Civil Resistance in the Arab Spring - Triumphs and Disasters

Civil resistance, especially in the form of massive peaceful demonstrations, was at the heart of the Arab Spring-the chain of events in the Middle East and North Africa that erupted in December 2010. It won some notable victories: popular movements helped to bring about the fall of authoritarian governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Yet these apparent triumphs of non-violent action were followed by disasters—wars in Syria, anarchy in Libya and Yemen, reversion to authoritarian rule in Egypt, and counter-revolution backed by external intervention in Bahrain. Looming over these events was the enduring divide between the Sunni and Shi'a branches of Islam.

Why did so much go wrong? Was the problem the methods, leadership and aims of the popular movements, or the conditions of their societies? In this book, experts on these countries, and on the techniques of civil resistance, set the events in their historical, social and political contexts. They describe how governments and outside powers—including the US and EU—responded, how Arab monarchies in Jordan and Morocco undertook to introduce reforms to avert revolution, and why the Arab Spring failed to spark a Palestinian one. They indicate how and why Tunisia remained, precariously, the country that experienced the most political change for the lowest cost in bloodshed.

This book provides a vivid illustrated account and rigorous scholarly analysis of the course and fate, the strengths and the weaknesses, of the Arab Spring. The authors draw clear and challenging conclusions from these tumultuous events. Above all, they show how civil resistance aiming at regime change is not enough: building the institutions and the trust necessary for reforms to be implemented and democracy to develop is a more difficult but equally crucial task.


Reviews and coverage

Adam Roberts, 'The Arab spring: why did things go so badly wrong?', The Guardian, London, 15 January 2016.

Prof. Rashid Khalidi in conversation with Adam Roberts, at book launch at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, New York, 10 February 2016. Available on Ustream.TV.  A transcript and an audio recording are available at the Carnegie Council website.

Brussels panel discussion on Civil Resistance in the Arab Spring, 15 March 2016. Contributions by Adam Roberts (Oxford University), Michael J. Willis (Oxford University), Khaled Mansour (Egypt), Lobna Jeribi (Tunisia), Richard Youngs (Carnegie Europe), and Jerzy Pomianowski (European Endowment for Democracy).

Civil Resistance in the Arab Spring: Reviews

For more details of Civil Resistance in the Arab Spring, see Amazon Books and Google Books.

A translation of Civil Resistance in the Arab Spring is being prepared for an Arabic-language edition to be published by All Prints Publishers, Beirut. This is an initiative of the Arabic Translation Project (ATP) of the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life (IRCPL) at Columbia University in New York. The ATP supports publication of translations of works bearing on democratisation. Publication is expected by spring 2018, or possibly earlier

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Edited by Adam Roberts, Michael J. Willis, Rory McCarthy, and Timothy Garton Ash