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

Project Expert

Steven A. Cook
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.


Arab Spring

A sweeping narrative account of the last five years in the Middle East and a timely argument of how and why the Arab uprisings failed.

In the News

Steven A. Cook

Middle East and North Africa