Lessons from political transitions in the Arab world: A citizens’ perspective

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This article is featured in the ORIENT I 2021 Issue

While the paradigm of authoritarian resilience dominated the literature on the Arab world during the 2000s, the Arab uprisings saw the resurgence of the democratisation literature to explain political developments in the region. Building on the theoretical assumptions of the democratisation paradigm, several studies appeared attempting to explain why some political transitions to democracy were successful and why others instead failed. When it became clear that many Arab regimes simply would not fall, the paradigm of authoritarian resilience was revived. The empirical reality escapes both paradigms though, and ten years after the beginning of the uprisings the main trends in Arab politics cannot be captured easily within the parameters of either paradigm. The article discusses what these trends are, who the main actors are and how they relate to both paradigms.

Francesco Cavatorta is a Professor at the Department of Political Science of the Université Laval. His research interests include political transformations, Salafism and the moderation of Islamist parties in the Middle East and North Africa.

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