In his introduction to the new book The Arab Spring: Uprisings, Powers, Interventions (Berghahn 2014), author and editor Kjetil Fosshagen poses two key questions:
- Were the Arab revolutions truly revolutionary?
- Is there any evidence of coherent structural social forces that can be theorized and explicated to explain the many events collectively labeled “the Arab Spring”?
Fosshagen’s answer to the first question is clearly “no,” and his reasons for saying no are based on his “yes” to the second question.
He sees the Arab Spring as offering significant parallels with Europe’s 1848 “Spring of Nations,” uprisings which began as popular revolts but ended with an aristocracy of the financial and industrial elites and, ultimately, the emperorship of Napoleon III.
And just as Marx analyzed these events in his classic essay “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” so Fosshagen believes the early successes and (what he sees as) the ultimate failures of the Arab Spring can be understood through a classic analysis of relations of production. Read more…
The Toshka project (recently revived by President As-Sisi) is “sucking in funds that might have been available for rural development in the old lands and might have boosted domestic nutrition,” according to a recent article in the Middle East Research and Information Project.
Entitled “Small Farmer Uprisings and Rural Neglect in Egypt and Tunisia,” the article by Habib Ayeb and Ray Bush is a wide-ranging essay that describes the tragic disappointment of farmers, among the most economically vulnerable of all Egyptians.
In Egypt, Toshka is a symbol for the Mubarak regime’s mismanagement, capturing both the government’s obsession with large scale projects and its commitment to foreign investment as a silver bullet for what ails the country.
Toshka was a proposed mega-project to build a 240-meter irrigation channel from the Nile Valley to the southwestern desert to irrigate land for agriculture. The idea was to solve population problems by moving farmers–up to 20 percent of the population–out of the Delta, where land is at a premium, while at the same time attracting foreign investment in new farms that would grow high-value crops for export.
In one swoop, Toshka was going to solve Egypt’s severe overpopulation, unemployment, and food security problems by creating a “new valley” to supplement the Nile valley.
Toshka failed miserably.
It is the “power of being powerless” that allows the Egyptian protests to continue, even after they have drive two regime changes, claims an article in the most recent edition of the journal International Studies.
In “From the Vantage Point of Tahrir Square: Popular Uprising in the Arab World,” author Girijesh Pant argues that Tahrir Square is a powerful metaphor for the clash between two commitments that seem, in developing nations, to be increasingly opposed: democracy and neoliberalism.
Discontent with the economy stems from very real ecnomic inequalities, Pant argues. He points out that while it is true that the number of people living under $2 day fell during the Mubarak regime, prosperity peaked around the millennium; after that, the number of people living on less than $8 a day rose, while the number of those living on $10 a day or more shrank.
Pant argues that as Egypt adjusted its agricultural system to meet foreign exchange requirements, it went from a country that produced the majority of its own food to a country dependent on food (especially cereal grain) imports.
Poverty thus rose higher in the rural areas, producing a 70 percent increase in urbanization. And this rising tide of poor is overwhelmingly young.
In the face of this rising tide of young Egyptians with nothing to lose, we see the emergence of the power of the powerless:
A new article appearing in the journal International Studies argues that the fundamental cause of the Egyptian uprisings was not anger at the regimes undemocratic authoritarianism but rather the failure of the Mubarak regime to provide economic prosperity to the majority of the population.
The article, “The Egyptian Uprising and the Global Capitalist System” by Ibrahim Aoude, is not the first to make this claim of course. What he does is make a strong attempt to embed the argument in the decline of the global world system especially in the wake of the 2008 world financial crisis.
Aoude begins by describing the crisis of the global (capitalist) economic system, drawing heavily on the works of Samir Amin (2001, 2003, 2011a, 2011b), with an emphasis on the 2008 global financial crisis and its continuing aftermath. He then describes how Sadat laid the groundwork for everything that has gone wrong in Egypt over the last forty years by drawing the country into the global economy, and how Mubarak’s continuation and acceleration of that policy worsened conditions.
Paul Amar’s book “The Security Archipelago” won the Charles Taylor Book Award at the American Political Science Association convention in Washington, DC, August 28-31.
This prize is for the “best book in political science that employs or develops interpretive methodologies and methods,” and is selected by the Interpretive Methods and Methodologies Section of the APSA.
His new book, “The Security Archipelago” is a fascinating account of the evolution of a network of global security “hot spots” he metaphorically likens to an archipelago, a chain of islands physically and culturally disconnected that nevertheless constitute a system.
In this case, the system is the creation of a new form of security state that combines humanitarian discourse with techniques of surveillance and control.
Certain hot spots serve as laboratories where these emerging forms are tested out. Among these are Brazil and Egypt, and Paul–fluent in Portuguese and Arabic–studies them here with nuanced (dare I say ethnographic?) attention to details of language and body.
The whole book is interesting but the Egypt-relevant chapters include: Read more…