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Theorizing the Arab Spring

by: Renae Notetaker

Theorizing the Arab Spring POLS 331

Marketplace > University of Washington > Political Science > POLS 331 > Theorizing the Arab Spring
Renae Notetaker
GPA 3.5

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About this Document

Theorizing the Arab Spring in the 2010-11. These series of notes are primarily focused around the political scientist Roger Owen and another, Jason Brownlee, Tarek Masoud, Andrew Reynolds and their...
Politics of the Middle East and North Africa
Ellis Golberg
Class Notes
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This 23 page Class Notes was uploaded by Renae Notetaker on Wednesday November 4, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to POLS 331 at University of Washington taught by Ellis Golberg in Summer 2015. Since its upload, it has received 32 views. For similar materials see Politics of the Middle East and North Africa in Political Science at University of Washington.


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Date Created: 11/04/15
Theorizing  the  Arab  Spring   Including  things  said  and  unsaid   Structure  v.  Agency   •  A  conflict  over  analy▯c  approaches   – Agency  begins  with  an  actor  (agent)  who  has   some  significant  freedom  to  choose   – Structure  begins  with  a  set  of  possible  choices   that  are  arranged  (structured)  in  a  way  that   defines  which  one  is  most  desirable   One  extreme  example   One  American  revolu▯onary   •  Consider  this  as  a  ques▯on.   –  Is  Patrick  Henry  an  agent   making  a  choice  between   liberty  and  death   –  Or  is  it,  at  least  for  most   people,  no  choice  at  all,  and  a   structurally-­‐determined   outcome?   Authoritarian  governments  and   American  scholars  ask:   The  problem  with  the  problem   •  The  extent  of  the  mass  demonstra▯ons  and   their  immediate  effects  made  it  unclear  what   scholars  were  studying:   – Were  these  examples  of  revolu▯on?   – Were  they  examples  of  democra▯za▯on?   – Were  they  something  else  en▯rely?   Desperately  seeking  similari▯es   spring▯me  of  na▯ons    to  the of  liberaliza▯on  under  communism  oment   Algeria  1988-­‐90   •  Street  demonstra▯ons  in  October  1988  led   the  military-­‐backed  government  to  hold  free   elec▯ons   •  Despite  changing  the  rules,  the  Islamic   Salva▯on  Front  was  poised  to  win  control  of   the  na▯onal  legislature   •  The  military  imposed  mar▯al  law,  suspended   the  cons▯tu▯on,  and  a  bloody  civil  war  ensued   Social  revolu▯ons?  Nope   Theda  Skocpol   •  Social  revolu▯ons  are  rapid   and  broad  transforma▯ons   of  social,  poli▯cal  and   economic  structures   •  They  occur  a▯er  the   coercive  power  of  the  state   has  collapsed  (as  in  France   1789  and  Russia  1917)   What  happened  there?   France   Russia   •  Within  months  the   •  Within  months  the  Czarist   aristocracy  had  been   regime  and  nobility  were   abolished  by  an  elected   abolished   legislature   •  Within  years  the  country   •  Within  years  the  country   was  mired  in  civil  and   was  mired  in  civil  and   interna▯onal  war   interna▯onal  war   •  A  decade  later  a  new  and   •  A  decade  later  a  new  and   more  effec▯ve  authoritarian   more  effec▯ve  authoritarian   regime  was  in  place   regime  was  in  place   A  meager  harvest  for  social   revolu▯ons?   Napoleon  Bonaparte   Stalin   Ninety  years  a▯er  the  revolu▯on   Russia  is  s▯ll  run  by  a  man  on   horseback   But  BMR  do  keep  one  implicit   point   •  Skocpol  assumes  that  revolu▯ons  are  always   ready  to  break  out   •  In  society  at  large  most  people  (workers  and   peasants)  have  grievances  (against   landowners  and  businessmen)  that  are  zero-­‐ sum   •  Consequently  the  repressive  power  of  the   state  is  what  keeps  social  peace  (Marxism)   Why  does  this  ma▯er?   •  Because  it  means  there  is  no  need  to  explain   why  and  when  an  uprising  occurs   •  By  assump▯on  there  is  always  sufficient  social   tension  to  make  mass  uprising  likely   But  we’re  missing  something   •  Agency  here  lies  in  the  government  elite   •  In  these  theories  it  is  the  prior  breakdown  or   disagreement  within  the  government  that   allows  mass  discontent  to  manifest  itself   •  What  happened  in  the  Arab  spring  is  a   challenge  to  these  theories  because  the  mass   demonstra▯ons  occurred  before  government   breakdown/disagreement;  they  caused  it.   Outcomes  that  ma▯er  to  BMR   •  Leadership  change   – Did  the  authoritarian  leader  leave?   •  Ins▯tu▯onal  change   – If  the  leader  did  leave,  what  (if  any)  ins▯tu▯ons   replaced  the  old  ones   – Note:  it  would  be  possible  for  the  same  old   ins▯tu▯onal  forms  (such  as  a  legislature)  to   remain  but  to  have  significant  power   Why  an  Arab  world?   •  Language  and  culture  (although  they  profess   these  have  no  explanatory  power)   •  Similarity  in  economic  development  (although   even  on  their  account  this  seems  dubious)   •  Embedded  in  a  single  “security  environment”   – This  actually  is  a  similarity  with  Soviet-­‐dominated   eastern  Europe   – But  once  that  domina▯on  ended  so  did  the   similarity   Arab  countries  have  not  yet  le▯  the   American  sector   What  do  they  mean?   •  That  the  US  plays  a  crucial  role  in  suppor▯ng   these  regimes  when  they  are  challenged   internally  as  well  as  externally   •  The  US  pays  for  weapons  and  training   •  Although  the  US  did  not  support  regimes  in   Libya,  Syria  or  Iraq  you  could  say  the  collapse   of  the  USSR  denied  them  external  support   •  Evidently  it  also  didn’t  cause  them  to  collapse   What  about  democra▯za▯on?   •  BMR  point  out  that  in  La▯n  America  and   Eastern  Europe  ge▯ng  rid  of  a  dictator  and  a   ruling  party  was  sufficient  for  democracy  to   begin  to  work   •  In  the  Arab  world,  they  say,  even  ge▯ng  rid  of   a  dictator  only  opens  the  door  to  something   else     For  example:  what  do  you  do  with  the   losers?   revolu▯on  s▯ce  a▯er  the  ChinHai▯  a▯er  slave  revolu▯on   What  about  the  violence  of  the  old   regime?   •  Was  it  poli▯cal?   – Who  was  responsible?    The  perpetrators  or  those   who  ordered  it?    And  those  who  benefited?   •  Was  it  criminal?   – Then  responsibility  lies  in  both;  how  will  they  be   punished?    Or  should  they  be  forgiven?   A  big  ques▯on   •  Implicit  in  the  issue  of  pacts,  it  is  not   addressed  directly  by  any  of  our  authors   •  Nevertheless  it  was  on  everybody’s  mind   MB  Supreme  Guide  quietly  urges   Muhammad  Morsi  to  demand   retribu▯on  


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