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“The Arab Spring: Five Years After”

November 5, 2016

5-years-afterThird World Quarterly has a special collection of articles on “The Arab Spring: Five Years After.”

The collection of six papers is edited by Richard Falk, of Princeton, and Bülent Aras, of Solenci University.

There are, alas, no articles on Egypt specifically (as there are on Turkey and Syria), but several of the articles touch on Egypt and issues relevant to its 2011 uprisings, and their aftermath.

Here are the abstracts:

“Five years after the Arab Spring: a critical evaluation,” by Bülent Aras and Richard Falk

A new political geography has emerged in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) after the Arab Spring. The transformative impact of the popular upheavals appeared to put an end to long-term authoritarian regimes. Today, the region is far from stable since authoritarian resilience violently pushed back popular demands for good governance and is pushing to restore former state structures. However, the collective consciousness of the popular revolts endures, and a transformative prospect may emerge on the horizon. The chaotic situation is the result of an ongoing struggle between those who seek change and transformation and others in favour of the status quo ante. A critical evaluation of the Arab Spring after five years indicates a continuous process of recalculation and recalibration of policies and strategies. There are alternative routes for an eventual settlement in the MENA region, which are in competition against both regional and transregional quests for a favourable order.

“State, region and order: geopolitics of the Arab Spring” by Bülent Aras and Emirhan Yorulmazlar

State failure, sovereignty disputes, non-state territorial structures, and revolutionary and counter-revolutionary currents, among others, are intertwined within the Arab Spring process, compelling old and emerging regional actors to operate in the absence of a regional order. The emergent geopolitical picture introduces the poisonous mix of loss of state authority spiralling toward instability, defined by sectarianism, extremism, global rivalries, and ultimately irredentism within interdependent subregional formations. This assertion is substantiated by detailed and specific evidence from the shifting and multi-layered alliance formation practices of intra- and inter-state relations, and non-state and state actors. Analysis of the relations and alliances through a dichotomous flow from domestic to regional and regional to global also sheds light on prospective future order. A possible future order may take shape around a new imagination of the MENA, with porous delimitations in the form of emerging subregions.

“Turkish foreign policy in the post-Arab Spring era: from proactive to buffer state” by E. Fuat Keyman

Our globalising world is presently in a state of global turmoil. Risk, uncertainty, and insecurity are the terms that shape global/regional/national/local affairs and developments. The refugee crisis and the war against ISIL constitute the twin crises creating seismic impacts and consequences that in turn escalate risk and turmoil. Turkey is situated at the heart of these two crises, being very much affected by them and, therefore, perceived as a pivotal actor in the way in which the West is dealing with them. Yet, the West’s current instrumentalist and functionalist approach to Turkey as a buffer state designed to contain these two crises in the MENA does not offer an effective and sustainable solution to these crises, much less provide the stability and order that is direly needed in regional and global affairs.

“The limits of mediation in the Arab Spring: the case of Syria” by Pınar Akpınar

This article investigates the limits of mediation during the Arab Spring by focusing on the case of Syria. It examines international mediation attempts by states, non-governmental organisation, and regional and international organisations. Drawing largely on Bercovitch and Gartner’s framework of mediation outcomes, the study suggests that the directive strategy applied by Staffan de Mistura through the United Nations–Arab League joint effort has achieved the closest outcome towards a full settlement. Mediation in the Syrian crisis has been limited by disagreement among key actors, lack of commitment and of coordinated efforts, questions of representation and legitimacy, and lack of neutrality and of inclusiveness. Despite its limits, mediation has been able to achieve important gains such as the longest and broadest ceasefire, access to the majority of besieged areas, considerable de-escalation of violence, commitment among key actors towards a resolution, and resolution of incidents of hostage crises. Despite its limits, mediation is likely to play an important role vis-à-vis the Arab Spring.

“The political and theological boundaries of Islamist moderation after the Arab Spring” by Halil Ibrahim Yenigün

This paper explores the repercussions of the apparent failure of Islamist experimentations with democracy during the Arab Spring in terms of the moderation hypotheses with a specific focus on the Egyptian case. I build on the existing arguments that repression may paradoxically moderate mainstream Islamist movements with certain caveats: when Islamists eventually come to power, their ideological vision also matters within the nexus of their strategic commitments and the on-going power struggles with other Islamist contenders. The prospects of democratisation, then, may also depend on the theoretical and political success of an Islamist political theology that accords better with rights and freedoms than a simplistic procedural democracy. Repression may indeed lead to moderation of the well-entrenched mainstream Islamist groups. However, such analyses focus only on those who remain within the fold of the mother organisation, rather than the splinter groups that break away with their more radicalised views. Under the post-Arab Spring conditions and given the Salafi factor, current views on the repression–moderation cycle must also account for the defection among certain Islamist constituencies towards jihadi or vigilante Salafism.

“Rethinking the Arab Spring: uprisings, counterrevolution, chaos and global reverberations” by Richard Falk

This article evaluates the aftermath of the Arab Spring through the dual optic of a regional phenomenon and a series of country narratives. These narratives are categorised by reference first to the secular states that found a path to stability after experiencing strong uprisings that drove rulers from power, second to the states in which the uprisings generated prolonged resistance and continuing acute instability, and third to the monarchies that neutralised the uprisings at their inception and restored stability. When other dimensions of conflict are taken into account, it seems likely that the Middle East will continue to experience chaos, intervention and counterrevolution for years to come, and possibly even a second cycle of uprisings directed at the evolving order.


Akpinar, Pinar. 2016. The limits of mediation in the Arab Spring: the case of Syria. Third World Quarterly 37(12): 2288-2303.

Aras, Bülent and Richard Falk. 2016. Five years after the Arab Spring: a critical evaluation. Third World Quarterly 37(12): 2252-2258.

Aras, Bülent and Emirhan Yorulmazlar. 2016. State, region and order: geopolitics of the Arab Spring. Third World Quarterly 37(12): 2259-2273.

Falk, Richard. 2016. Rethinking the Arab Spring: uprisings, counterrevolution, chaos and global reverberations. Third World Quarterly 37(12): 2322-2334.

Keyman, E. Fuat. 2016. Turkish foreign policy in the post-Arab Spring era: from proactive to buffer state. Third World Quarterly 37(12): 2274-2287.

Yenigün, Halil Ibrahim. 2016. The political and theological boundaries of Islamist moderation after the Arab Spring. Third World Quarterly 37(12): 2304-2321.


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