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Democratizing Potential of the ‘Arab Spring’: Some Early Observations

  • Malik Mufti

An influential approach in the scholarship has stressed the ‘robustness of authoritarianism’ in the Arab world. While this approach has generated a rich research programme yielding valuable insights, it has also contributed to a widespread tendency to downplay the significance of the 2011 uprisings. A perspective that is broader both temporally (going back to the aftermath of the Ottoman Empire’s collapse) and spatially (to include Turkey, another successor state to that same empire which may serve as a useful negative case) can illuminate not only variations between regional states, but also convergences – such as the expansion of political mobilization and participation, or the emergence of Islamism versus secular nationalism as a key axis of ideological conflict – that suggest less pessimistic conclusions about the prospects for democracy in the longer-term future.

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Malik Mufti is Professor in the Department of Political Science at Tufts University. Contact email:

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Government and Opposition
  • ISSN: 0017-257X
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