Negotiated Revolutions 2.0? The Arab Uprisings In Comparative Perspective

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: 419
Oral Presentation
George LAWSON , LSE, London, United Kingdom
The 2011-12 uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have helped to re-invigorate scholarly interest in revolutions. But what kind of revolutions do these uprisings represent? This article situates the Arab uprisings within the context of post-Cold War revolutions, locating them within a cluster of ‘negotiated revolutions’ that have emerged over the past twenty years. ‘Negotiated revolutions’ differ from ‘modern revolutions’ in five main ways: they result from a relative rather than systemic state crisis; their trajectories are characterized by negotiations rather than armed confrontation; their participants reject the utopian commitments of past revolutions; they are welcomed rather than disavowed by leading international actors; and they lead to the development of weak rather than strong states. The article assesses the Arab uprisings within this schema, arguing that, contra those who see the Arab uprisings as offering a new model of revolutionary change, their causes, trajectories, and outcomes are broadly familiar. Extending this point, not only do the 2011-12 uprisings sit within a family of revolutions that can be traced back to 1989, their focus on political justice rather than the ‘social question’ means that the uprisings share a family resemblance to previous instances of ‘self-limiting’ revolutions. This comparison illuminates both the strengths and shortcomings of the 2011-12 uprisings.