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Towards a methodology for the theorization of the Arab Spring: Egypt as a case study

 copertinadi Shaimaa Magued


Dopo lo scoppio della rivolta del 25 gennaio e le marce del 30 giugno 2011, la strada verso la democrazia appare incerta. Una rapida panoramica sui differenti modelli di teorizzazione rispetto alle rivoluzioni del Medio Oriente contro i regimi autoritari finisce col mettere in luce la loro incapacità di prevedere e perfino di elaborare una coerente analisi che tenga presenti le diverse variabili interagenti sulla scena sociopolitica. Da qui, lo sviluppo di un modello teorico per la Primavera araba emerge come una necessità alla luce delle complicazioni e delle variabili interconnesse implicate nel corso degli eventi.

È possibile teorizzare la Primavera araba come modello di evoluzione politica alla luce del caso egiziano? Con la persistenza e l’affermarsi di diversi attori, prevalentemente quelli islamici, sulla scena nazionale, e la loro presenza quali concorrenti attivi, si rendeva inevitabile sviluppare una metodologia ontologicamente diversificata che prendesse in considerazione le diverse fonti di conoscenza nella teorizzazione della Primavera Araba e la comprensione delle politiche del Medio Oriente. Il quadro metodologico è principalmente ispirato ai differenti orientamenti basati sulle verifiche deduttive ed empiriche e modelli normativi trascendentali quali sostegni inclusivi dei loro fondamenti epistemologici. Tale metodologia è concepita attraverso un processo di sedimentazione, il cosiddetto “piecemealing”, nella prospettiva di una successiva e rapida evoluzione degli eventi recenti a partire dalle rivolte di gennaio quali processi di democratizzazione con le loro diverse variabili emergenti.

While examining different scholarly writings and theoretical analyses dealing with political development and authoritarianism, notably those having a special emphasis on the Arab and the Muslim World, the following questions usually pop up: to what extent are the social and political theories, especially those related to democratization, relevant in interpreting the Arab Spring as a phenomenon? Being almost absent and unable to fit to these writings, is the Arab Spring, as a socio-political transformation, manifesting a rupture or continuity with the existing literature? How would the scholarly writings present a better explanation of the Arab spring events in general and in Egypt in particular? Is that possible to theorize the Arab Spring as a model of political development in light of the Egyptian case? If yes, it is of major importance to determine how to theorize current events in social and political science? What would be the academic and intellectual interest in integrating the Arab Spring in the existing theories? Would this create a disturbing change in the theorizing trend in social sciences?

In light of all these interrogations and the rapid developments revealed by the Egyptian case, this paper will highlight the different deficiencies in the social and political theories’ methodology. Theorizing direction and variables’ accuracy need to be emphasized in understanding and standardizing Arab Spring as an adopted process for achieving political development through public revolts and uprisings against authoritarian and corrupted regimes. The objective is to revisit the academic literature and read it critically in a more accurate way that helps in theorizing the “Arab Spring events” through the adoption of “piecemealing” as a methodology for theorizing currently occurring events in general. In order to reach this objective, this study will try to confront four different methodological orientations in social sciences theories proposed by the following scholars/schools: Ahmet Davutoglu, Sayyid Qutb, Vienna Circle and Karl Popper. “Piecemealing” as a gradually evolving process of theoretical construction and epistemological conception for socio-political phenomenon is able to bring together ontologically various methodological tools and sources. By combining Davutoglu’s inter-civilizational normative paradigm, Qutb’s revival of the transcendental model, Vienna Circle’s empiricism and Popper’s falsification process, “piecemealing” facilitates Arab Spring theorization in the realm of social sciences.

FOTO1Methodology at a crossroads

By examining the contemporary social and political theories, the old contention between transcendental vs. rational trends emerges in the literature interpreting current political changes in the Arab World. Most of the scholarly writings predicted change of authoritarian regimes through gradual and peaceful means based on unverified assumptions and hypotheses inspired from precedent cases like democratization in Latin America as proposed in Huntington’s book, Political Orders and Changing Societies, 1968. They were short to interpret the dynamics and the forms of such possible change inspite of providing different explanatory variables justifying their arguments. For example, more credit was given to structurally underdeveloped and politically unorganized social movements and incremental political reform introduced by authoritarian regimes in addition to economic liberalization as a mechanism for embarking successfully towards political freedom. Besides, many of the orientalist scholars like Huntington refuted the possibility of integrating democratic values into the region’s political culture that is religiously dominated [1]. In response, this study exposes four different methodological approaches towards knowledge production as complementary analytical tools in examining and interpreting Arab Spring as a sociopolitical phenomenon. Although each of these approaches manifested a remarkable shortage in interpreting the Arab Spring, the aim of the paper is to develop a methodology combining all of the four approaches together towards the theorization of current sociopolitical changes in the Middle East.

To start with, in his book “Alternative Paradigms”, by providing a purely subjective explanation based on a religious worldview predicting the possibility of a regime change in the Middle East, Davutoglu underlines the regional historical and civilizational legacy as a cornerstone element in defining societies’ development and consciousness [2]. He assumed that this consciousness would rise by presenting a regional liberal model like Turkey leading towards a wave of democratization towards the reformulation of the sociopolitical reality in the Middle East. In addition, according to him, the more oppressive despotic regimes become, the more people will be consciously aware about the necessity of eliminating authoritarianism that is, in light of his views, the main reason behind the region’s intellectual and political stagnation since the end of the colonial era. In his narratives, understanding social reality is based on self-perception and the amplitude of events’incidence rate within a specific sociocultural framework. Transcendental discourse plays a major role in knowledge creation, a process referred to as “sedimentation”across a wide array of cultural and civilizational dynamics and value systems. By shedding light on the Islamic civilization, a pre-determined normative framework, Tawhid, the ontological transcendence and unity of Allah, Davutoglu underlines the centrality of meta-physics as a source of knowledge [3]. Qur’an, accordingly, produces an epistemology, “theoretical and imaginative inter- connections”of the Islamic paradigm [4]. The metaphysical ontological nature of knowledge in Islam provides an independently sustainable and reliable normative system in addition to, if not vis-à-vis, the other existing sources.

Unlike Davutoglu who recognized the coexistence of the different civilizational and normative frameworks in knowledge creation and societies’ development as demonstrated by the Turkish example presenting a combination of a Western political and economic structures integrated within an endogenic Islamic and traditional culture, Sayyid Qutb refuted the conception of the scientific research methodology in social sciences that is mainly based on positivism, deduction and inference in reaching rules and general verified conclusions [5]. The lack of the “Existence Ontology” in this methodology negatively influences researches carried out on the human nature and socio-psychological phenomenon due to its rigidity and inability to detect their permanent changes and different phases of evolution.

This deficiency as underlined by Qutb emphasizes the necessity to develop a transcendental understanding of the human nature and social existence based on a value-based system that surpasses any positivist rational paradigms like religious beliefs. The latter can provide a more accurate vision and explanation about human nature that is not under Man’s domination and is still under the way of discovery. Qutb contribution is useful in highlighting that unlike many writings underlining the necessity to discuss the role of religion in democracy, the acceptance and inclusion of transcendental value systems constitutes the foundation of a political culture inspired by religious norms in the region without leading to the establishment of a legal-institutional system based on religion teachings like the Sharia jurisprudence. Therefore he is suggesting that all these complications in understanding social phenomena can’t be understood or interpreted unless transcendence is recognized as a source of knowledge. Social and natural sciences are ontologically different and seek distinct goals. They, hence, must have divergent epistemological foundations and methodological tools. The predominance of natural science methodology based on experience in social sciences led to the latter’s materialization.

FOTO2Logic and human instinct, individual social interactions and macro-economic systems interlinked would find a solid intellectual infrastructure in transcendental values, notably Islamic teachings which would be useful in the conception of a more convenient methodology that suits the human nature, the social sciences’ central subject. According to Qutb, it’s difficult to adopt experimentation and observation in all researches related to social phenomena [6]. And it’s in these cases that the pre-conceived and uncontested creeds would be considered since the human nature is very complicated and needs a more sophisticated logic than the human one. In addition, the singularity of human organic, behavioral and psychological nature is hard to analyze and understand through empirical studies and deducted conclusions about the political development as conceived in scholarly writings [7]. Qutb puts a lot of credit in transcendental knowledge that supersedes human logic, is trans- historically relevant and can be flexibly interpreted according to the context.

He also refused to recognize reason’s prevalence as a source of scientific knowledge since shortages manifested in human reason have to be concealed with a supra-natural legitimate and neutral source that surpasses experimentation [8]. For him, natural sciences respond to human needs by exploiting the exciting potentials and resources to satisfy them. However, this is not the case with social and human sciences that transgress the realm of human needs to the human mysterious nature, the world of metaphysics and treat questions that go beyond humans’intellectual capacities. They reduce human beings to a subject of study, a matter of observation and experimentation in testing hypotheses and reaching conclusions. An ontological distortion results in since human beings are the subject of study and at the same time its fashioner.

As a result, humanities and social sciences would fail to deliver its epistemological promises in terms of understanding human beings and their socio-historical context by relying on human reason as the sole source of knowledge. Reference to pre-conceived paradigmatic frameworks morally inspired from transcendental sources would circumvent their rigidity and entrapment in the abstract and theoretical level. Besides, these preconceived frameworks would enable social science theories to interpret reality and conceal its moral and psychological deficiencies. Therefore, most of the conclusions resulting from the methodological adaptation of these theoretical foundations would have a positive impact on human beings who, as subjects, will be acting deliberately in formulating their own conception about society and state building. Ideological premises won’t be a pure reflection of power balance relations among nations but intellectually produced and reinvested by the different entities in response to their contextual exigencies and norms [9].

On the other hand, the Vienna Circle, conceived scientific methodology as mainly an empiricist and positivist approach adopted for the creation of knowledge that, arguably, would be inferred from experiences through a logical analysis [10]. Rejecting metaphysics, Vienna Circle highlights observation, problems and assertions’clarification about an empirical given as the basic steps towards scientific inquiries. Successful empirical test is the main source of knowledge justification. Otherwise, any proposed “a priori” analytical and “a posteriori” synthetic statement is meaningless, in other words, “pseudo-problems” like metaphysics. Unified science was the Circle motto in asserting natural and human sciences similarity in methodology and goals.

And last but not least, by opposing induction as a source of knowledge in social sciences, Popper came up with “critical rationalism” that is essentially based on the contextual framework analysis and falsification [11]. For him, knowledge is an evolutionary process of adaptation and verification that should emanate from a theory and manifest permanent transformation, as a subject of human creativity and evaluation. Accordingly, induction was refuted as a scientific methodology since it can’t be rationally justified in a way leading to criticism and the elimination of contradictions, a position endorsed by David Hume. Besides, historicism was rejected as a pre-determined flow of events occurring towards a specific end since considering history as a function in the evolution of knowledge implies the inability to predict the former based on the latter. In looking to the events’ evolution through history and social sciences, theories principally are constructed based on a cumulative process of social phenomenon analysis in order to distill their logic of development and understand their formulation before their conceptualization into a theoretical framework. By tackling democratization in light of wide range of theories about transition and political transformation, empirical facts defy many of these theories. The Arab Spring as an umbrella connotation encompassing a wide range of revolts and protests claiming for more political and socio-human rights from their respective authoritarian regimes presents a historical specificity obliging the researcher to depart form a bottom-up theorization process starting from the occurring reality on the ground and not a theoretical framework preconceiving events’ trajectory. 

foto 3 Social and political theories on the Middle East

The social and political theories provided different accounts about changes in the region before the eruption of the Arab Spring uprisings’ without integrating them into the core process of theorization as an explanatory framework. By going through the main references presenting these theories, the focus on a top-down change process and precedent cases of economic liberalization paving the way for more democracy and social movements’ role, those theories provided minimal explanations about how massive protests erupting without leadership or organized political agenda occurred and managed to depose presidents towards the establishment of a change in the sociopolitical arena. In all this literature, the occurrence of a revolt, revolution or public uprising as a means for regime change was almost underestimated [12].

The examined theories were predicted the possibility of minor changes related to different variables like political diversity, social pressure and foreign intervention in the analysis about prospective transformations towards democracy in the Arab World or the Middle East. Most of them presented these variables as motor for change based on social movement theories and development theories advancing the regime economic liberalization and progressive political openness in their analysis about authoritarianism. However, democratization as political phenomenon in the Middle East presents a more complicated reality that needs the development of the core theories to cope with current changes. It’s not about a standard political transition process towards democratization as illustrated in Latin America and Southeastern Asia, it’s about a context with various political actors and intra-regime dynamics that have to be the subject of the elements of the four methodological approaches: empirical verification, incorporation of both directions of theorization induction and deduction as well as the transcendental system of values in the region’s political culture.

The different analyses and conclusions deduced from preconceived theoretical prototypes about means of democratization in different authoritarian regimes are enlightening in terms of positioning the dynamics of change in the Middle East [13]. These studies succeeded in exposing a wide array of despotic regimes, the techniques used to sustain their reign and the suitable means they followed for democratization in each. The theorization process adopted in these studies relied on either an inductive or deductive method by focusing respectively on the specificity of the context and how it defies the development theories or by applying a theoretical framework on the studied cases from the region. They also manifested a rupture between the different cases of political development in the 80s and 90s from one hand and the Middle East from the other while pointing to the later as an exception [14]. As a result, the literature wasn’t possible to expect the current waves of democratization in the Arab World based on an accurate picture about the Arab Spring as a democratization process.The Arab Spring, as an empirical reality, deceived these expectations even if it partially coincided with some of the literature conclusions since it provided partially significant explanatory variables and was, hence, unable to provide a holistic understanding of the democratization process in the Middle East. Accordingly, in addition to the denial of the possibility of witnessing wide uprisings in the region, many prominent academic studies emphasized some mild variables as decisive ones in terms of bringing “slight but better changes” like the non-state actors, the social movements, the foreign pressures and the incremental adoption of institutional cosmetic reforms by the neoliberal authoritarian regimes [15]. Orientalism was a dominant approach that accentuated the reductionist character of the literature. It limited the scholarly analyses to inadequate variables and hypotheses about democratization in developing countries by focusing on a projected “ western” prototype for political development while missing various possible tracks for change that fit into the sociopolitical contexts and the specificities of the Arab World. Even national writings adhered to this mainstream position by refuting hypotheses that predict a possible violent ouster of authoritarian regimes and supporting scenarios about despotic rulers’ liberalization reforms.

The methodology used in different theoretical frameworks, to tackle sociocultural realities in the Middle East should be opened to criticism since they focus on the region particularities in their analysis: the ideology, the language, religion, the political culture [16]. Their analysis lacks insight about the existing reality about events, phenomenon and crises. The Middle East politics became a subject of polarization from different scholars with various ideological orientations and national affinities while methodological accuracy has been always neglected leading to generalization fallacies, stereotyping, prejudices and normative distortions dominated by cultural specificities about the sociopolitical dynamics in the region.

Islam is considered as a central variable in the Orientalist approach and influences methodological tools used in analyzing Middle East politics. Being marked by modernity determinism, relativism rejection and progress linearity, this approach perceives religion as an independent, dominant and central explanatory factor of the region’s dynamics. All sorts of sociopolitical deficiencies, like the lack of democracy, public hostility towards the West and Israel, terrorism as an emerging phenomenon enrooted in the region, are confined to the Islamic reference as an impediment to all possibilities for change. Instead of theorizing the region particularity, the investigation of the Islamists’ political terminology and the vision behind it is a necessity that requires the adoption of an ontologically flexible methodology accepting different sources of knowledge inference as dictated by the contextual exigencies: actors’reference and worldview.

To sum up, the aforementioned literature’s methodology manifests two main deficiencies: the lack of adopting a conciliatory methodological approach between deduction and induction that would have allowed a sort of continuous normative exchange between the development theories and the sociopolitical reality of the Middle East. Some writings were even prescriptive and purely deductive in abiding by the democratization models that were mainly based on abstract frameworks and preconceived analyses supported by previous cases of democratization like Eastern Europe and Latin America. The reliance on this linear methodology led to speculative analyses and subjective assessments about the future of the regionpolitics. As a result, a second deficiency emerged related to the confinement of the Middle East social dynamics and political structures into an empirical specificity preventing the formulation of an accurate explanation of the current events and leading to the reliance on irrelevant variables in explaining the democratization process in the different developing countries, notably the Middle East.

As a result, based on the paper critics towards the existing literature and its objective related to the theorization of the Arab Spring events, I would suggest “Piecemealing” as an additional supportive method for the reconsideration of the social and political theories premises and the integration of the Arab Spring, a currently occurring event, as one of the normative frameworks of political development. This method relies on the adoption of a progressive/evolutionist approach in theorizing Arab Spring starting from the interpretation of current events, the proposition of variables, the formulation hypotheses, their verification and finally their addition to the academic literature dealing with democratization.

foto 4The aim is to update the literature, to preserve its continuity and to keep track of recent events related to sociopolitical phenomenon by following, understanding, interpreting the occurring events and extracting conclusions that shall be verified empirically to demonstrate whether they are right or wrong and if they can be incorporated into the existing social and political theories. In other words, “piecemealing” for understanding the democratization process in the Middle East as a political development process will rely on the combination of the four methodological approaches of Vienna Circle, Davutoglu’s model, Qutb and Popper in social sciences that can be used in order to understand the currently erupting events and to conceal the theoretical deficiencies.

This methodology would be an elementary step in theorizing the Arab Spring as an attempt to support the inductive and transcendental analyses. The strategies of this methodology consist of developing a descriptive narration of the events, the eruption of a public uprising in Egypt, as observed by the author, extracting key variables and statements that interest political analysts and social scientists, verifying them empirically and their conceptualization as a theoretical framework dealing with democratic transition and regime change. By applying these strategies to the Egyptian case, it would be helpful to start considering concrete, defined and accurate independent variables that might be generalized, through permanent empirical verifications, to explain and identify the dynamics of political transformations in the Middle East.  

foto5Witness narration

Calls for bread, freedom and social equity are the consented slogans called by masses on January 25th underlining the logic behind the uprisings. The ouster of Mubarak regime wasn’t a goal on the first day since the slogans expressed the urgent need for a drastic reform that has to imperatively and immediately cope with the people’s basic needs and human dignity. It’s only the regime resistance and denial of these demands that raised the public demands’ ceiling to the call for Mubarak’s departure.

The political oppression enrooted in Egypt after independence lasted for decades since the 50s and slowed down the adoption of democratic practices after the demise of Mubarak and the openness of the public sphere for elitist competition, freedom of partisan life and elections. Mubarak’s departure turned into a determined goal during the 18 days of the sit-in in Tahrir and so for Morsi against whom marches on June 30th 2013 were mobilized. Politics personalization, ideological polarization and religious domination are all constant features in the Egyptian politics even after January 25th uprisings. Besides, military hegemony affirmed its position as the top leading elite of the country after January 25th that demised a military leader and led to the election of not only a civil president but also a member of a community deemed as “an illegitimate society”. Although Mubarak’s ouster was favored by the Army leaders in light of the news confirming Mubarak’s son inheritance of his father position, the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory in the presidential elections threatened to disturb the power balance by marginalizing military figures from the executive power and posing them to the accountability campaign that started right after the uprising in early 2011.

Democracy is still trapped in abstract slogans and calls for more freedom, transparency and accountability without institutional or legal mechanisms to guarantee its sustainability. Three years seems an insufficient period for assessing democratic transition in Egypt but it would be relevant for reorienting political practice towards democracy through the analysis of the current situation and its confrontation with the existing theoretical models in order to adjust the transition dynamics, identify their expected trajectory and adopt the prospective legal and institutional foundations for the State. Till today, democracy is kept at the abstract level without the least practice of its constitutive principles. The January 25th revolt defied the scholarly writings that have been loyal to orientalism where the Middle East was desperately depicted as a hopeless area in terms of witnessing a substantial political development. By restricting change to only peaceful means, mainly based on initiatives from grass-roots movements, opposition groups and civil society for inducing a democratic openness, most of the scholarly writings highlighted the difficulty of wiping off authoritarianism due to the despotic State’s monopoly over coercion.

FOTO6Key statements

In spite of the eruption of public uprisings, the road for democracy is not paved yet. The same autocratic syndromes persist.

First, theoretically, a despotic regime has been ousted with a massive public consent and a military support, elections were held and freedoms were gradually and partially restored. However, nation-state as both a normative and institutional context for democratization, in light of the social and political theories, is unfostered, informal clientelist ties dominate the State institutions, the army prevails and patronage networks are widened through cosmetic “democratic” changes. In light of these persistent syndromes, the June 30th marches and the military intervention in toppling the first “democratically” elected president manifest a resurrection of the old regime legacy and the Army-Islamist antagonism.

Second, the poor performance of the new elected elite, incarnated by the Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, and its inability to cope with the public revolutionary demands weren’t the sole reasons for the political deadlock and the relapse manifested by the president’s ouster in July 3rd 2013. The guards of the old regime in the State institutions, notably, the ministry of interior and many other interest groups holding vital positions resisted to any attempt for structural changes and national goals’ reformulation.

Third, the army insistence on keeping its leading position in the State ruling undermines its civilian and democratic character. It obstructs every attempts in reformulating its legal and institutional foundations based on the rule of law and the elimination of socio-economic prerogatives selectively attributed to the Army and Police institutions. The remarkable participation of the State’s old guards, notably from the Army and Police institutions, in June 30th marches affirms the presence of the permanent impediment in moving forward towards democratization. In addition, the Army takeover was characterized by a violent process of elimination of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist ex-rulers, and their partisans as a socio-political community through the discretion of a state of emergency allowing the arbitrary arrest of leading figures, demonstrators intimidation by the means of violent dispersal, attacks and killing.

FOTO 7Main variable and empirical verification

By following different writings dealing with the Arab Spring in Egypt, the gradual process of considering the above mentioned conclusions and observations about national development after the public uprisings is illustrative and helpful in criticizing the democratization theory and conceiving alternative models for political development.

The military-civilian dichotomy and its reformulation into a more focused binary formula “the Army-the Islamists” is built on the national uprisings and the military decision on February 11th to side with the public demands and overthrow Mubarak [17]. The consideration of this elitist duality in reading and analyzing the Egyptian scene is a key variable for the theorization of those events. Empirically, the military dominated the political scene since Mubarak’s ouster, under Morsi’s rule and till today it has the upper hand in the decision-making process [18]. The results of both legislative and presidential elections highlight the accuracy of the Army-Islamists dichotomy not only in understanding the dynamics of the Egyptian politics but also in laying the epistemological foundations of the Arab Spring as a phenomenon in the political development theory. The military domination may be an already known fact but the dialectical relation between the army and the islamists shapes the social and political actors’ psychology, determines their behavior in the current events and influences the democratization path carved by the Arab Spring dynamics.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s victory and their confrontation with the army presented a significant variable as depicted in this binary interaction that reversed the political absence of the Islamist forces. Once verified empirically, the Islamists vs. Army is a main variable in theorizing Arab Spring and many assumptions can be built on it about democratization in the Middle East. The June 30th events confirm this observation. Opponents to Morsi rule filled in the streets calling for his departure in different places in Cairo, notably Itihadiyya and Tahrir. Three days later, the military sided with the June 30th marches, labelled “Tamarod” or “Rebel” after addressing an ultimatum to the president to quit or to witness a military intervention [19].

Morsi, the Islamist president, was overthrown and the armed forces’ chief leader, El Sisi, gained control all over the country while the former’s supporters who organized parallel sit-ins in Rabaa El Adaweyya and Al Nahda square insisted on Morsi’s return and keeping their sit-ins until the reinstatement of the deposed president. The same polarization between the military and the Islamists still prevails on the political scene and is expected to dominate the flow of events in the future. Even after the brutal dispersal of these sit-ins, leaving a huge number of death and wounded tolls, the military launched a wide media campaign, supported by Al Azhar, stigmatizing the Muslim Brotherhood and depicting them as “the sinful entity” that should be fought.

foto 8The  conceptualization of the Arab Spring 

In light of the domination of the Army-Islamist variable, the political relapse and the confirmation of the old regime guards’ interests, some literature rejected the conceptualization of the current events as a “revolution” in their analyses and interpretations. The word “re-folution” was adopted as an empirical refutation of considering the Arab spring events as a revolution [20]. Accordingly, different academic analyses abstained from describing what happened in the 18 days sit-ins and civil disobedience since January 25th as a “revolution” and had recourse to “public uprisings” and “revolt” as the most commonly used terms to refer to Arab Spring events.

The reason, in light of the aforementioned analysis, is clear: the sustainability of the old regime legacy in spite of the ouster of its main figures. The authoritarian mentality is passed over to the new figures and still influences the current actors’ psychology manifested by their tactics and political maneuvers during the last two years. The word “refolution” underlines a massive and consensual rejection of a phenomenon in a specific context calling for its change. Meanwhile, it doesn’t forcibly lead to a radical transformation in the whole political scene in terms of the elimination of the authoritarian practices and the realization of the protestors’ demands “Bread, freedom, social equality”. Thus, the guards of the old regime enrooted in the State bureaucracy and vital sectors as well as the military empowered their existence and protected their interests and socio-economic legacy by maintaining oppressive practices and adopting manipulative policies towards the active youth. Massive demonstrators’ arrests and killings underlined the prevalence of the army authority as the upper hand in the country.

Changing highly ranked figures, the label of the State security apparatus and appointing new figures in a new transitional government were misleading policies that aimed for stressing the army domination even in “the new era” [21]. In spite of the youth resistance, the transition period ended up with a tacit coalition between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood. The latter gained the majority in the parliament in November 2011 and their candidate, Mohamed Morsi, succeeded in presidency elections in June 2012. Since November 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood abstained from condemning the oppressive policies of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) or presenting proofs condemning it of killing demonstrators at successive protests mobilized against the extension of the military rule like in Mohamed Mahmoud and the Ministries’ Council events.

The democratization process is still under construction in Egypt on the institutional and normative levels. Even after the arrival of the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition of Mubarak regime, change remained superficial by being restricted to new figures’ appointments and popular discourses demonizing the old regime, threatening to pursuit its remnants and promising to achieve the youth demands. The State vital institutions, notably the judiciary power, the ministry of interior and defense, the media and other major sectors abstained from cooperating with the new leaders under Morsi regime. Resistance increased against the Muslim Brotherhood and resentment visibly grew among many social classes especially the middle and upper classes leading to numerous adhesions to the “Tamarod initiative”.


The “piecemealing” method for theorizing in social and political sciences presents a tool for an incremental theorization process of events at the time of their occurrence. It allows to depict the different variables, their interaction dynamics, their context of crystallization, their empirical verification and added value for social and political sciences’ theories. It is not an alternative or an ultimate way of theorizing sociopolitical events but it is a complementary attempt aiming at identifying and interpreting the evolution of events taking place at the present time. Ontological openness, flexible theorization direction and permanent empirical verification are the main pillars of this method and have to constitute the main criteria in checking the validity of the researcher’s conclusions.

There isn’t a place for conflict or intellectual contention between transcendence and rationality in terms of their validity in theorization since both possess different references and present distinct aspects, variables and sources in analyzing current events. Transcendental and rational explanations of sociopolitical incidents are complementary and they can together lay the epistemological foundations of the sociopolitical theories, especially those dealing with the Middle Eastern context. Their derived assumptions and conclusions can be empirically verified and be a permanent subject of adjustment, rejection or replacement. The combination of Davutoglu’s normative framework, Qutb’s transcendental model, Vienna Circle empiricism and Popper’s falsification provide useful insights for further research orientations that would lead to the identification of significant variables in the Middle East politics. Most scholarly writings proved the inaccuracy of the linear, solely rational and deductive methodologies in interpreting and theorizing sociopolitical phenomena.

Besides, the combination of both theorizing nature suits the Arab and the Middle Eastern societies where transcendental values are still major explanatory references and trigger factors in understanding sociopolitical transitions, actors’ behavior and endogenic political dynamics related to many different emerging phenomena. This methodology helps in understanding the Arab Spring as a political development process that starts in the Egyptian case as a specificity and produces explanatory statements that once verified in other cases would be standardized as a general variable and conceptual framework for public uprisings calling for democratization in the existing theories. Instead of being a rupture with the literature, “Arab Spring” as a form of sociopolitical transformation gradually implemented and spread among neighboring countries would be, hence, considered as a theorized path of democratization followed by many other authoritarian States in the Middle East.

As a result, these public uprisings would be a sub-category of democratic transitions in political regimes that share similar authoritarian characteristics like the rentier-state phenomenon strictly related to the western interests in oil reserves, normalization and the guarantee of the security issues like the Israeli state security and the political suppression and quasi elimination of grass-roots opposition as for the Islamic faction and their sociopolitical activities, the possession of powerful security apparatus capable of eliminating threats to the regime existence, the insurance of full control over media and the economic resources, the preservation of a permanent military intervention into politics, the fragmentation of the political scene and the weakening of its actors on the organizational level, the imposition of restrictions on public participation, the increase of legal and security constraints on associational and civic engagements, the manipulation of electoral and party laws, the empowerment of the regime’s patronage networks and the preparation for engineered political succession to the throne.

Dialoghi Mediterranei, n.20, luglio 2016 
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[7] Lipset, Seymour Martin, 1959, Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy, American Political Science Review, 53 (March): 69-105, doi:10.2307/1951731.; Lipset, Seymour M. 1994, The Social Requisites of Democracy Revisited: 1993 Presidential Address. American Sociological Review, 59: 1-22, doi:10.2307/2096130; Moore, Barrington Jr. 1966, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, New York: Beacon Press, URL (cited 17 June 2009):; Rustow, Dankwart, 1970. Transitions to Democracy. Towards a Dynamic Model. Comparative Politics. 2: 337-363, doi:10.2307/421307; Inglehart, Ronald and Wayne E. Baker. 2000. Modernization, Cultural Change, and the Persistence of Traditional Values. American Sociological Review. 65: 19-51, doi:10.2307/2657288.
[8] Sayyid Qutb, Islam and universal peace (American Trust Publications, 1951: 68).
[9] Ahmed Bouzid, “Man, Society and Knowledge in the Islamist Discourse of Sayyid Qutb”, Unpublished PhD Dissertation, the Faculty of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1998, ch.1: 64.
[10] Ernest Nagel, Nature and Convention. The Journal of Philosophy, 26: 43-54, 1929.
[11] Sahorta Sarkar, The Legacy of the Vienna Circle: Modern Reappraisals, (New York: Garland Pub, 1996: 32); The Scientific Conception of the World. The Vienna Circle, (hereinafter VC; 1996: 131; Logical Empiricism and the Special Sciences: Reichenbach, Feigl, and Nagel, (New York: Garland Pub; 1996: 53) and Decline and Obsolescence of Logical Empiricism: Carnap vs. Quine and the Critics, (New York: Garland Pub, 1996: 121).
[12] Eva Bellin, The Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Exceptionalism in Comparative Perspective, Comparative Politics (36:2), 2004.
[13] Samuel Huntington, (1968), Political Orders in Changing Societies, (Yale University:1968, ch.1: 42); The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, (Simon and Schuster, 1996).
[14] Almond, Gabriel A. and Sidney Verba, 1989 [1963], The Civic Culture. Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. Newbury Park et al.: Sage. Related online version (cited 17 June 2009):
[15] Marsha Pripstein Posusney, “Multiparty Elections in the Arab World: Institutional Engineering and Oppositional Strategies”, Studies in Comparative International Development (36:4), 2002; Gregory Gause, “The Middle East Academic Community and the “Winter of Arab Discontent”: Why Did We Miss It?”, (Unpublished article) 2011; Holger Albrecht and Oliver Schlumberger, “Waiting for Godot: Regime Change without Democratization in the Middle East”, International Political Science Review (25:4), 2004; Larry Diamond, “Why Are There No Arab Democracies?”, Journal of Democracy (21:1), 2010; Joshua King, “Sustaining Authoritarianism in the Middle East and North Africa”. Political Science Quarterly (122:3), 2007; Ellen Lust-Okar, Competitive Clientelism in the Middle East,  Journal of Democracy (20: 3), 2009.
[16] Fred Halliday, ’Orientalism’ and Its Critics,  British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 20 (2): 145-163, 1993.
[17] Mohammed Ayoob, “Beyond the Democratic Wave in the Arab World: The Middle East’s Turko-Persian Future”, Insight Turkey, vol. 13, n.2, 2011: 57-70.Insight Turkey Vol. 13 / No. 2 / 2011: 57-70
[18] BBC News Agency Website,, September 29th, 2013.
[19] BBC News Agency Website,, September 29th, 2013.
[20] Asef Bayat, The Paradoxes of Arab Refo-lutions, Jadaliyya, March,, 2011.
[21] BBC News Agency Website,, September 29th, 2013.
Shaimaa Magued, docente presso la Facoltà di Economia e Scienze politiche nell’Università del Cairo. Attualmente sta insegnando a Humphre nella Scuola di affari globali dell’Università del Minnesota per il semestre autunnale del 2015. Ha conseguito un Dottorato nell’Institut d’etudes politiques d’Aix in Scienze politiche e relazioni internazionali nel 2012 e un Master in Politiche pubbliche presso l’Università americana del Cairo (AUC). I suoi interessi di ricerca e le sue pubblicazioni sono principalmente focalizzati sul Medio Oriente e sulle strategie politiche dei diversi Paesi nonché sull’Islam politico con particolare attenzione per la Turchia moderna e le relazioni turco-arabe.
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