Jack Goldstone famously argued that revolutions are like earthquakes: unpredictable. Once an earthquake happens, however, we study it to learn something new (Goldstone 1991: 59, 149). In the same vein, sociologists Mohamed Bamyeh and Sari Hanafi recently stated “Revolutions, therefore, are opportunities to learn something new. The worst analytical insult to a revolution is to use it as an opportunity to apply mechanically an existing theory or model.” (Bamyeh and Hanafi 2015: 343) What can we learn from the Arab Spring today, 6 years later? A general Google search brings up 11,700,000 entries that roughly have some version of “Lessons from the Arab spring” in the title. These lessons/conclusions vary from blaming some actors (such as the political Islamists, or the “revolutionary youth”) or forces of the old regimes (such as the military or the security apparatuses), or the elite (intellectual or the political elite, which varies from liberal, nationalists to Marxist leftists) or discussing the problem of a lack of organization or leadership. And there is a multitude of lessons to be learned, depending on the perspective of the scholar or observer. Continue reading
What does the Arab Spring uprisings’ effect on women in the MENA region tell us about the broader outcomes of the Arab Spring? In this piece, we discuss: 1) women’s status as a key indicator of the potential for democracy in the region, 2) changes in women’s status since the Arab Spring, and 3) the ways in which women’s increased mobilization as a result of the Arab Spring has been—and can continue to be—a pathway to improvements in women’s status. We give particular attention to the case of Egypt. Continue reading
Common wisdom has it that ultimately failed or troubled popular revolts in 2011 in the Middle East and North Africa have sparked bloody civil wars and violent extremism, and given autocracy a new lease on life.
Indeed, there is no denying that a brutal civil war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands and dislocated millions. Iraq, like Syria, is seeking to defeat the Islamic State (IS), the most vicious jihadist movement in recent history. Sectarianism and religious supremacism is ripping apart the fabric of societies in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond.
Yet, the legacy of the 2011 revolts is not simply massive violence, brutal jihadism, and choking repression. In fact, the revolts kicked off an era of change, one that is ugly, destabilizing, violent and unpredictable, and that may not lead any time soon to more liberal, let alone democratic rule. Continue reading