The Pulse of the Egyptian Revolution: New Journal Issue
The IDS Bulletin, published by the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, has a new issue out entitled “The Pulse of the Arab Revolt.”
The special issue might as well be called “The Pulse of the Egyptian Revolution” since all of the papers focus on or take their case studies from Egypt, except for the introduction by Mariz Tadros.
Below is a list of the articles, and their abstracts. Most of these have been made available free on-line.
Tadros, Mariz. 2012. Introduction: The Pulse of the Arab Revolt. IDS Bulletin 43(1): 1–15.
This article explores the dynamics of the rupture with the status quo that transformed the face of the Arab world. It examines the meanings of the pathways of social and political change in the light of some of the dominant paradigms that have informed policy and practice in the Arab world. In doing so, this article makes five key postulations that are relevant beyond the Arab context: the first is that we need new lens, new framings and new modes of engagement to capture the pulse of the street. The second postulation is that representing the uprisings as a ‘Facebook revolution’ is highly reductionist and risks promoting the replacement of one development fashion fad with another, without addressing the underlying power dynamics. This is especially so since the uprisings reached tipping point by virtue of a constellation of dynamics involving the youth, the masses and the army’s military coup. Third, the time- and space-bound moral economy of Tahrir Square bears much explanatory power on why the act of revolting should not be confused with its outcome. The fourth contestation suggests that the concept of unruly politics may offer substantial analytical power in understanding the agency, the relationships and spaces through which people mobilized. The fifth argues that there is a need to rethink development policy in the light of a number of paradigm failures outlined below.
Ali, Khalid. 2012. Precursors of the Egyptian Revolution. IDS Bulletin 43(1): 16–25.
This article argues that there had been sustained protests for at least a decade before the January 25th uprisings, which functioned as the political incubators that nurtured the forces of the revolution, shaping people’s political consciousness and organizational capacities. Over the past decade, Egyptians have protested against just about everything: regional occupations and Mubarak’s inheritance plans, from encroachments on the judges’ independence to poor wages, shortages of water and cooking gas, and attacks on Christians. In these demonstrations, this article argues, some of the most innovative and effective mechanisms of protest were deployed, yet the intelligentsia dismissed these events as too inconsequential for challenging the status quo. They were proven wrong.
Ezbawy, Yusery Ahmed. 2012. The Role of the Youth’s New Protest Movements in the January 25th Revolution. IDS Bulletin 43(1): 26–36.
The January 25th uprisings were instigated by youth social protest movements which were organised through online social networks and that had the experience and capability of taking their activism from the virtual world to the real. A number of factors enabled the youth to unify ranks before the uprisings through a strong inner circle, which was then able to mobilize the middle-class and poor through different nodes, all joining forces at key sites, and all bound by common demands for reform, which then culminated in the one unified call upon Mubarak’s ousting. Thanks to the political errors of the government in its security handling of the situation, and strengthened by the signals from the military that they would not strike against the people, there was nothing stopping the snowball rolling.
Wardany, Youssef. 2012. The Mubarak Regime’s Failed Youth Policies and the January Uprising. IDS Bulletin 43(1): 37–46.
Throughout its 30 years in power, the regime of President Mubarak failed to meet the needs of the younger generation. During the last ten years in particular, the gap between actual reality and the political rhetoric about empowering the young and allowing them to better their lives grew steadily. The regime failed to embrace a public policy for the youth that would be binding on all state institutions. It could not come up with clear goals in education, employment and political initiation. The considerable funding that went into improving the output of the educational process and creating jobs for the youth did not change this reality. Meanwhile, the National Democratic Party (NDP) placed unrealistic hopes on the commitment and loyalty of its young members, whose failure to support the regime became clear during the January 25th uprising. The regime’s focus was on activities aimed to fill the time of young people, rather than on political activities that were open to all young people, regardless of their political and intellectual affiliations.
Dahi, Omar S. 2012. The Political Economy of the Egyptian and Arab Revolt. IDS Bulletin 43(1): 47–53.
This article advances a framework for understanding the political economy of the Egyptian and Arab revolts. After almost three decades of implementing neoliberal economic policies, the Egyptian economy was nevertheless stagnating in the early 2000s and political unrest was increasing. In response two key policy decisions were undertaken by the ruling elite, one to embark on a program of further liberalization and privatization in the hope of attracting foreign direct investment and the other to use the global war on terror framework as a means of repressing internal dissent. While these decisions ‘succeeded’ in the short term, they also created the conditions which led to the uprisings.
Fawzy, Sameh. 2012. Accumulative Bad Governance. IDS Bulletin 43(1): 54–61.
This article argues that accumulative bad governance over three decades of Mubarak’s regime represents one of the main reasons why people revolted. Bad governance contributed to the fall of the regime in three fundamental ways: first, it created the conditions (such as rampant corruption, violation of human rights and absence of rule of law) that served to inspire public action against the rulers; second, it led to the breakdown of core elements critical for regime stability (within the bureaucracy and the judiciary for example) and third, it catalyzed the middle-class who played a key role in agitating for the uprisings via Facebook and other social media. However, in exposing the dynamics of bad governance in Egypt, this article suggests that the problem is not only one of governance gone bad but the very ‘good governance’ paradigm promoted by international actors. By focusing on institutional reform, the good governance paradigm did not capture the way in which actors, processes and values become diffuse across the state-society divide. A relational governance approach would be more analytically useful in capturing and engaging with some of these dynamics.
Tadros, Mariz. 2012. Backstage Governance. IDS Bulletin 43(1): 62–70.
Mubarak’s regime was able to pursue political liberalization without undermining the status quo through the role played by the State Security Investigations apparatus (SSI) in backstage governance. This article discusses mechanisms through which the SSI exercised public authority through the use of soft and hard power. It argues that the focus of good governance approaches on the level of government institutions formally mandated with public authority together with the international precedence given to geostrategic security interests over development policy enabled the SSI to instrumentalize Western-sponsored good governance programs to advance its own mandate of safeguarding the power base of the regime.
Abd el Wahab, Ayman. 2012. The January 25th Uprisings: Through or in Spite of Civil Society? IDS Bulletin 43(1): 71–77.
Did the January 25th revolution emanate from civil society? Not if the conventional Western understanding of the term is used, and certainly not if its programmatic association with established organizations is assumed. This article explores the highly complex relationship between the arena we call civil society and the forms of activism we witnessed prior to, during and after the uprisings of January 25th. The article first argues that traditional civic associations did not catalyze the kind of agency that manifested itself in the January 25th uprisings. It suggests that pre-revolutionary associational life in Egypt reflects the presence of a civic rather than a civil society, which manifests itself in the values that the organizations and their leaders uphold. The second argument is that when state restrictions on political space were temporarily relaxed in 2005, those that assumed a civil role were groups and movements that did not organize through the conventional mainstream civic associations that we have come to identify as ‘civil society’. Finally, the article argues that the core group to have instigated the uprisings – the youth – had turned to a virtual participatory arena, precisely because their opportunities for exercising their agency fully were blocked in mainstream civil or civic associations.
El Naggar, Muhamed Hussein. 2012. Human Rights Organizations and the Egyptian Revolution. IDS Bulletin 43(1): 78–86.
In much of the democratization and development literature, human rights organizations were championed as whistle-blowers and advocates of justice. This article argues that human rights organizations were just as disconnected from the momentum of the force, building up prior to and at the wake of the revolution as other civil and political organizations and forces. An inhibitive political environment prohibiting political activism and an elitist internal culture meant that human rights organizations were far removed from the street. Yet they played an intermediary role in engaging with journalists, lawyers and activists as well as an indirect role in raising awareness of human rights violations, which facilitated the coalescing of a platform around the death of Khaled Said. The revolution however, has forced the human rights organizations to rethink their strategies of engagement and relationship with the masses. The extent to which this is forcing a paradigm shift remains to be seen.
Siam, Emad. 2012. The Islamist vs the Islamic in Welfare Outreach. IDS Bulletin 43(1): 87–93.
Egypt’s Islamist forces, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood, have been known for their broad-based populist base, one which was partly associated with their extensive welfare outreach. Yet how do we account for the disconnect between the Islamists and the youth uprisings at the wake of the revolution? This article argues that contrary to popular adages, the Islamists’ welfare base had grown considerably weaker in the past decade due to security restrictions and internal fragmentation. Meanwhile, a new brand of Muslim organizations with a greater space for youth activism has emerged, and it is these youths who participated in their personal capacities in large numbers during the revolution and under their organizational umbrellas after the ousting of Mubarak. The case study of Islamist outreach presented here challenges some of the assumptions about the extent to which the Islamist welfare outreach translated into ‘ownership’ of the street. Ultimately, when the youth uprisings began, the Islamists, for all their networks, were just as disconnected from the street as other political and social forces.
Sholkamy, Hania. 2012. The Jaded Gender and Development Paradigm of Egypt. IDS Bulletin 43(1): 94–98.
The people’s solidarity in search for rights, dignity and justice in the days of the uprising against Mubarak’s regime challenged the assumptions guiding the gender and development paradigm. Women who participated in their thousands trod very different paths from those engineered by gender and development policy advocates, about how to support women to engage politically. It highlighted more than ever, the limitations of previous approaches that supported an apolitical gender and development agenda in an authoritarian regime. This article argues that in post-revolutionary Egypt, gendered work is no longer the exclusive realm of development and is expressing itself differently, through political party activism and religious philanthropy charity. The extent to which a gender equality agenda will develop forcefully will depend on the nature of the state system, the extent to which there will be avenues for political engagement outside development, and the extent to which philanthropic organizations will assume center stage in engaging with women’s needs as religious subjects.
Mustapha, Yousry. 2012. Donors’ Responses to Arab Uprisings: Old Medicine in New Bottles? IDS Bulletin 43(1): 99–109.
This article examines Western donors’ reactions to the Arab uprisings and whether there has been a radical departure, since January 2011, from previous modes of engagement. It takes the EU and USA as case studies of the failure of aid policies to promote democracy prior to the uprisings, and questions whether a new approach has been adopted after the demise of Mubarak in Egypt. It argues that for the EU, positive conditionality is seen as a central element in reforming funding policies while for the USA, there seems to be no significant change in the funding policy. The highly restrictive political and cultural context affecting international agency has not changed after the ousting of the former regime, nor have the underlying factors influencing the direction of foreign funding in the region changed. In short, what this article concludes is that we are far from witnessing a paradigm shift.