Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-75dct Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-18T16:02:18.768Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

After Egypt: The Limits and Promise of Online Challenges to the Authoritarian Arab State

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 June 2011

Marc Lynch
Institute for Middle East Studies, George Washington University. E-mail:


The uprisings which swept across the Arab world beginning in December 2010 pose a serious challenge to many of the core findings of the political science literature focused on the durability of the authoritarian Middle Eastern state. The impact of social media on contentious politics represents one of the many areas which will require significant new thinking. The dramatic change in the information environment over the last decade has changed individual competencies, the ability to organize for collective action, and the transmission of information from the local to the international level. It has also strengthened some of the core competencies of authoritarian states even as it has undermined others. The long term evolution of a new kind of public sphere may matter more than immediate political outcomes, however. Rigorous testing of competing hypotheses about the impact of the new social media will require not only conceptual development but also the use of new kinds of data analysis not traditionally adopted in Middle East area studies.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2011

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Aday, Sean, Farrell, Henry, Lynch, Marc, and Sides, John. 2010. Blogs and Bullets: New Media in Contentious Politics. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute for Peace.Google Scholar
Anderson, Jon. 2003. “New Media, New Publics: Reconfiguring the Public Sphere of Islam.” Social Research 70(3): 888906.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ayubi, Nazih. 1996. Over-Stating the Arab State: Politics and Society in the Middle East. New York: I.B. Tauris.Google Scholar
Bayat, Asef. 2009. Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Bellin, Eva. 2004. “Arab Authoritarianism in Comparative Perspective.” Comparative Politics 36(2): 139157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Benkler, Yochai. 2007. The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Brownlee, Jason. 2007. Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bunt, Gary. 2009. iMuslims: Rewiring the House of Islam. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
Calhoun, Craig. 2011. “Democracy, Anti-Democracy, and the Internet.” Brooklyn, New York: Social Science Research Council. (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
Carvin, Andy. 2011. “Online Reports Detail Chaos, Deaths in Tunisia; Add Yours.” (January 13). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
Castells, Manuel. 2008. Communication Power. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Deibert, Ronald, Palfrey, John, Rohozinski, Rafal, and Zittrain, Jonathan, eds. 2008. Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dhillon, Navtej, and Yousef, Tarik, eds. 2009. Generation in Waiting: The Unfulfilled Promise of Young People in the Middle East. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
Diamond, Larry. 2010. “Liberation Technology.” Journal of Democracy 21(3): 6983.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Eickelman, Dale. 2005. “New Media in the Arab Middle East and the Emergence of Open Societies.” In Remaking Muslim Politics, ed. Hefner, Robert. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Eickelman, Dale, and Anderson, Jon W.. 2003. New Media in the Middle East: The Emerging Public Sphere, 2nd ed.Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
Eltahawy, Mona. 2010. “Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter Are the New Tools of Protest in the Arab World,” Washington Post (August 7). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
Esfandiari, Golnaz. 2010. “The Twitter Devolution,” Foreign Policy (June 7). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
Faris, Rob, and Heacock, Rebekah. 2009. “Cracking Down on Digital Communication, Political Organizing in Iran.” Open Net Initiative (June 15). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
Gallagher, Ian. 2011. “Egyptian Police Use Facebook and Twitter to Track down Protesters' Names before ‘Rounding Them Up.’” Daily Mail (London) (February 6). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
Gladwell, Malcolm. 2010. “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted.” The New Yorker (October 4). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
Greenberg, Andy. 2011. “As Egyptians Reconnect, Their Government Will Be Watching.” (February 4). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
Hafez, Kai, ed. 2008. Arab Media: Power and Weakness. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
Halliday, Fred. 2003. The Middle East in International Relations. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Heydemann, Steven. 2007. Upgrading Authoritarianism in the Arab World (Analysis Paper Number 13). Washington, D.C: Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
Hirschkind, Charles. 2011. “The Road to Tahrir.” Social Science Research Council (February 9). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
Howard, Phillip N. 2010. The Digital Origins of Democracy and Dictatorship. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kuran, Timur. 1991. “Now Out of Never: The Element of Surprise in the East European Revolution of 1989.” World Politics 44(1): 748.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Langhor, Vicki. 2004. “Too Much Civil Society, Too Little Politics: The Case of Egypt and Arab Liberalizers.” Comparative Politics 36(2): 181204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Latar, Noam, Asmolov, Gregory, and Gekker, Alex. 2010. State Cyber Advocacy. Working Paper for the Tenth Annual Herzliya Conference. (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
Levinson, Charles, and Croker, Margaret. 2011. “The Secret Rally that Sparked an Uprising,” Wall Street Journal (February 11). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
Levitsky, Steven, and Way, Lucan. 2010. Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes After the Cold War. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lohmann, Susanne. 1994. “The Dynamics of Informational Cascades: The Monday Demonstrations in Leipzig, East Germany, 1989–91.” World Politics 47(1): 42101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Luciani, Giacomo. 1990. The Arab State. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Lust-Okar, Ellen. 2007. Structuring Conflict in the Arab World. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Lynch, Marc. 2006. Voices of the New Arab Public: Al-Jazeera, Iraq, and Arab Politics Today. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Lynch, Marc. 2007. “Blogging the New Arab Public.” Arab Media and Society 1(1). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
al-Malky, Rania. 2007. “Blogging for Reform: The Case of Egypt.” Arab Media and Society 1(1). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
McAdam, Doug, Tarrow, Sidney, and Tilly, Charles. 2001. Dynamics of Contention. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Milani, Abbas. 2010. “Iran's Hidden Cyberjihad.” Foreign Policy (July 6). (, accessed March 8, 2011.
Morozov, Evgeny. 2011. The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom. New York: PublicAffairs.Google Scholar
Murphy, Emma C. 2009. “Theorizing ICTs in the Arab World: Informational Capitalism and the Public Sphere.” International Studies Quarterly 53: 11311153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pripstein-Posusney, Marsha, and Angrist, Michelle Penner. 2005. Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Regimes and Resistance. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sakr, Naomi. 2007. Arab Television Today. New York: I. B. Tauris.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Salem, Fadi, and Mourtada, Racha. 2011. Arab Social Media Report (January 2011). Dubai: Dubai School of Government (February). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
Salvatore, Armando. 2010. The Public Sphere: Liberal Modernity, Catholicism, Islam. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
Schenker, Jack. 2011. “Cairo's Biggest Protest Yet Demands Mubarak's Immediate Departure.” The Guardian (February 5). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
Shapiro, Samantha. 2009. “Revolution, Facebook-Style.” New York Times Magazine (January 22). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
Shirky, Clay. 2008. Here Comes Everybody! The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
Shirky, Clay. 2011. “The Political Power of Social Media.” Foreign Affairs 90(1): 2841.Google Scholar
Slater, Dan. 2010. Ordering Power: Contentious Politics and Authoritarian Leviathans in Southeast Asia. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tarrow, Sidney. 2005. The New Transnational Activism. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tarrow, Sidney, and Tilly, Charles. 1996. Contentious Politics. New York: Paradigm Publishers.Google Scholar
Wedeen, Lisa. 1999. Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric and Symbols in Contemporary Syria. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Wedeen, Lisa. 2008. Peripheral Visions: Publics, Power and Performance in Yemen. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wheeler, Deborah. 2003. “The Internet and Youth Subculture in Kuwait.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 8(2). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar
Wheeler, Deborah. 2006. The Internet in the Middle East. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
Zuckerman, Ethan. 2011. “The First Twitter Revolution?Foreign Policy (January 14). (, accessed March 8, 2011.Google Scholar