19 March 2017
Common wisdom has it that ultimately failed or troubled popular revolts in 2011 in the Middle East and North Africa have sparked bloody civil wars and violent extremism, and given autocracy a new lease on life.
Indeed, there is no denying that a brutal civil war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands and dislocated millions. Iraq, like Syria, is seeking to defeat the Islamic State (IS), the most vicious jihadist movement in recent history. Sectarianism and religious supremacism are ripping apart the fabric of societies in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond.
Yet, the legacy of the 2011 revolts is not simply massive violence, brutal jihadism, and choking repression. In fact, the revolts kicked off an era of change, one that is ugly, destabilising, violent, and unpredictable—and that may not lead any time soon to more liberal, let alone democratic rule.
It is an era that is buffeted by autocrats’ need to push diversification of their economies and economic reform that involves a radical rewriting of social contracts. It also involves the need to upgrade autocracy to ensure sustainable economic change. That means making repressive rule more palatable by broadening the margins of acceptable social life and behaviour and creating channels for expressions of discontent and frustration.
… Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and two forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa as well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 21/03/2017