False Dawn: Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East

Project Expert

Steven A. Cook

Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies

About the Project

The much-anticipated transitions to democratic political systems in the Middle East have not materialized. Despite the enthusiasm surrounding the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and other countries, a rather different reality of instability and repressive politics has emerged in the region. In my forthcoming book, False Dawn: Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East, which will be published by Oxford University Press in June 2017, I argue that the Arab revolts of 2010–2011 and Turkey's Gezi Park protests in 2013 represented a collective false dawn. While some uprisings failed to overthrow entrenched social and political orders, other states face potential break-ups in the absence of strong institutions. Still other countries are either experiencing a consolidation of authority that is blunting political opposition or struggling to find a formula that will allow them to escape political stalemate. Since the uprisings, observers have often asserted that there is "no going back" in the Middle East, meaning a return to pre-uprising politics. That is surely true, but it does not imply—as so many have assumed—a democratic future for the region. Rather than a particularly difficult moment on the path in the transition to democracy, the Middle East's present uncertainty, violence, and authoritarianism is also its future.


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