The Arab Spring Two Years On: Reflections on Dignity, Democracy, and Devotion

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 27.2 (Summer 2013)

May 31, 2013

CREDIT: Middle East Woodblock via Shutterstock

The Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for Life, Roger Owen (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2012), 272 pp., $22.45 cloth.

Islam and the Arab Awakening, Tariq Ramadan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 256 pp., $27.95 cloth.

The Arab Spring: The End of Postcolonialism, Hamid Dabashi (London: Zed Books, 2012), 150 pp., $134.95 cloth, $19.99 paper.

Review Essay by Nader Hashemi

The Arab Spring of 2011 is widely viewed today as one of the great historical moments of political transformation. Comparisons have been made to the European revolutions of 1848 and the post–cold war democratic transitions in Eastern Europe, while some have spoken of a possible "fourth wave" of democratization. These analogies make sense given that longstanding dictators who seemed impervious to political change, in a region known for persistent authoritarianism, were suddenly toppled by largely nonviolent protesters invoking the universal themes of political freedom, dignity, and social justice. From the outset, however, the Arab Spring was met by a small chorus of criticism and contempt from prominent intellectuals, writers, and politicians.

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