Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Arab Spring in Egypt

Arab Spring in Egypt: Revolution and Beyond

Bahgat Korany
Rabab El-Mahdi
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 364
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Arab Spring in Egypt
    Book Description:

    Beginning in Tunisia, and spreading to as many as seventeen Arab countries, the street protests of the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011 empowered citizens and banished their fear of speaking out against governments. The Arab Spring belied Arab exceptionalism, widely assumed to be the natural state of stagnation in the Arab world amid global change and progress. The collapse in February 2011 of the regime in the region’s most populous country, Egypt, led to key questions of why, how, and with what consequences did this occur? Inspired by the “contentious politics" school and Social Movement Theory, Arab Spring in Egypt addresses these issues, examining the reasons behind the collapse of Egypt’s authoritarian regime; analyzing the group dynamics in Tahrir Square of various factions: labor, youth, Islamists, and women; describing economic and external issues and comparing Egypt’s transition with that of Indonesia; and reflecting on the challenges of transition. “Its analysis is as fresh as the breathtaking events it covers."—Nathan Brown, George Washington University “Arab Spring in Egypt is a modern history study that brings much greater understanding to light about the views of modern Arab people and the future they see for their country."—Midwest Book Review

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-355-0
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)
    Bahgat Korany and Rabab El-Mahdi

    The term ‘Arab Spring,’ while controversial, has come to represent the events that have rocked this region since the beginning of 2011. At the time of writing, the Arab Spring has seen the collapse of four heads of the region’s authoritarian regimes: Ben Ali’s in Tunisia on 17 January, Mubarak’s in Egypt on 11 February, Qadhafi’s in Libya on 23 August, and Saleh in Yemen. In snowball fashion, contentious politics and protest movements have spread to the rest of the Arab world from Yemen to Syria, Morocco to Bahrain. Three main patterns have emerged so far:

    1. Some regimes have...

  6. 1 The Protesting Middle East
    (pp. 7-16)
    Bahgat Korany and Rabab El-Mahdi

    At the time of writing, the Arab Spring has already brought down four heads of state, in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. Others, as in Syria and perhaps Bahrain, are fighting for survival. And from Morocco to Jordan, opposition to the government is growing. It appears then that the hallmark of the Arab world in 2011 is the rise of protest movements: a dissension driven from below.¹ What distinguishes the Arab Spring from protest movements elsewhere is the intensity and density of the 2011 protests—a peak in contentious politics, or a phase of heightened conflict, both organized and unorganized,...

  7. Part 1: Authoritarianism:: How Persistent?

    • 2 Concentrated Power Breeds Corruption, Repression, and Resistance
      (pp. 17-42)
      Ann M. Lesch

      On 25 January 2011, thousands poured into Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of Cairo. Many streamed past the iconic statue of Saad Zaghlul (leader of Egypt’s 1919 revolution) and followed his outstretched arm across the venerable Qasr al-Nil bridge. Others broke through security barriers as they raced through downtown streets or marched in long lines along the Nile Corniche from the south and north. Chanting and waving placards, they denounced the security forces and the hated minister of interior and called for ‘aish(bread),karama(dignity), andhurriya(freedom). Simultaneously, thousands crowded into the port city of Alexandria and confronted...

    • 3 The Political Economy of Mubarak’s Fall
      (pp. 43-62)
      Samer Soliman

      The long rule of President Hosni Mubarak can be explained by his manipulation of the distribution of economic resources, and his demise is related to the dwindling of public revenues and its effects on Egyptian politics.

      When Mubarak took office in 1981, state coffers enjoyed relatively important flows of rentier revenues coming from oil, the Suez Canal, and foreign aid. This was a legacy of President Anwar Sadat. Indeed, the end of the military conflict with Israel had given Sadat the chance to reopen the Suez Canal in 1975, recover oil reserves in Sinai, and receive significant foreign aid from...

    • 4 Dynamics of a Stagnant Religious Discourse and the Rise of New Secular Movements in Egypt
      (pp. 63-82)
      Nadine Sika

      Agents of political socialization have been adept at influencing Egyptians’ religious consciousness over the past three decades, especially religious institutions and the media. However, the new social movements that played a key role in calling for the 25 January 2011 protests, which turned into a revolution, were predominantly secular. During the eighteen-day uprising, none of the revolutionaries’ chanted slogans had religious connotations. Rather, ideas of human rights, social equity, freedom, and dignity prevailed. Religious symbolism was present in marches launched from mosques after Friday prayers toward major public squares in different Egyptian cities, but this symbolism did not transmute into...

  8. Part 2: Group Dynamics in Tahrir Square

    • 5 The Power of Workers in Egypt’s 2011 Uprising
      (pp. 83-104)
      Dina Bishara

      “Workers did not join the revolution; the revolution joined the workers,” proclaimed a prominent labor activist when I asked him about the role of Egyptian workers in the 25 January 2011 uprising, which forced former President Hosni Mubarak—who had ruled Egypt for nearly three decades—to step down.¹ This provocative claim, whether or not it is true, reflects one side of a spirited domestic debate. To the labor activist with whom I spoke, “the revolution joined the workers” in the sense that workers had laid the foundation for the uprising through their continuous activism over the last five years....

    • 6 Youth Movements and the 25 January Revolution
      (pp. 105-124)
      Dina Shehata

      The 25 January revolution was described by many observers as a youth revolution due to the prominent role played by youth activists and youth movements in organizing the protests that led up to it and their role in framing the demands and strategies used by the protesters. In the decade preceding the revolution, youth-led movements such as Youth for Change, Tadamon, the April 6 movement, the ElBaradei campaign, and We Are All Khaled Said played an important role in mobilizing a new generation of Egyptians into politics. They helped to introduce innovative tools of mobilization and organization that allowed activists...

    • 7 Islamism in and after Egypt’s Revolution
      (pp. 125-152)
      Ibrahim El Houdaiby

      Egypt’s revolution is transforming the country’s Islamist landscape. The first wave of protests, which lasted for eighteen days and successfully ousted Mubarak after three decades in office, triggered revolutionary changes within the country’s Islamist movement. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Egypt’s largest organized political group, serves as a good example. The group—which stood united despite (or because of) long decades of oppression—witnessed major transformations in just a few months. After years of insisting on the all-encompassing nature of the organization, it was only a few days after Mubarak’s ousting that the group announced its intention to establish an independent...

    • 8 Women Are Also Part of This Revolution
      (pp. 153-174)
      Hania Sholkamy

      The revolution was planned, executed, and supported by both men and women. Gender was not a factor that influenced the decisions to revolt or to protest. That is at least the impression that prevails when contemplating the Egyptian Revolution that erupted on the streets of various Egyptian cities on 25 January 2011 and is still ongoing. With hindsight it is now clear that the protest movements that had been taking place for a decade, and that were initiated by rights activists belonging to workers’ and civil liberty groups and other social movements, became the revolutionary agglomeration that toppled the elite...

    • 9 Back on Horse? The Military between Two Revolutions
      (pp. 175-198)
      Hazem Kandil

      The military’s abandonment of Hosni Mubarak’s regime was essential to his downfall. At the very least, it provided an opportunity for the 25 January uprising to continue long enough for the ruling elite to step down. The position of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) was welcomed at first, but the frustrations associated with the transitional period invited comparisons with the July 1952 coup. Once again, a vibrant (yet ineffective) opposition was reduced to making demands and waiting for a council of officers to respond; once again the country was ruled via military communiqués. Are we back to...

  9. Part 3: Beyond the Immediate

    • 10 Egypt’s Civic Revolution Turns ‘Democracy Promotion’ on Its Head
      (pp. 199-222)
      Sheila Carapico

      Did western political aid agencies encourage the 25 January uprising with their civil society promotion projects? Did they encourage mass mobilization against the regime, or perhaps tutor dissidents in how to organize grassroots opposition? At the same time as the United States and other NATO powers were providing economic and military assistance to the Egyptian regime, did they also foment popular defiance? Some people seem to think so; different narratives about foreign provocation of Egypt’s uprising circulated in Arabic and in English.

      First, as Egyptians filled the public squares with cries for the demise of the Mubarak administration, his government’s...

    • 11 Democratization and Constitutional Reform in Egypt and Indonesia: Evaluating the Role of the Military
      (pp. 223-250)
      Javed Maswood and Usha Natarajan

      The Middle East was in the throes of pro-democracy protests in 2011, from Tunisia in the west to Syria and Bahrain in the east. Two longstanding authoritarian leaders were deposed: Tunisian president Zin El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak were forced out of office on 14 January and 11 February respectively. The popular anger that toppled these leaders and inspired violent protests across the region was fueled by high levels of corruption, nepotism, poverty, and unemployment, and a pattern of governance and development that benefited the elite but failed the majority.

      In Egypt, Mubarak’s departure created an...

    • 12 Authoritarian Transformation or Transition from Authoritarianism? Insights on Regime Change in Egypt
      (pp. 251-270)
      Holger Albrecht

      The literature on authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has emerged, in the past two decades, as if in a Hegelian dance between democracy and authoritarianism.¹ In the 1990s, scholars accepted the broad assumptions of the ‘democratic-transition paradigm’—developed in studies on Southern and Eastern Europe, and particularly on Latin America—to search for the prospects, and later the setbacks, of democratic change in the region. In the past decade, scholars responded by criticizing assumptions borrowed from the ‘transition paradigm’ and demanded analytical inquiries into what was empirically present, rather than into the absence of a...

  10. Part 4: Looking Ahead

    • 13 Egypt and Beyond: The Arab Spring, the New Pan-Arabism, and the Challenges of Transition
      (pp. 271-294)
      Bahgat Korany

      Though focused on Egypt, the most central and populous country of the Arab world, this book also has a larger thematic focus. Raising the question as to why most of us were surprised by the 2011 mass protests attracts attention to a certain defectiveness in our conceptual lenses. Most of our analyses were obsessed with elite politics, ‘authoritarian resilience,’ or politics from above. Although decoding the top of the political pyramid is crucial to understanding state–society relations, it is still partial in both senses of the word: incomplete and biased. Egypt is thus studied here as an instance for...

  11. Appendix 1
    (pp. 297-304)
  12. Appendix 2
    (pp. 305-312)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 313-336)
  14. Index
    (pp. 337-350)