Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-wg55d Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-17T03:09:52.996Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Response to Howard and Walters

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 July 2014


Surprise is an intrinsic fact of political life and its elimination, especially with regard to extraordinary moments of protest and revolution, is a vain endeavor. Prediction and explanation are fundamentally different enterprises. While scholars may be well-positioned to trace, retrospectively, the motivation, networks, leadership, and other contextual factors that fueled the events of 2011 and 1989, such analysis will never bestow the sort of predictive power that will eliminate the surprise of mass uprisings. Verstehen-esque studies of mobilization, while crucially enlightening, have limited capacity to augment our powers of foresight due to the fundamental gulf between agency and intention as well as the causal disconnect between precedent and prediction.

Reflections Symposium
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2014 

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.)


Bayat, Asef. 2010. Life As Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Beinin, Joel. 2010. Justice for All: The Struggle for Worker Rights in Egypt, 14–15. (accessed May 19, 2014).Google Scholar
Beinin, Joel, and Vairel, Frédéric. 2011. Social Movements, Mobilization, and Constestation in the Middle East and North Africa. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
Beissinger, Mark. N.d. “The Action-Reaction Dynamic in Political Upheavals.” Unpublished manuscript. Princeton, University.Google Scholar
Bellin, Eva. 2012. “Reconsidering the Robustness of Authoritarianism: Lessons from the Arab Spring.” Comparative Politics 44(2): 127149.Google Scholar
Bellin, Eva. 2013. “Drivers of Democracy: Lessons from Tunisia.” Crown Center Middle East Brief No. 75, August. (accessed January 10, 2014).Google Scholar
Bellin, Eva. 2014. “Pondering the Extraordinary: Description, Explanation, and Theorization of the Arab Spring.” Bustan: The Middle East Book Review 5(1): 4459.Google Scholar
Bishara, Dina. 2013. “Authoritarian Institutions as Objects of Contestation: Challenges to State Corporatism in Egypt.” Ph.D. diss., George Washington University.Google Scholar
Goodwin, Jeff. 2011. “Why We Were Surprised Again by the Arab Spring.” Swiss Political Science Review 17(4): 452–56.Google Scholar
Kuran, Timur. 1989. “Sparks and Prairie Fires: A Theory of Unanticipated Political Revolution.” Public Choice 61(1): 4174.Google Scholar
Kurzman, Charles. 2004. “Can Understanding Undermine Explanation? The Confused Experience of Revolution.” Philosophy of Social Sciences 34(1): 328–51.Google Scholar
Lichbach, Mark. 1987. “Deterrence or Escalation? The Puzzle of Aggregate Studies of Repression and Disssent.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 31(2): 266–97.Google Scholar
Singerman, Diane. 1996. Avenues of Participation: Family, Politics, and Networks in Urban Quarters of Cairo. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar