The Weeks When Decades Happened: A Theoretical Consideration of the 2011 Egyptian Uprising
In 2011, the Middle East was plunged into turmoil with a series of popular uprisings ousting a number of long standing dictators. Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year reign was toppled in just over two weeks. This thesis takes a theoretical approach to the Egyptian Revolution, assessing the extent to which the Egyptian case lends support to various theories which consider transitions away from authoritarianism and towards democracy, and the extent to which these theories can assist us in understanding why democracy has not resulted in Egypt. There are a number of strands of theoretical work which consider both transitions away from authoritarianism and towards democracy, and the factors influencing the timing and mode of transition. These include structural theories related to economic modernisation, inequality and crisis; those related to the role of elites and civil society in influencing transitions, whether from above or below; ideas surrounding the diffusion of, and international influences on, democratisation; and arguments considering the role of religion and culture. This thesis argues that theories of authoritarian breakdown garner more support from the Egyptian case than theories of democratisation. Ideas related to the diffusion of contentious politics and international influences on transition, as well as the role of both elites and civil society, garner support from the Egyptian case. Structural theories related to economic conditions, and the role of religion and culture, garner less support from events in Egypt.