ 2012/05/08/the-egyptian-republic-of-retired-generals/, 2012. 17 See for instance Sean McMahon. ‘Egypt’s Social Forces, the State and the Middle East Order’, in Egypt’s Tahrir Revolution (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2013), pp. 151– 72. 18 Zeinab Abou el Majd, ‘The Egyptian Republic’ 2012/05/08/the-egyptian-republic-of-retired-generals/, 2012. 19 See for instance Eberhard Kienle’s analysis in the previous chapter. 20 Except for some sensitive positions that Egyptian Copts are not permitted to fill. 21 Nazih Ayoubi, Over-stating the Arab State: Politics and Society in the Middle East (London: I.B.Tauris, 1995), pp. 108– 9. 22 Daniel Brumberg, ‘The Resurgence of the Egyptian State’, in POMEPS, Arab Uprisings: Egypt’s Political Reset (POMEPS Briefings 20, 23 July 2013). 23 Nazih Ayoubi, Over-stating the Arab State, p. 109. 24 Owen, State Power and Politics, p. 26. 25 Fred Lawson, ‘Syria’, in Michelle Penner Angrist (ed.), Politics and Society in the Contemporary Middle East (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2010), pp. 411 – 34. 26 Lawson, ‘Syria’, p. 413. 27 Stacher, Adaptable Autocrats, p. 58. 28 Ibid. 29 Ibid., p. 90. 30 Belin, ‘Reconsidering the Robustness’, p. 133. 31 Max Weber, Economy and Society vol. II, Guenther Roth and Claus Wittche (eds) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978). Cited from Carsten Jensen (ed.), Developments in Civil-Military Relations. 32 Saloua Ismail, ‘Changing Social Structure, Shifting Alliances and Authoritarinaims in Syria’, in Fred Lawson (ed.), Demystifying Syria [Kindle version] (London: London Middle East Institute, SOAS, 2009 and 2012), Retreived from 33 Ibid. 34 Ibid. 35 Raymond Hinnebusch, ‘Syria: From “authoritarian upgrading” to revolution?’, International Affairs 88 (2012), pp. 95– 113. 36 Salwa Ismail, ‘Changing Social Structure, Shifting Alliances and Authoritarianisms in Syria’, in Lawson (ed.), Demystifying Syria, pp. 13 – 28. 37 Hinnebusch, ‘Syria’. 38 Raymond Hinnebusch, ‘Toward a Historical Sociology of State Formation in the Middle East, Middle East Critique 19/3, (2010), pp. 201 – 16. 39 Ibid.



40 Oliver Schlumberger, ‘Structural Reform, Economic Order and Development: Patrimonial Capitalism’, Review of International Political Economy, 14/4 (2008), pp. 622 – 49. 41 Nadia Farah, Egypt’s Political Economy: Power Relations in Development (Cairo: AUC Press, 2009). 42 Ibid. 43 Jamal Essam El-Din, ‘Timeline: Jamal Mubarak,’ Ahram Online http://english. 44 Eberhard Kienle, ‘More than a response to Islamism: The Political Deliberalization of Egypt in the 1990s’, Middle East Journal 52/2, (Spring 1998), pp. 219–35; p. 220. 45 See for instance Mustapha K. al-Sayyid, ‘The Concept of Civil Society and the Arab World’, in Rex Brynen, Bahgat Korany and Paul Noble (eds), Political Liberalization and Democratization in the Arab World: Theoretical Perspectives volume 1 (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1995). 46 UNDP, Egypt’s Social Contract: The Role of Civil Society (Cairo: UNDP, 2008). 47 Hamdy Hassan, ‘Civil Society in Egypt under the Mubarak Regime’, Afro-Asian Journal of Social Sciences 2/2.2 (Quarter II, 2011), pp. 1 – 18. 48 Farah, Egypt’s Political Economy, p. 97. 49 Steven King, ‘Sustaining Authoritarianism in the Middle East and North Africa’, Political Science Quarterly, 122/3 (Fall 2007), pp. 433 –59. 50 Ibid., p. 444. 51 Hinnebusch, ‘Modern Syrian Politics’, History Compass, 6/1 (2008), pp. 263–85, pp. 272. 52 King, ‘Sustaining Authoritarianism’, p. 454. 53 Hinnebusch, ‘From authoritarian upgrading to revolution?’, p. 98. 54 Bassam Haddad, ‘Enduring Legacies: The politics of private sector development in Syria’, in Lawson (ed.), Demystifying Syria, p. 35. 55 Hinnebusch, ‘From authoritarian upgrading to revolution?’ p. 99. 56 See for example Anja Zorab, ‘Partnership with the European Union: Hopes, risks and challenges for the Syrian economy’, in Fred Lawson (ed.), Demystifying Syria (London: Saqi, 2012), pp. 144– 58. 57 Joe Pace and Joshua Landis, ‘The Syrian Opposition: The struggle for unity and relevance, 2003– 2008’, in Lawson (ed.), Demystifying Syria, pp. 120 – 43. 58 Ibid. 59 Ibid. 60 Marc Lynch, ‘America and Egypt after the Uprisings’, Survival 53/2 (2011), pp. 31 – 42, p. 37. 61 Marc Lynch, ’Downfall in Cairo’, The Foreign Policy Group, 3 July 2013, http:// 62 Patrick Seale, ‘The Syrian Crisis and the New Cold War’, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 31/2 (March/April 2012), pp. 20 – 1.


Abdullah, Prince, 117 Abd al-Qadir, 80 abd al-Rabbu, Ahmad, 44 Abou el Magd, Zeinab, 162 Abu Dhabi, 102 Abyan, 44 Achkar, Gilbert, 82 activist, 43 – 44, 46, 55, 57 – 58, 84, 136, 161, 168, 170 adala, 96 Adesnik, Ariel, 48 al-Adly, Habib, 80 affairs, foreign, 120 Afghanistan, 69, 96 African Development Bank, 28, 55 agency, 45, 54 – 55, 66 causal, 9 –10 Agha, Dina, 7 al-Ahmar, family, 44 Al Ahmar Corporation see conglomerate, 56 Shaykh ’Abdullah bin Husain al Ahmar, 56 Al-Ahram, 73 Alawites see Syria Albrecht, Holger, 56 Aleppo, 20, 22 – 23 Alexandretta, 150

Alexandria, 27, 137 Algeria, 40 – 41, 46, 49 – 51, 55, 57, 69 Algiers, 39, 41 Alley, April, 56 Amir Al Muminin see Commander of the Faithful Amman see Jordan amnesty, 45 Amran, 45 ancien re´gime, 136 Anderson, Lisa, 98 – 99, 118 Ansar al- Shari’ah, 44 – 45 Arab, 151 Central see Central Arabia exceptionalism, 132 government, 151 socialism, 91 Spring, 11, 95 – 96, 98, 102, 123, 140, 171 Arab League, 114, 152 Arab Organization for Industrialization, 162 Arab Republic of Egypt see Egypt Arab Socialist Union (ASU), 160 Arab world, 10, 21, 25, 38, 49, 68, 99 Arabian Peninsula, 42, 44 Arabism, pan, 2, 68 – 69, 98

Arendt, Hannah, 147 aristocracy, finance, 16 army, French, 19 troupes spe´ciales, 19 al-Asad, Bashar, 119, 165, 169 wife, 170 al-Asad, Hafez, 19, 119, 134, 139, 158, 168 regime, 20, 23 al-Asad, Rifaat, 165 associations, 43 Austria, 14 authoritarianism, 2, 4, 10, 23, 25, 38 monarchical, 100 rule, 1, 96, 135, 139

blogging, 73 Bonaparte, Joseph, 15 Bonaparte, Napoleon L., 14, 18, 24, 27 era, 16 Boston Tea Party, slogan, 102 Bourguiba Avenue, 133 Bourguiba, Habib, 71 Bouteflika, Abd al-Aziz, 39, 40 – 42, 46, 54 –55, 57 Britain, 23 overlordship, 28 Brotherhood see Muslim Brotherhood bureaucracy, 100, 103, 120, 136 Al Bu Sa’id see Oman

Bahrain, 3, 76 – 8, 83, 88, 103, 108, 115– 117, 121, 140– 145 Al Khalifa, 117 King Hamad, 143 majlis al-nuwwab, 107 Bahraini, 79 protesters, 78 Bank for Reconstruction and Development see Yemen Barres, Maurice, 29 Batatu, Hanna, 22 Battle of the Camel, 85 Ba’th see party; see Syria Ba’thist, 131 Bedouin, 101, 124 Beirut, 69 Believing Youth, The, 42 Bellin, Eva, 164 Benghazi, 76, 81 Benkirane, Abd al-Illah, 125 Berber, 39, 77 Tamazight, 153 Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI), 134 Bin Ali, Zin El Abidin, 1, 23, 79, 95, 100, 119, 133–134, 136, 158, 168 Blanc, Louis, 18

Cairo, 22, 24, 27, 133 Ahli Football Club, 22 bloodbaths, 152 Callinicos, Alex, 13 Cameron, David, 80 capitalism, political, 4 Carapico, Sheila, 43 Carterite breeze, 79 Casablanca, 125 Cassel, 14 Central Arabia, 98 Central Asia, 96 Central Organization for Auditing and Control see Yemen Central Protection Force, 162 Chaisty, Paul, 47 Chalcraft, John, 5 Change Square, 43 China, 26, 79, 172 Christians, 77, 89, 145 civilizations Ming, 10 Moghul, 10 Ottoman, 10 cleavage Hadar-Bedouin, 101 Sunni-shi’i, 101

Clinton, Hilary, 79 CNCD see National Coordination for Change and Democracy CNSAFP see National Co-ordinating Committee for Independent Public Sector Unions coefficient, GINI, 133 Colle`ge de France, 18 Colle`ge Sidki, 148 Commander of the Faithful, 128, 139 community, 2 imagined, 2, 4 conglomerates, 56 Constituent Assembly, 135– 136 Constitution, 163 Consultative Assembly, 147 contestation, 65 cooking oil, 40 co-optation, 25 –26, 172 Copts, 78, 89 corporatism see tribalism corruption, 5, 25, 30, 39, 43, 47, 69, 90, 166, 168 Council of Judicial Organizations, 161 Council of Ministers, 21 Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), 85 countries Arab, 59, 133 Asian, 48 Latin American, 48 oil-producing, 139 Court of Appeal, 140 credit, bank, 53 Credit Suisse, 49 crisis, 17, 49 financial, 133 food, 14, 39 global economic, 48 global financial, 46 – 47, 59 cronyism, 4, 166 cultural essentialism, 66

Daily Telegraph, The, 81 Damascus see Syria Spring, 165, 170 Dar’a see Syria Davidson, Christopher, 98 decolonization, 2, 132, 160 Demmelhuber, Thomas, 6, 95 democracy, 26, 40, 118, 122, 132, 136, 137 democrats, 27 democratization third wave, 131 demographic, 16 pressures, 5, 29 demonstrations, 43, 173 De´partement du Renseignement de la Se´curite´ (DRS), 54 Department of Moral Guidance military, 45 determinism, 66 – 67 Deutsche Bank, 49 developmentalism, 68 dictatorship, 5 dictator, 68 Dieckhoff, Alain, 6, 7 diwaniyya, 107 domination, 6 DRS see De´partement du Renseignement de la Se´curite´ Druze, 151 Dubai, 102 Dynamics of Contention (DOC), 67 dynamism, 67 Dynasties, 98, 100, 109, 116, 153 Alawite, 153 Husseinid, 146 East Bankers, 125 economies Arab, 49 laissez-faire national, 13, 17 local, 51 political, 2

Egypt, 25, 30, 49, 68 – 70, 91 Arab Republic of Egypt, 118 Constitution, 118 Tahrir, 84, 133, 137 Egyptian Free Officers, 19 Elley, Geoff, 68 elites, 11 commercial, 56 Elyachar, Julia, 69 Empire, Second, 18 Employers’ Association, 136 Essebsi, Beji Caid, 136 European Union, 41 European University Institute, 7 exceptionalism, 66 L’Expression, 55 Ezz, Ahmad, 167 Facebook, 67, 73 revolution, 73 family dynasties see monarchies El Fassi, Abbas, 123 fatalism, 78 Faysal, King, 151 Federation of Trade Unions, 136 Ferdinand, King, 15 Fertile Crescent, 3, 146 fertility, rate, 17 feudalism, 14, 69 FIFA World Championship, 102 First Army, 43 forces, Peninsula Shield, 120 foreign direct investment (FDI), 49 – 50, 55, 57 Forum des Chefs D’Entreprise (FCE), 53 France, 30 fraud, voter, 25 freedom, 41, 75, 90, 96, 136, 138, 168 French, Protectorate, 147, 153 FSA, 90 Gates, Robert, 171 Gause, Gregory, 115

Gaza, 69 Strip, 142 GDP, 55, 57 General Federation of Workers’ Unions (GFWU), 57 General People’s Congress (GPC), 42– 43, 57 General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA), 40 gerrymandering, 124 Ghonim, Wael, 73 globalization, 12 GNP, 168 Gorbachev, 11 de Gouge, Olympe, 136 government forms, 3 – 4 governmentality, 32 Great Recession, 49 – 50 growth, rate, 13 Guha, Ranajit, 23 Guizot, Francois, 17 Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), 70, 75– 76, 140, 143, 145, 172 Hadar, 101 Haddad, Bassam, 169 al-Haddadin, Salah, 20 Hadi, Abd al-Rabbu, Mansur, 44 Halpern, Manfred, 114 Hama uprising, 21 Hamad, King see Bahrain Hamas, 53, 142 Hariri, Rafik, 170 Hashid tribal confederation, 44 Hassan II, King see Morocco Hassan, Prince, 117, 120 Hardt, Micheal, 81 Hayyal Sa’id ’Annam Group of Companies, 56 see also elite Heacock, Roger, 4 Herb, Michael, 100, 119– 120

Higher Elections Commissions see Yemen Hinnebusch, Raymond, 169 al-Hirak see movements Hizbullah, 70, 76, 78 hogra, 40 homogenization, 151, 153 House of Representatives, 123, 125 al-Hudaidah, 43 – 44 Hudson, Micheal, 99 human rights, 41, 73, 136, 161, 168 Hungary, 14 Huntington, Samuel, 7, 99, 125– 126, 134, 159 hurriyya, 96 Hussein, King see Jordan Huthi see also revolt Hydrocarbons, 53 Ibb, 44 Ibn Said, Qabus see Oman Idrissides, 152 Imperialism, 23, 81 Western, 70 implosion, financial, 12 India colonial history, 23 industrialization, 68 inequality, 2 inflation, 57 insurgency, 24 insurrection, 4, 15, 24, 31, 104 International Labour Organization, 49, 101 International Monetary Fund (IMF), 49, 166 loans, 70 internet, 72 Intifada see Palestine Second, 69 investment, banks, 49 Iran, 72, 77, 79, 91, 104, 125, 159, 170, 172

Iraq, 69 Irbid, 86, 124 Islam, 72, 74 activism, 66 Islamists, 25, 80, 123, 128 Islamization, 25 pan, 3 violence, 42, 71 way, 74 Islamic Action Front (IAF), 124– 5 Islamic Development Bank, 28 Islamic Republic, 30 Islamic State, 140 Islamist Justice and Development Party see parties Ismailis, 151 Ismail, Salwa, 165 Israel, 70, 88, 172 occupation, 69, 142 Istiqlal see parties Italy, 29 Jacobin, era, 16 al-Jawf, 44 – 45 Al-Jazeera see Bahrain; see television Al Khalifa, 117 jihad, 25 jihadists, 163 Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), 42 Jordan, 76, 100 Amman, 124 King Hussein, 114, 117, 121 Ma’an, 123 Transjordanian sector, 123 Jumblat, Kamal, 21 Justice and Charity Organization, 128 Kabylia, 39 Kafr Owaid, 88 Katyusha rockets, 42 Kennedy, Paul, 10 Kerak, 124 khaleeji capital, 74 Khalifa, Rafik, 53

Kifaya see movement Kienle, Eberhard, 7, 131, 167 King’s Dilemma, 7, 99, 125 Kurds, 77 – 78, 89 –90, 151, 170 Kurzman, Charles, 68 Kuwait, 76, 101 majlis al-umma, 107 Al Sabbah, 117 labour, Asian, 71 organized, 54 Lamartine, Alphonse, 18 latifondo system, 14 Latin America, 133 Lawson, Fred, 5, 37 Lebanon, 23, 69 civil war, 21 Lebanese, 140 League of Nations, 150 Le Monde, 81 liberalism, 26 – 27 neoliberalism, 13, 67, 70 Libya, 1 – 2, 68, 70 – 71, 76, 89, 96, 98 – 99, 115, 129, 134, 140, 150 Tripoli, 114 Lockerbie, 79 Lombardy, 14 Lucas, Russell, 100, 107 Lynch, Marc, 171 Ma’an see Jordan Mahrakawy, Alaa, 7 majlis, 106– 107 majlis al-nuwwab see Bahrain majlis al-shura, 107, 122 majlis al-umma see Kuwait Makhlouf, family, 169 makhzen see Morocco Marib, 44 masses, toiling, 68 – 69 Marat, Jean Paul, 136 Marx, Karl, 12, 15 –16, 23, 30 –32 Marxist-Leninist, 20

Maspero, 152 Al-Masry al-Youm, 72 al-Matawirah, Asad, 20 Maunder, Jonathan, 22 McAdam, Doug, 66 Medelci, Mourad, 41 media outlets, 43 social, 73 Mediterranean Research Meeting, 7 Medvedev, Dmitriy, 47 Menaldo, Victor, 107 Merinides, 152 MERIP, 83 Mersin, University of, 7 Michelet, Jules, 18 Middle East, 39, 50, 99 – 100, 102 Middle East and North Africa (MENA), 49– 51, 66, 80, 82 Mielke, Katja, 96 – 97 misery, economic, 12, 14 mobilization, popular, 2, 5, 39, 46, 58, 80, 95, 67, 75, 142, 160 modernity, 10 modernization, 68, 99, 114, 134 Mohamed III, 147 Mohamed VI, King, 125 Mohamed, Prophet, 118 Mohamed Thabit Group of Companies, 56 see also elite Molotov cocktails, 83 monarchies, 3,6, 16 – 18, 70, 100 Arab, 96, 126, 129 authoritarian, 144 Bahraini, 140 constitutional, 122 dynastic, 119 enlightened, 102, 107 family dynasties, 100 Gulf, 6, 97, 99, 107– 109 Hashemite, 3

non-dynastic, 119, 126 oil, 131 Morocco, 49, 76, 100, 123 Constitution, 118 King Hassan II, 115, 123 makhzen, 108 movements discrete revolutionary, 12 Kifaya, 69, 168 non-aligned, 69 popular, 10 progressive social, 31 rectification, 25 region-based, 39 sectarian -tribal, 42 see also The Believing Youth social, 14 southern al-Hirak, 42, 44 – 45 Mubarak, Hosni, 1, 7, 13, 23 – 24, 27 – 28, 74, 79, 100, 119, 133 – 134, 137, 139, 152, 158, 162, 166 Mubarak, Jamal, 71, 138 Muhsen, Ali, General, 43 Muslim, 77, 99, 145 al-Murshid, Suleiman, 19 Mursi, Mohamed, 137, 139, 169, 171 Muslim Brotherhood, 21, 24, 25, 27 – 28, 73, 124, 128– 129, 137, 139, 146 Naples, 30 al-Naser, A. Jamal, 20, 24, 131, 147 Ibn-al boustagi, 22 Nasserites, 20, 72 Nasserism, 98 Nasserites see al-Naser, A. Jamal nation building, 2 nationalism, 69 nationalization, 149 states, 2, 67, 105, 145, 149, 152– 153, 158, 164 National Assembly, 40 – 41

National Association of Families of Missing Persons, 40 National Co-ordinating Committee for Independent Public Sector Unions (CNSAFP), 54 National Coordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD), 40 National Democratic Party, 116, 137, 161, 167 National Election Observation Commission, 41 National Front of Reform, 125 National Guard see Paris National League for the Defence of Human Rights, 40 National Liberation Front, 42 National Progressive Front, 164 National Service Products Organization, 162 National Society of Industrial Vehicles, 54 National Union (NU), 160 NATO, 80 – 81, 139, 143 NDP, 139 Negri, Antonio, 81 newspapers, 72 Niethammer, Katja, 100 Nora, Pierre, 29 North Africa, 39, 49 – 50 Norway, 102, 122 Nur, Ayman, 26 Obama, Barack, 171 Obeidat, Ahmad, 125 objectivism, 5, 67, 89 occupation, Israeli, 69 OECD see state oil, rents, 65, 75 – 77, 89 Oman, 107 Al Bu Sa’id, 117 Ibn Said, Qabus, 117 Oran, 40 Orientalism, 66, 80 – 81

Ottoman Empire, 132, 146, 150 Owen, Roger, 119 Palermo, 14 Palestine, 21, 23, 69 Intifada, 80 Resistance, 115 Paris, 17, 28 National Guard, 18 workers, 17 working class, 17 Paris Commune, 31 parliament elections, 42 representatives, 41 party, 32 Ba’ath, 19, 20, 23, 163 Berber political, 40 Freedom and Justice, 137 Islamist Justice and Development Party, 123, 125 Islamist Al-Nahda, 136 Islamist Opposition, 124 Istiqlal, 123 Muslim Brotherhood, 26 National Democratic, 137 Neo-Dustur, 136 Nida Tuns, 136 Non-Islamist, 136 Party of Progress, 123 RCD, 136 Socialism, 123 Union socialiste des forces populaires, 123 Wasat, 25 Worker’s, 40 Party Congress, 169 Party of Progress see parties Pasha, Mehmet Ali, 146 Pei, Minxin, 48 People’s Assembly, 21, 137, 164 People’s Republic of China, 50 Persian Gulf, 3, 99 PetroMasila see Yemen

Phalangist, 21 Philippe, Louis, 16 fall of, 16 rule under see rule Pius IX, Pope, 12 policies, 13, 25 – 26 economic, 163 liberalization, 53 making, 38 national insurance, 160 privatization, 38 politics, Russian, 47 polity, French, 16 Posusney, Marsha, 69 poverty, 2, 13 PPS elites see Syria Preparatory Committee for National Dialogue, 42 president, autocratic, 1 press, 72 prices, 69 commodity, 133 instability, 49 oil, 166 for sugar and cooking oil, 40 world food, 49, 52 Princeton University, 114 Progressive-Muslim-Palestinian, camp, 21 proletarianization, 25 Proposed Vision for National Salvation, 43 Putin, Vladimir, 47 Qadafi, Muammar, 1, 79 – 80, 114, 119, 134, 143 colonel, 74 regime, 140 Al-Qa’idah, 42, 44, 77 Qatar, 17, 80, 102, 107 Al Thaˆni, 117 Rab’a Adawiyya, 149, 152 radio, 72

Rally for Culture and Democracy see Berber political party Rassemblement National des Independants, Constitutional Union, 123 rebels, 95 Huthi, 45 – 46 Rebrab, Issad, 53 recession, 12 reforms, 140 banquets, 17 economic, 13, 27 electoral, 43 Tunisian, 13 regimes, 100 Algerian, 46 Arab, 2, 11 authoritarian, 48 constitutional, 16 Egyptian, 22, 119 political, 3 Syrian, 22 Tunisian, 119 tyrannical, 11 types, 7 regulations State of Emergency, 41 repression, 15 republic, 6 republicanism, 119 Second French, 12 Syrian, 3 restorations, 14 revolt, 18, 21, 23 – 24, 38, 42, 46, 132, 148 Arab, 132 Huthi, 42 – 43 Urabi, 147 revolutions, 4, 14, 27, 31 Arab, 10 – 11, 132 collapse of the, 15 counter, 15, 18, 28 – 29 defeat of the, 16 Eastern European, 11

European, 10, 12 French, 136 of institutions, 45 Iranian, 30, 102 negotiated, 11 Portuguese Carnation, 10 Sicilian, 15 Socialist, 131 Syrian, 22 – 23 Tunisia, 22, 28 Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), 160 Revolutionary Socialists, 72 riots, 40, 69, 80, 121, 123, 162 bread, 80, 162 Riyadh see Saudi Arabia Robert Schuman Centre, 8 Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 117 Ruibah, 54 rule, authoritarian see authoritarianism Bourbon dynastic, 14 under Louis Philippe, 16 Neapolitan, 15 – 16 presidentialist/imperial, 18 Russian Federation, 47 Russia, 172 al-Sabah, family, 140, 144 Sadat, Anwar, 161 Saif al-Islam, 119 Sa’id, Khaled, 73 Sabbahi, Hamdeen, 24 Salafist, 25, 74 Salafi, 137, 150 al-Salam, Abd, Mohamed, 162 Saleh, Ali Abdullah, 1, 42, 44, 46, 56– 57, 134, 158 Salt, Jeremy, 80 –81 San’a, 42 – 43, 46 Saudi Arabia, 27, 44, 76, 99 – 100, 107 Ministry of Interior, 120 Riyadh, capital, 45 Riyals, 120 troops, 139

Schetter, Conrad, 96 sectarianism, 89 divisions, 2 secularists, 139 Shafiq, Ahmad, 24 Sharifian Kingdom, 125 shaykhship, 43 Shi’a, 76 Shi’i, 77, 120, 139, 143, 151 Schopenhaur, Arthur, 29 shura, 106– 107 Sicilian, 14, 24, 30 case, 19 revolt, 18 Sidi Bouzid, 133 Sika, Nadine, 7, 158 al-Sisi, Abd al-Fattah, 139 Skocpol, Theda, 31 Socialist, 53 socialism, 68, 91 see also party social constructionist, 66 – 67 social media, 24 Social Movement Theory (SMT) see theory Social Structure of Accumulation (SSA), 5, 51 societies, 2 sociological, 66, 96 SONATRACH, 69 Soviet Union, 27, 69 Spain, 122 SSA see Social Structure of Accumulation state, 2, 96, 100 Arab, 2, 50, 131– 132, 145 Arab Gulf, 49 borders, 2 building, 6, 98 control, 11 formation, 2 – 4, 7, 163 OECD, 49 oil pricing, 50 reformation, 7

rich oil-producing, 49 territorial, 2 structuralism, 66 – 67 subjectivism, 5 Sublime Porte, 146, 150 Suez, 24, 27, 83, 133, 137 Canal, 116 sugar, 40, 121 Suleiman, Omar, 27 Sunni, 19 – 20, 77, 120, 151 radicals, 45 Supreme Court, 139, 161 Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), 137, 163 Sweden, 122 syndrome one step forward, two steps back, 31 Syria, 25, 70 Alawites, 19 – 20, 77, 151, 165, 169 Ba’th party, 19, 23, 169– 170 Damascus, 19 –20, 22 –23, 30 Dar’a, 22 – 23, 30, 86, 139, 170 military, 20 PPS elites, 19 Sa’dah, 42 Sunni, 19 –20 working class, 22 Tahrir see Egypt Taiz, 43 – 44 Talawi, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein, 138 Tantawi see Talawi, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tarrow, 66 Tel al-Zaatar, massacre, 21 television, 72 satellite, 24, 67 Al-Jazeera, 24, 72 teleology, 66 terrorism, 161 anti, 41 anti-terror police units, 39 international, 161

Testa di Lana, 15, 19 Al Thaˆni see Qatar theories, social movement, 2, 66 – 67 modernization see modernity Third World, 71 third worldism, 68, 91 Tilly, Charles, 14, 66 Tocquevillian, dimension, 133 tradition, 6, 19, 21, 27, 76, 97, 106– 109, 126–128, 134, 142, 149 transition democratic, 10 third wave, 10 Transjordanian, sector see Jordan tribalism, 97, 100, 105– 106, 109 corporatism, tribal, 107 troupes spe´ciales see army, French Tunisia, 49, 68 – 70, 91 dictator, 24 Revolutions, 22, 28 twenty-first century, 53, 56 Twitter, 73 UAE, 98, 102, 107, 139, 146 UGTA see General Union of Algerian Workers unemployment, 49, 57, 101, 121, 169 unification, Italian, 12 Union Ge´ne´rale Tunisienne du Travail, UGTT see Federation of Trade Unions Union socialiste des forces populaires see parties Union Tunisienne de l’Industrie, du Commerce et de l’Artisanat, UTICA see Employers’ Association United Kingdom, 79 United States, 78, 137, 172 embassy, 79 uprising, 46 Algeria, 41 Arab, 11, 39, 71, 91, 158 Tunisia, 43 Urabi, 80, 148

USAID, 79 USFP, 123 Venice, 14 violence, 72 Vodafone UK plc, 74 al-Wageeh, Tamer, 85 Wall Street, 12, 57 see crisis war civil, 31, 70, 78, 89, 96, 145, 173 Napoleonic, 14 Six Day, 162 on terror, 81 Wasat, party see party wasta, 86 Washington, 171 Washington Consensus, 13 weaponry, heavy, 43 Weber, Max, 9– 10, 117 website, 73 We-groups, 143, 151– 153 Western Europe, 145 Western World, 116 West Bank, 142 Westphaelia, 11 Werenfels, Isabelle, 53 Whitefield, Stephen, 47 Wilde, Andreas, 96 Wikileaks, 79 World Bank, 13, 51, 166 World Trade Organization (WTO), 26, 101 World War I, 132, 150 Yassine, Abd al-Salam, 128 Yemen, 46, 51, 57, 68 Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 45 Central Organization for Control and Auditing, 45 Higher Elections Commission, 45 Military Economic Corporation

Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, 45 Ministry of Industry and Trade, 45 PetroMasila, 45 Yemen Economic Cooperation, 45, 56 Yemen Tobacco Company, 56 Yemenia Airways, 45, 56

Yemeni Socialist Party, 43 Yom, Sean, 115 Youssoufi, Abd al-Rahman, 123 YouTube, 88 Zarka, 124 Zinjibar, 44 Zionism, 69