On May 3-4, 2016, POMEPS held a workshop, “From Mobilization to Counter-Revolution: The Arab Spring in Comparative Perspective,” in conjunction with Oxford University’s Middle East Centre at St. Anthony’s College and Department of Sociology.
In recent years a great deal of attention has focused on the process of revolutionary mobilization. By comparison, the conditions under which revolutions fail remains less well understood – this in spite of the tendency for many of the initial gains of contemporary revolutions to prove ephemeral. The disappointing trajectory of the 2011 Arab Spring only underlines the need to better understand this important topic. During the Arab Spring, factional splits between Islamists and secular activists quickly turned into internecine strife, undermining revolutionary coalitions. These splits were, in turn, exacerbated by interventions from regional and international powers. Later, violent Islamist groups exploited revolutionary openings to advance their own agendas. In countries that did not experience revolutionary breakthroughs, authoritarian regimes adapted their repressive strategies in the face of border-crossing protests.
This workshop brought together more than a dozen diverse scholars working on issues related to the Middle East in transition to explain and conceptualize these dynamics by bringing them into comparative perspective. Drawing from a wide range of methodological and theoretical perspectives, participants contributed short memos that examined topics like revolutionary failure, de-democratization, counter-revolution and authoritarian retrenchment.