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Whatever Happened to the Egyptian Revolution?

Whatever Happened to the Egyptian Revolution?

Galal Amin
Translated by Jonathan Wright
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Whatever Happened to the Egyptian Revolution?
    Book Description:

    In his latest exploration of the Egyptian malaise, Galal Amin first looks at the events of the months preceding the Revolution of 25 January 2011, pointing out the most important factors behind popular discontent. He then follows the ups and downs (mainly the downs) of the Revolution: the causes of rising hopes and expectations, mingled with successive disappointments, sometimes verging on despair, not least in the case of the presidential elections, when the Egyptian people were invited to choose between a rock and a hard place. This is followed by an outline of a possible brighter future for Egypt, based on a more balanced and faster growing economy, and a more democratic and equitable society, within a truly independent, modern, and secular state. The story of what happened to the 2011 Revolution may be a sad one, but if viewed within the larger context of Egypt’s economic and social developments of the last century, on which the author’s previous books threw very useful light, it can be regarded as one important step forward toward a much better future.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-352-9
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    It has been two years since the outbreak of the revolution of January 25, 2011, which within less than a month brought to an end one of the worst eras in Egyptian history, the era of Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for close to thirty years and presided over declines in the Egyptian economy, social conditions, and Egypt’s status in the Arab world and internationally.

    Egyptians were overjoyed that the revolution had succeeded in getting rid of the head of the regime and putting an end to the idea of dynastic succession by Mubarak’s son, and hopes rose that in...

  4. Part 1 Causes of the Revolution

    • 1 Worse than Unemployment
      (pp. 5-21)

      Whenever I returned to Egypt after an absence of any length, as soon as I set foot in the airport, I would be struck by some manifestation of a class-based society: junior staff waiting for senior staff, someone carrying passports for an important group of people and completing the passport formalities on their behalf so that they could get out of the airport before anyone else, or the staff of tour companies, mostly university graduates, who could not find better employment than holding up a sign with their company’s name for passengers to see, and so on.

      As soon as...

    • 2 Appropriating Public Property
      (pp. 22-31)

      Farouk Hosni, the Egyptian minister of culture for more than twenty years under President Mubarak, in his campaign to become director-general of UNESCO, did not behave in a manner befitting a minister from a principled country that derives its political positions from the sentiments of its people, that does not treat its enemies in the same way it treats its friends, and that does not spend taxpayers’ money without restraint or a sense of responsibility. On the contrary, the culture minister behaved in this affair as if the ministry and the state were both his private estate or the estate...

    • 3 Bequeathing the Unbequeathable
      (pp. 32-36)

      I once read about a Dutch woman who was married to one of the greatest, most popular, and most famous politicians in Holland. Her husband died, leaving her with two young children. The woman made a decision that was unusual but showed wisdom and keen insight. She decided to take her children to another country far away where no one had heard of their wonderful father and bring them up out of the limelight in the belief that their father’s fame could well corrupt the children, particularly the boy, in several respects. The boy might be treated in a way...

    • 4 Selling the Unsellable
      (pp. 37-57)

      Every now and then, stories of another sell-off drift our way like a poisonous wind we are fated to endure. One industry after another was offered for sale, then department stores such as Omar Effendi, then banks such as the Bank of Alexandria. Then people said, “Why not sell the public utilities as well, such as the telephone company, the railways, the water and electricity companies, the airports, and the highways?” The last we heard was of putting Alexandria University up for sale.

      What exactly is the story?

      There are some phony explanations that are not credible. They say the...

    • 5 Spurious Nationalism
      (pp. 58-66)

      Like millions of other Egyptians I was naturally delighted when Egypt won the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola in 2010, but I’d like to admit two things to the reader.

      First, I didn’t sit and watch the final match as millions of other Egyptians did, but just asked what the result was when I reckoned enough time had elapsed since the match started. It wasn’t because I had important work that stopped me from watching the match, but just that I wasn’t as interested as many others in following what was happening minute by minute, as well as the...

    • 6 A Police State
      (pp. 67-92)

      How can we explain the strange attitude the regime of President Hosni Mubarak took toward the opposition and public opinion in Egypt, which was quite different from the attitudes of presidents Abd al-Nasser and Sadat?

      What’s the secret behind the indifference the regime showed toward what people felt?

      It’s very possible that each of these periods had different ambitions. Abd al-Nasser was a politician in every sense of the word. He had a project and his political ambitions were fundamental. Of course he wanted to retain power (what ruler wants power to slip from his hands?), but Abd al-Nasser used...

  5. Part 2 Reasons for Hope

    • 7 Harbingers of Revolution
      (pp. 95-103)

      I left the Cairo Book Fair in January 2010 ecstatic, and I cannot deny that at the time I felt that Egypt may be on the threshold of a cultural renaissance, the latest of several over the past two centuries, each of which followed a period of despondency and disappointment.

      This sense of optimism that something good was starting to happen in Egypt was unfamiliar, of course, because just before the 2011 revolution people in Egypt, either in what they wrote in the press or what they said in television or in daily conversations, seemed to be competing with each...

    • 8 January 25
      (pp. 104-128)

      Something very important happened on January 25, 2011, something that I believe to be unprecedented in the history of political activity in Egypt and that reflected important developments that had built up in Egyptian society over the past twenty or thirty years and were bound to produce such an event. The masses that came out on the streets that day, chanting, making demands, and expressing their anger at the whole situation in Egypt, made up a movement characterized by a number of phenomena that were new to Egyptian political life.

      First, the vast numbers of people who took part in...

  6. Part 3 Reasons for Concern

    • 9 A Revolution or a Coup?
      (pp. 131-154)

      There was plenty to rejoice about in what happened in the few months after the January 25 revolution in Egypt, but also plenty to worry about.

      The reasons to rejoice were obvious and well known: suddenly seeing a new generation of young Egyptians who combined loyalty to the country with vitality, intelligence, and willingness to make sacrifices and who combined new skills and ideas derived from their openness to the world with confidence in the country’s traditions and cultural heritage. It was also gratifying to see Egyptian women daringly taking part in public affairs, revealing no less intelligence, dynamism, and...

    • 10 The Mysteries of the Egyptian Revolution
      (pp. 155-164)

      The joy and pride Egyptians felt when the revolution started on January 25 were quite understandable and justified, and their feeling of joy and pride was even greater when the revolution succeeded in bringing down the head of the regime.

      But surprisingly, a set of questions and riddles raised by the events of the revolution and its evolution over the subsequent months has remained without convincing answers. Yes, joy can make you forget yourself, and distract you from thinking at length about the reasons for and the details of a joyous event, especially if this joyous event has been awaited...

    • 11 Muslims and Copts
      (pp. 165-216)

      I have a friend I met fifty years ago when he came to London to enter the same college I was studying in. We were later work colleagues and he became one of my dearest friends. Since I first met him I never noticed that the fact that his religion was different from mine had any effect on the way he behaved toward me or toward our mutual friends who were Muslims, or on the way I behaved toward him. We saw the religious difference between us in the same way as we might see a difference in height, for...

  7. Part 4 Prospects for the Future

    • 12 The Economy
      (pp. 219-235)

      The following saying, which contains an important truth, is attributed to a major English economist: “If you ask five economists to say what they think about an economic problem, you’ll get six opinions.”

      Unfortunately the saying is largely correct, for two reasons in my opinion. One is that analyzing an economic problem and suggesting a remedy are closely connected in most cases with the ideological positions of the people doing the analysis and prescribing the remedy, and to their allegiances, which are affected by the class to which they belong and by their political ambitions. So the analyses and the...

    • 13 Democracy
      (pp. 236-244)

      There’s a big difference between the attitude toward democracy of the officers who took power in February 2011 and the officers who created the 1952 revolution. The gap between the two revolutions is close to sixty years and Egypt has undergone many significant changes during that period, so how could we not expect big differences between the two attitudes?

      As soon as the 1952 revolution succeeded in removing King Farouk from the throne, the party leaders who had been in and out of power before 1952 rushed to introduce themselves to the officers in the expectation that the officers would...

    • 14 Social Justice
      (pp. 245-250)

      There has been much talk of social justice in Egypt since the revolution of January 25, but unless some important things change, little can be done to bring it about.

      For this reason I believe that many of those who promise to bring about social justice or even to move in that direction do not really mean what they say, because most of them realize, like me, that there are important conditions for achieving social justice that have not been met, and it looks unlikely that they can be met easily. For the same reason I believe that those who...

    • 15 Dependency
      (pp. 251-255)

      What’s the use of the January revolution if it doesn’t enable us to do away with dependency? The Mubarak regime had many faults, too many to list, but certainly one of the worst, if not the very worst, was its extraordinary deference toward the U.S. administration and its constant submission to Washington and hence also to Israel.

      Yes, this dependency began in the era of Anwar al-Sadat and continued until he was killed in 1981, but Hosni Mubarak and his men did not diverge one iota from the path of subordination Sadat pioneered, whether in economic policy, policy toward the...

    • 16 A Secular State
      (pp. 256-264)

      A few weeks after the January 25 revolution we were taken by surprise by a deep, unexpected, and disturbing polarization between two groups of Egyptians. One group talked about politics, in one form or another, in terms of religion, while the other group insisted that politics and religion should be kept apart. This happened in particular on the occasion of the referendum on the constitutional amendments, when some people claimed that voting yes or no meant taking a certain position on religion, while others rejected this claim and condemned it as an unwarranted intrusion of religion into politics. Before this...

  8. Afterword: An Abortive Revolution?
    (pp. 265-284)

    When Hosni Mubarak was president of Egypt, I never, to be honest, attached any importance to his role in governing Egypt. I was very surprised by the many references in newspapers and magazines, in local and foreign commentaries, to the fact that he did this or refused to do that or that he favored a certain course of action and that his ministers and aides put it into effect or that he disliked another idea and so these ministers and aides dropped it. Yes, perhaps he did have a role in minor matters, such as sending an Egyptian ambassador to...

  9. Index
    (pp. 285-290)