The Middle Eastern Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy

Monday, July 14, 2014: 1:00 PM
Room: 501
Oral Presentation
Valentine MOGHADAM , Northeastern University
Lauren LANGMAN , Loyola University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
How do we assess Arab Spring/Occupy almost 3 year later- the hopes for the emergence of popular democracy have now faded-or have they?  We might note that the traditional dynamics of the rise of democracy or dictatorship in West, contestations/alliances of various groups, esp landlords/peasants did/does not really apply today.  Most of the MENA countries were the legacies of anti-colonization and struggles for independence and democratic self-government, but Enlightenment ideals did not emerge. Contemporary conditions differ, 1) neoliberal globalization has enabled the rise of a transnational capitalist class leading to economic growth-concentrated at the top, 2) there are growing classes and cadres of the discontented, educated precariat youth, (today’s lumpenproletariat and the disenfranchised peasants,  wretched of the Earth), but 3) Today most people, even in developed countries have access to ICT/social media.  To understand the “waves of democracy” and their receding tides, we need note, the movements took place quite rapidly and following the abdications or implosions of dictatorships, the only groups that were well organized were the various fundamentalists from Moslem Brotherhood to Enhada-which were ill equipped to shepherd a modern economy.   But without having experience in actual governance as opposed to critics w/o power they did quite poorly.  However dismal the short term, and it may get worse, structural factors intersect, with changing subjectivities, embracing openness, equality, empathy and care, portend an optimistic forecast. However undemocratic the post Arab Spring governments may have been/are in practice, they were democratic in form and now there can be no going back to unelected “presidents for life”.  Dictatorships now face growing the popular power of numbers of youth that challenge inequality, authoritarianism, cronyism and corruption, articulating new kinds of identities based on dignity, empathy community and self-fulfillment with hopes, visions and ICT -social media skills to realize “another world is possible”