Egypt’s Class Conflict

On Sunday morning there was some sign of the Egyptian military taking on some security duties. Soldiers started arresting suspected looters, rounding up 450 of them. The disappearance of the police from the streets had led to a threat of widespread looting is now being redressed by the regular military. Other control methods were on display. The government definitively closed the Aljazeera offices in Cairo and withdrew the journalists’ license to report from there, according to tweets. The channel stopped being broadcast on Egypt’s Nilesat. (Aljazeera had not been able to broadcast directly from Cairo even before this move.) The channel, bases in Qatar, is viewed by President Hosni Mubarak as an attempt to undermine him.

Why has the Egyptian state lost its legitimacy? Max Weber distinguished between power and authority. Power flows from the barrel of a gun, and the Egyptian state still has plenty of those. But Weber defines authority as the likelihood that a command will be obeyed. Leaders who have authority do not have to shoot people. The Mubarak regime has had to shoot over 100 people in the past few days, and wound more. Literally hundreds of thousands of people have ignored Mubarak’s command that they observe night time curfews. He has lost his authority.

Authority is rooted in legitimacy. Leaders are acknowledged because the people agree that there is some legitimate basis for their authority and power. In democratic countries, that legitimacy comes from the ballot box. In Egypt, it derived 1952-1970 from the leading role of the Egyptian military and security forces in freeing Egypt from Western hegemony. That struggle included grappling with Britain to gain control over the Suez Canal (originally built by the Egyptian government and opened in 1869, but bought for a song by the British in 1875 when sharp Western banking practices brought the indebted Egyptian government to the brink of bankruptcy). It also involved fending off aggressive Israeli attempts to occupy the Sinai Peninsula and to assert Israeli interests in the Suez Canal. Revolutionary Arab nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser (d. 1970) conducted extensive land reform, breaking up the huge Central America-style haciendas and creating a rural middle class. Leonard Binder argued in the late 1960s that that rural middle class was the backbone of the regime. Abdul Nasser’s state-led industrialization also created a new class of urban contractors who benefited from the building works commissioned by the government.

From 1970, Anwar El Sadat took Egyptian in a new direction, opening up the economy and openly siding with the new multi-millionaire contracting class. It in turn was eager for European and American investment. Tired of the fruitless Arab-Israeli wars, the Egyptian public was largely supportive of Sadat’s 1978 peace deal with Israel, which ended the cycle of wars with that country and opened the way for the building up of the Egyptian tourist industy and Western investment in it, as well as American and European aid. Egypt was moving to the Right.

But whereas Abdel Nasser’s socialist policies had led to a doubling of the average real wage in Egypt 1960-1970, from 1970 to 2000 there was no real development in the country. Part of the problem was demographic. If the population grows 3 percent a year and the economy grows 3 percent a year, the per capita increase is zero. Since about 1850, Egypt and most other Middle Eastern countries have been having a (mysterious) population boom. The ever-increasing population also increasingly crowded into the cities, which typically offer high wages than rural work does, even in the marginal economy (e.g. selling matches). Nearly half the country now lives in cities, and even many villages have become ‘suburbs’ of vast metropolises.

So the rural middle class, while still important, is no longer such a weighty support for the regime. A successful government would need to have the ever-increasing numbers of city people on its side. But there, the Neoliberal policies pressed on Hosni Mubarak by the US since 1981 were unhelpful. Egyptian cities suffer from high unemployment and relatively high inflation. The urban sector has thrown up a few multi-millionaires, but many laborers fell left behind. The enormous number of high school and college graduates produced by the system can seldom find employment suited to their skills, and many cannot get jobs at all. Urban Egypt has rich and poor but only a small “middle class.” The state carefully tries to control labor unions, who could seldom act independently.

The state was thus increasingly seen to be a state for the few. Its old base in the rural middle classes was rapidly declining as young people moved to the cities. It was doing little for the urban working and middle classes. An ostentatious state business class emerged, deeply dependent on government contracts and state good will, and meeting in the fancy tourist hotels. But the masses of high school and college graduates reduced to driving taxis or selling rugs (if they could even get those gigs) were not benefiting from the on-paper growth rates of the past decade.

The military regime in Egypt initially gained popular legitimacy in part by its pluck in facing down France, Britain and Israel in 1956-57 (with Ike Eisenhower’s help). After the Camp David accords, in contrast, Egypt largely sat out the big struggles in the Mideast, and made what has widely been called a separate peace. Egypt’s cooperation in the Israeli blockade of Gaza and its general quiet alliance with the US and Israel angered most young people politically, even as they racked up economic frustrations. Cairo’s behind the scenes help to the US, with Iraq and with torturing suspected al-Qaeda operatives, were well known. Very little is more distasteful to Egyptians than the Iraq War and torture. The Egyptian state went from being broadly based in the 1950s and 1960s to having been captured by a small elite. It went from being a symbol of the striving for dignity and independence after decades of British dominance to being seen as a lap dog of the West.

The failure of the regime to connect with the rapidly growing new urban working and middle classes, and its inability to provide jobs to the masses of college graduates it was creating, set the stage for last week’s events. Educated, white collar people need a rule of law as the framework for their economic activities, and Mubarak’s arbitrary rule is seen as a drag here. While the economy has been growing 5 and 6 percent in the past decade, what government impetus there was to this development remained relatively hidden– unlike its role in the land reform of the 1950s and 1960s. Moreover, the income gained from increased trade largely went to a small class of investors. For instance, from 1991 the government sold 150 of 314 state factories it put on the block, but the benefit of the sales went to a narrow sliver of people.

The world economy’s [pdf] setback in 2008-2009 had a direct and horrible effect on Egyptians living on the edge. Many of the poor got hungrier. Then the downturn in petroleum prices and revenues caused many Egyptian guest workers to [pdf] lose their economic cushion. They either could no longer send their accustomed remittances, or they had to come back in humiliation.

The Nasserist state, for all its flaws, gained legitimacy because it was seen as a state for the mass of Egyptians, whether abroad or domestically. The present regime is widely seen in Egypt as a state for the others– for the US, Israel, France and the UK– and as a state for the few– the Neoliberal nouveau riche. Islam plays no role in this analysis because it is not an independent variable. Muslim movements have served to protest the withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities, and to provide services. But they are a symptom, not the cause. All this is why Mubarak’s appointment of military men as vice president and prime minister cannot in and of itself tamp down the crisis. They, as men of the System, do not have more legitimacy than does the president– and perhaps less.

Posted in Egypt | 85 Responses | Print |

85 Responses

  1. Juan, Thanks for all your work and perspective on Egypt.

    Can you recommend any history books? I’m interested in both the long version (not so much the ancient history, although I don’t know a lot about that either), esp the transition to Islam, and much more detail on post-WWII. Esp the details of the ‘peace’ with Israel. From what I’m picking up on al Jazeera, it sounds like the terms Israel got were completely humiliating toward Egypt.

    That would also explain why Abbas gave into everything & still couldn’t get a country out of it. Israel hadn’t humiliated him & the Palestinians enough.

    • Actually the population boom had to do with intensive cultivation of cotton for British clothing factories. The rich irrigated soil made it possible to have three crops a year, and it benefited a poor peasanry to have young hands picking the cash crop cotton as they were pushed off a subsistance base.They became a poor rural proletariat.

  2. Thanks. I relie on sources other then TV for my information and appreciate clear intelligent writing. I talk with my clients about world events and I desire to have non inflammatory information to calm fear and avoid the panic that makes people stressed.

  3. Do you think the Egyptian people would accept Omar Suleiman as their transitional president, or is he too closely linked with the regime? Would Mohamed ElBaradei be a possible president, or is he not dynamic enough?

    • One of the commonly made errors is that Mr. Suleiman is legally the first in line to become Egypt’s President if Mr. Mubarak resigns. If that happens the President of the People’s Assembly becomes a temporary President. If the People’s Assembly has been dismissed the President of the Supreme Constitutional Court becomes temporary President. Neither can run in the upcoming elections for President. The Vice President cannot become President when the President becomes incapacitated or resigns.

  4. Excellent !!!
    as Dr Zewail said and you implied
    “2. The economic situation: the masses of the poor have been left behind, the situation of the middle class has actually gone backward, while a small elite at the top benefits from what economic progress there is– because of a marriage of power and capital.”

    sounds familiar doesn’t it
    a description of the whole capitaist world, the US in particular – there will be an explosion in more places than the middle east

  5. 150 dead according to Al Jazeera. Without in any way wishing to show the Iranian regime in a good light, contrast the coverage of that with the coverage of one dead in similar circumstances in Iran. There are worthy and unworthy victims, as John Pilger explains.
    I await the subterfuge and provocation necessary to paint the opposition to Mubarak as some kind of fundamentalist madness that threatens us all. However, Egytians are a bright lot and I imagine they are pretty good at chess.

  6. This excellent writing provides much needed sociological, economic and historical context for the events unfolding in Egypt today, and by analogy in other states in the Middle East.

    I think this sentence in the last paragraph of “Egypt’s Class Conflict” needs to be highlighted and placed in the first, not the last, paragraph —

    “Islam plays no role in this analysis because it is not an independent variable.”

    What is happening in Egypt right now is about the foundations of state authority. Is a state’s authority with its people based on “power,” brute force, or is it based on its perceived “legitimacy” in the minds of its citizens? Prof. Cole clearly explains the reasons why and how the legitimate, citizen-acknowledged authority of the Egyptian state disintegrated into government-rule maintained through the barrel of a gun!

  7. I’m sure many Egyptians do consider the Mubarak government to be either a puppet of or a part of a US-Israel-UK axis, which is standard fare for non-Islamist regimes in Middle East. However, Mr. Cole’s “class conflict” description of the roots of this crisis is somewhat seems to be at odds with reality.

    It may well be true that the Egyptian public expects the government to guarantee gainful employment to all; they won’t be the only populace to hold that expectation. It is somewhat less clear that Egypt adopted “neoliberal” economic policies, if neoliberal is understood to mean reduced state intervention and greater reliance on market forces. For example Mr. Cole describes recent economic developments this way: “An ostentatious state business class emerged, deeply dependent on government contracts and state good will, and meeting in the fancy tourist hotels. But the masses of high school and college graduates reduced to driving taxis or selling rugs (if they could even get those gigs) were not benefiting from the on-paper growth rates of the past decade.” That kind of rent-seeking activity is certainly not the hallmark of a market-oriented economy. Furthermore, as the ILO study cited Mr. Cole suggests some of the steps needed to generate employment in Egypt such as “the removal of remaining obstacles to investment in general and FDI in particular; providing incentives to investors through availing land and infrastructure” (see p. 36) are standard parts of the neoliberal prescription. It may be the Egypt suffered from lack of neoliberalism rather than too much of it. It may well be that some privatizations involved insider deals and favors, but that is the fault of the mechanism used to conduct the transactions not privatization itself. Whatever the benefits on the economic policies employed by President Nasser, modern socialist societies have proven woefully inadequate at generating robust employment growth as the examples of Cuba and Venezuela show.

    In short, instability in Egypt may be a result of a stagnant economy and Mubarak’s government may have mismanaged the economy but there is little evidence there was some utopian socialist alternative.

    • Most of Egypt’s people are economically desperate, and although there are increasing calls for political reform, changes in economic policy have typically not been among the prescribed remedies.

      The Reagan-Thatcher triumph of privatization and deregulation has produced an ideological dead end for the majority of the world’s people, virtually all of whom live in capitalist countries.

      We need to distinguish what is desirable about socialism – democratic control of essential economic activities and resources, from what was bad about “actually existing socialism” – personality cults, one-party states, and denial of civil liberties.

        • Socialism does not mean the absence of incentive.

          The ‘commanding heights’ of the economy should be democratically controlled; otherwise private enterprise is to be encouraged.

          In the public sector, extra compensation can be provided for those who work longer or better; for those whose work is dangerous, arduous, or mucky; and for those whose occupation requires extensive advance study.

          A good start for us would be to agree on a working definition of greed, and that greed should be illegal.

    • I assume, then, that you reject categorically and in its entirety every word of Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine.”

    • As detailed by Ha-Joon Chang in 23 things they don’t tell you about capitalism (not an anti-capitalist book despite the name) the adoption of neo-liberal, or free market, policies in developing countries has shattered their economies for decades.

      Before adopting them most African nations had healthy economic growth, even if slower in relative terms than some other developing regions like Asia and Latin America. Decades on and they’re only now reaching the place they occupied before succumbing to pressure from lenders in the developed countries (who are remarkably unwilling to forgive debts from the people they ostensibly wish to help out of poverty) to open their countries to foreign investment and competition.

      No one has promised, or aspired to, a socialist utopia in generations. It’s a strawman aimed at distraction rather than enlightenment. That said, few countries have destroyed themselves by protecting their peoples’ interest but dozens have been bankrupted by favouring foreign investors over their own peoples’ welfare.

    • You’re not wrong to see a contradiction between neoliberal ideology and a business class that derives huge profits from state contracts, but that contradiction only exists at the level of ideology. In fact, neoliberal economic policies (as opposed to ideology) have created exactly this situation wherever they have been implemented. The 21st century state simply has to do certain things. It cannot fully divest itself of its responsibilities to provide certain services. But under neoliberal policies, it provides this services via the market, through private contractors because the idea that markets always deliver services more efficiently is a primary article of neoliberal faith (e.g., the most recent health care reform bill). Obviously, as a result of this excessive reliance on contractors, there is increasing interpenetration between the state and the market. It rarely leads to the more efficient allocation of resources, much more often leads to corruption, kickbacks, and the pillaging of public coffers (e.g. Halliburton’s role in the Iraq War). But what it does very well at is enriching a small slice of the business community, as it most certainly has done in Egypt.

      Also, please don’t confuse social democratic with “communist”. They are two very different entities, and if you used the examples of France and Germany rather than Cuba, you would be led to very different conclusions.

      • You’re taking my words!

        I would just have changed “France” by “France before 1981” because this is when the neoliberal ideology took the power here. Sarkozy is just accelerating it.

        Very interesting article by the way.

        Greetings from France.

  8. The disappearance of the police from the streets had led to a threat of widespread looting is now being redressed by the regular military.

    Last night a fellow being interviewed in an Al Jazeera studio opined that some of the looting was being done by the police in plain clothes. The implication was that they were being ordered to do this. A few minutes ago on Al Jazeera a fellow on the street claimed that some of the looters arrested were found to have police IDs. I can only wonder whether any of this will prove to be true.

  9. In every country, people (formerly the poor, nowadays the poor and middle-class) wish for a government dedicated to their good rather than to the good of foreigners, the very rich, etc.

    Here, in USA, we see the bankers and various other of the very rich getting ridiculously richer — and getting bailed out when they have screwed up — while everyone else is static or worse, and the national debt increasing as if without limit, and still the government (and pols of both major parties) treat our nuttily expensive military-imperium as a “sacred cow” that cannot be touched, cannot be reduced, even as it is seen to do no good whatever.

    Americans should be feeling envious of the Egyptians who, if they have nothing else, have at least their pride and their revolution.

    • “Americans should be feeling envious of the Egyptians…”

      We are.

      • Any American “envious” of Egypt, or any other country, should move to their Utopia and get out of the USA. We are extremely blessed to be in America and should feel grateful!

  10. Thanks for the refresher course on power, authority, and legitimacy.

    I don’t mean to belittle the problem of inequality — it needs to be addressed, and pronto — but Egypt also faces serious resource constraints. Food prices are rising, which are closely related to oil prices. Egypt has food subsidies, but they are made possible based on oil and natural gas exports, and and Egypt’s oil exports are declining. Natural gas exports have been able to close the gap but now natural gas exports have leveled off.

    Not all of these problems, obviously, are within Egypt’s power to address — not much they can do about rising wheat prices. But everyone is going to have to address resource constraints due to the inability to increase worldwide oil production since 2005; and likely within a few years, we will have a decline in worldwide oil production. Egypt is a dress rehearsal for, well, the rest of the world.

    Gail Tverberg’s comments on Egypt are quite interesting:

    link to

    • The food problem in Egypt might be addressed by converting land that produces cotton for export to producing food. But the government intervening to encourage a change in agriculture would be socialism?

      Not really unless you think the USDA is a socialist organization.

      • It is interesting to notice that the issue of “cotton or food (corn)” contributed to the downfall of the Confederate States of America.

  11. Just a thank you for your site and your time and effort in keeping it up to date and informative. I constantly push it on my students (who are less than supportive at times since I teach in one of the reddest of the red states!) and it has done some good in providing at least a spring board for discussions of the role of the media and alternative viewpoints. We are about to begin an entire unit on the region for the post-WWII period and I think this brief analysis contrasting Nasser and Mubarak’s policies will be required reading. Keep up the good work!

    • Seems to me the US, at least the oligarchic and imperial fraction of the nation, still has a large and covert and destabilizing and repression-encouraging presence in Latin America — just what are 46 warships and 7,000 Marines and a whole lot of attack aircraft doing under “invitation by the government, snicker” in Army-less, non-MIC-ridden Costa Rica? link to

      And gee, I wonder if Hugo Chavez, speaking of legitimacy versus power, sleeps like Moammar Gaddafi (or Saddam Hussein, former US “friend”) in a different location every night?

    • We can only hope that’s they way it turns out. I don’t think Egypt is going to return to the old way of doing business.
      Thanks Juan

  12. Thanks Juan! I’ll be using this post in my introductory sociology class when I introduce Weber’s ideas on power and authority.

  13. Juan, thanks for this illuminating post. I hope you can also address how criminally negligent and evasive the NY Times editorial page has been. Compared to the sharp criticism of the Washington Post, a couple NYT editorials have basically echoed the tepid line of the US administration.

    But more strikingly, at a time when serious debate and reconsideration is essential in the US, there has not been one regular or guest column in the NYT on Egypt since Jan 25. (All they can do is pontificate about Michelle Bachmann and the First Lady’s clothes.) This is so shameful that it makes the Wash Post op-ed by the thoroughly discredited neocon, Elliott Abrams, look reasonable by comparison.

    Even the blog section of the NYT is less than buzzing. Krugman sums it up well: “Egypt: I don’t know anything, have no expertise, haven’t even ever looked at the economic situation. Hence, no posting.” (Note: Lack of expertise on social movements did not stop Krugman from portraying Obama’s grassroots supporters as a “cult” during the 2008 primaries.”) Krugman should at least write about the consequences of his own ignorance and how badly that distorts his analysis of global economics and politics.

    The poverty of mainstream intellectual discourse is fully on display here and seems like further confirmation of what Chris Hedges has called “the death of the liberal class.” They’ve been caught totally flat-footed by Tunisia and Egypt and can’t articulate a coherent position (“stable,” “not a dictator,” “restraint on all sides”). And now they must deal with the fact that their foreign policy strategy is in complete disarray.

    Where is my copy of The Tragedy of American Diplomacy?

  14. A very instructive analysis. What I’d add is that the same policies that created an economic elite were also creating hundreds of thousands of young educated, English-speaking Egyptians who recognized that their rulers were obscenely corrupt and that the nation would get nowhere unless the political system was freed. They’re the ones who’ve created dissident groups, protested and engaged in digital resistance, and they’re in the forefront of these protests now (Tunisia provided the occasion for action that would get global attention plus the incentive for broader participation). This new class of “rooted cosmopolitan” Egyptians want the same rights they experience when they travel to the UK, US, or democratic Euro-Med countries. Juan Cole’s analysis shows why Mubarak lost his legitimacy in the eyes of the people long before these latest protests started. But one of the prime drivers of change now is a growing, popular desire for political rights and genuine democracy, which is fusing in the streets with the demand for a government that listens and does justice to those who have no property as well as those who do. As Desmond Tutu said, “When people decide they want to be free, there is nothing that can stop them.”

  15. Gentlemen:

    President Mubarak should provide quick solution to avoid violance in the region.

    If he cannot, violance will continues because people needs are not satisfied.

    One way to avoid this problem is call for Free and fair election with a date set.

    Police to punish looters who will vandalise the city after a given election date.

    Political party to start a company nacional wide.

    Military action will just anger civilian and increase violance.

  16. This is a great concise analysis of Egypt — news we can use, or rather, a framework for understanding the news.

    I have only a minor tangential scholarly quibble in re Max Weber. The legitimacy framework you use, as something existing between a regime and the people, is a good one, and you use it well, and it’s widely known. But it’s really got nothing to do with Max Weber, even though it was originally developed by his acolytes and they attribute it to him. If you do analysis of his many examples, Weber’s three kinds of Herrschaft aren’t about the relation between the regime and the people. They are rather about the relations of the ruler and his regime. The puzzle, for Weber, was why the Praetorian guard obeyed Caesar, because they had options — they could cut off his head. And similarly with the question of why knights obey kings or why bureaucracies obey politicians. But as for the rest of the population, he generally assumed that if the staff was on side, the mass of the population could be kept down by force. One has to remember that Economy & Society is one of those classic Urschlim bis Gegenwarts books, and for 99% of the history that it is comparatively surveying, the “people” had little say.

    I say this purely as ex-sociologist noodge. Most people think Weber said what you said because that’s what Parsons said he said. And there has been brilliant work in that tradition. But it’s closer to Habermas than to Weber.

  17. With all due respect to Max Weber…

    The Chinese Party had to reassert its authority with guns in 1989, but that it did. Sitting back we can sniff at how they, and now Mubarak, have lost their authority, but such a construct is intellectual and ultimately misses the point we can see in China: the people where not committed to see things through, and the full price they’d have to pay.

    When the people have genuinely had enough, they will do what it takes (and pay the price in blood) to change things. The same can be said about the US, but its people are so rich and complacent, it hard to imagine when that could/would ever happen.

    The question is how committed the Egyptians are to change, and how committed the status quo (ie, the Army) is to resisting it/obeying orders. Until one side caves i, it would seem you have the set-up for a civil war.

  18. This analysis is so much more incisive and well-informed than any of the press commentary I’ve seen – much of which is both too politically engaged and thin. It is no wonder newspapers are in crisis and the blogosphere is taking over. Understanding any revolution calls for a cool analysis of the power, interests and perceptions of both rebels and regime, and that is something so many journalists, relying on either bland reportage or emotive polemic, seem unwilling to do.

  19. Sir, may I ask if you perceive any set of influences or forces or conditions that will keep this “Revolution of Revulsion” from being hijacked by, shall we say, chaotic forces and interests?

    All I’ve read about revolutions leaves the impression that most of the energies and motions of those periods of intense flux and desperation and yearning for legitimacy get as they say co-opted or perverted by people who recognize the pathways to power and often false legitimacy, and are willing and able to act to occupy them.

    There are exceptions, of course. Any chance that legitimate aspirations, and aspirations for legitimacy, will drive enough people to keep the jackals and generals from doing what they so often do?

    And isn’t it interesting that some military cadres recognize that their troops and their armaments and their marching orders come from an “economy” that requires healthy surpluses that usually come from a growing store of Real Wealth, and that “taking over” might be killing the egg-laying goose? Too bad that in the US and a few other nations, the MIC has such a huge reservoir to draw on, and the opportunity to do the imperial thing and take Real Wealth from less-well-defended people?

    But hey, that’s been the model since “civilization,” as in grain surpluses and walled towns and granaries that need defense or can be pillaged, has existed. I love the irony that the Cradle of Civilization, as some would have it, the Fertile Crescent, has been the scene of so much that is the worst of what humans as “civilized creatures” can do…

  20. Professor Cole, this sounds so much like a picture of the US, both as it is, and as it’s becoming.

    The enormous number of high school and college graduates produced by the system can seldom find employment suited to their skills, and many cannot get jobs at all. Urban Egypt has rich and poor but only a small “middle class.”


    An ostentatious state business class emerged, deeply dependent on government contracts and state good will, and meeting in the fancy tourist hotels.

    and finally,

    The Egyptian state went from being broadly based in the 1950s and 1960s to having been captured by a small elite. It went from being a symbol of the striving for dignity and independence after decades of British dominance to being seen as a lap dog of the West

  21. Dr Cole… I have been streaming Al Jezeera from their website and it says “live” on the films of Tahrir. If it is not their feed, whose live feed are they showing? Reuters perhaps?

  22. What do you think of the fact that there are almost no women among the protesters on the street? Women enjoy considerable freedom in Egypt, and there is also a feminist tradition of sorts. Were are the Egyptian women now?

  23. Ah, Juan, if only there were some Weberian charismatic leader to reunite the rudderless masses in Egypt. Hmm, I know let’s continue to stoke fears of international finance, barely register Nassar’s flaws, and continue the drumbeat of the volkish politics — sadly, the one constant here. Need I reference how the rest of this script goes? Instead of playing with fire, someone actually interested in peace and justice would be worried about the dangers to come.

    • Stay the course?

      So Egypt should continue to rely on trickle-down to provide income, goods, and services to its population?

      Should it make its economy even friendlier to investors and ‘international finance’ by lowering wages, abolishing subsidies and regulations, and eliminating unions?

      What economic policy do you recommend?

      • Let’s be clear: I’m not endorsing neo-liberal economics. They have been disastrous, short-sighted and blinded by their naive faith in the power of markets and the local opportunists who are happy to tell them what they want to hear. The script I was referring to was a bit different. Juan appears to be pining for a Weberian charismatic leader for Egypt, but what do you get when you have masses that are angry, young, and economically deprived? Charismatic leaders that do speak for “the people” under these circumstances tend to move some large chunk of the population in totalitarian directions (hence the volkish, reference.) We can agree that the status quo (whether it’s crony capitalism, or something more in line with what free marketers say they want) is a failure for Egypt. It would be great if the civil society organizations, unions, less than fanatical religious authorities, etc, stepped in to begin something like a democratic exchange, but let’s also look at the odds, and what it means to declare Nasser the new exemplar. As nasty old C. Schmitt would say, we ain’t talking economics anymore when we reach that level of discussion. One way to unify the people is to call out it’s “enemies” and to stoke hatreds.

  24. An analysis from STRATFOR, worth reading at:

    link to

    pulls together many of these observations, reading into them the historical context and precedence. Most interesting point is the hypothetical potential for a junior officer coup reflecting genuine sensitivity to the people and their situation, (if there is to be any true revolution, IMHO).

    This is the only obvious way the people can really get past the status quo. That is, some general/pal of Mubarak’s picking things up where he leaves off. The only other scenario, assuming the revolution doesn’t subside or isn’t successfully suppressed, as in China, would be the MB/Iranian alternative/model.

  25. Other commenters bring up possible problems with the economic analysis presented here, but I for one would be glad to see the Egyptian populace feel they get a better chance to participate in economic policymaking. I do not think the United States should be in the business of mandating one particular economic model. The US people and government should distance themselves from neoliberalism, and Americans at the citizen level should let Egyptians (and others) at the citizen level know that America is not “doing neoliberalism” to them, but that the impact of international forces and institutions is doing similar things to the Egyptian and American people alike.

    There is one Egyptian popular criterion for legitimacy that I do have a big problem with, and that is their problem with the Israeli-Egyptian separate peace.

    I don’t know if Juan Cole was saying he agrees with this as a criterion of legitimacy or if he was just echoing Egyptian popular opinions. If he was agreeing I believe he and the public is wrong. If he is just echoing then he is just describing others’ wrong beliefs.

    Having rage against the Israeli-Egyptian separate peace assumes that Israeli-Egyptian war would be morally superior, but do we really think it would be? It implies that we should be ashamed of the American role in promoting that peace and President Carter’s pursuit of the accord.

    Frankly, the accord and even the compromises that have gone along with it (including some degree of bribery to both sides to make the deal stick) are nothing for the US to be ashamed of.

    In particular, when the accords were signed in the late 70s, and for the first decade of their existence, they were quite necessary to reduce the risk of nuclear war in the world, even if the accord could arguably have had some negative side effects for individuals in the Middle East. The world went to the brink of nuclear war over Middle East wars in 1956, 1967 and 1973, and America need not be ashamed that the popularly maligned (in the Muslim world) Israeli-Egyptian separate peace, took that prospect off the table. The fate of the peoples of all Eurasia and North America was tied up in this, not just the fate of Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, Lebanese and Syrians.

    Thoughts Juan?

    • If the Egyptian people believe that the alliance with Israel is undesirable then it is a legitimate perspective, they are under no more obligation to consider whether their position hurts or helps America than the opposite.

      The reality of the peace is that it weakened other Arab States by allowing the technology advanced and diplomatically protected Israel to attack other neighbours without having to worry about Israel’s most formidable rival coming to their aid.

      Also the unbending support shown by Mubarak for the fradulent peace process has made Egypt complicit in the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Worse even than that, the willingness to enforce the blockade of Gaza is producing a generation of Gazans who will be physically and intellectually stunted from insufficient nutrition.

      Egyptians have a greater responsibility to think of the implications of the separate peace to the Palestinians than to the Americans because the Palestinians are their neighbours, because they can see what is happening without all the ideological baggage that Western countries bring with them wherever they go and also because of their role in aiding and abetting crimes against humanity directed toward the Palestinians.

      If the separate peace undermined the Egyptians belief in the legitimacy of their dictator, then I accept their reasoning.

  26. Having watched Europe fall to Communism only to eventually tire of it gives me faith in the Egyptian people. There’s something amazing about people when they decide they’ve had enough. It’s so much easier and less messy to “do what you’re told”. But something happens and historically the people prevail. Oh, there’s always the next thing waiting to happen but that too will be dealt with. The politics of it all is obvious, but the actions of the people is a far more interesting study. I continue to wish them well. Thank you Juan Cole for your excellent coverage.

  27. The most important coming story about Egypt’s strife may have nothing at all to do with Mubarkak or Obama or Netenyahu’s or anybody else’s next moves, but rather what corporate US media giants choose to do next with the story. What approval or disapproval of the popular Egyptian uprising is present? How accurate is US media’s reporting compared to other international media? Will a silver lining be found, or will storm clouds prevail? Will the tempo of media reporting increase, or will the current attention being paid falter, and the situation languish? In Egypt’s case, languishment is out; this story isn’t going away given the international interest in what’s going on. It will have to be spun. But finding the right spin is going to become much, much tougher in the event that any other Mid East nations now experiencing protests might follow Egypt into full blown national protest. This is how events, influenced by self serving media coverage that aims to manipulate rather than inform, spiral out of control. So, now with camera trained on the producers in our own control booth, we take you to the story that’s not going to be covered. Dr. Spin, as you please.

  28. Re: population & price inflation

    Some Western countries’ demographic transition, especially that in France, also predated modern medicine (i.e. vaccines, antibiotics, chlorinated water supplies, etc.).

    Egypt seems to be roughly following the French style of demographic transition: mortality rates drop while birth rates remain high, then a gradual tapering of fertility rates.

    I think Egypt’s fertility rate has dropped by at least half since the 1970’s. But the number of women of reproductive age is large so the population is still growing fairly rapidly despite the big drop in the number of babies per woman.


    One of the overlooked consequences of the very loose, very stimulative monetary policies in the developed world during the past decade has been mounting inflationary pressure in the developing world. Stimulus which was intended to boost economic output in the originating countries has instead overheated developing economies, causing serious price inflation in food, energy and housing.

    • Indeed, linearising the exponential function in the long-term is a common mistake. Fertility must drop below 2 children/woman in order to reverse the trend in the next 30 years. The Chinese understand this and were able to tackle with the 1-child policy. Dropping from 2 to 1 may seem harsh, but that’s the only way to make it fair (as having 1.5 children each is not feasible). Clearly the social structure of Egypt is very different that China’s, but lessons must be learned from the world’s fastest riser. Egypt is fast reaching demographic saturation point, with huge impact on the Nilotic and Eastern Mediterranean ecosystem.

  29. Fisk reports from atop a US-provided Egyptian tank that the military and protesters are one, link to

    The two photos linked at the article prove it beyond doubt, link to

    And yesterday’s lead by _The Independent_ provided a terse yet accurate description of why, link to

    I see the interconnection between all the protest events being rooted in the incompletion of the anti-Colonial transition made impossible by US policy and enforced by its Cold War, and I see such protests spreading within Africa. The Class War aspect you note is present in the Albanian protests as well as others within Europe, the common thread being the neoliberal policies employed by elites at the behest of the US and EU meant to immiserate the many and transfer yet more wealth to those not needing another farthing. Events are proving unmanagable by the Metropole, which thanks to Wikileaks has lost what little legitimacy it retained. Thankfully, the policy goal of Full Spectrum Domination looks like it will be shredded by the planet’s people instead of being fought against by their governments.

  30. The Egyptian revolution is the logical conclusion of the unholy alliance between neoliberal economic reforms and dictatorship. Massive urbanization and marginalization are a direct casue of capitalist land reforms, the privatization of the economy and the entranchement of the rentier state. It is extraordinarily amazing to hear H. Clinton and TV anchors urging Egypt to launch economic reforms!! A serious Martian earing these sages would think Earthians had gone crazy.

    I hope the Egyptians will keep up momentum.

  31. Note this sentence from the article: “After the Camp David accords, in contrast, Egypt largely sat out the big struggles in the Mideast, and made what has widely been called a separate peace.”

    Egypt’s non-interference in regional conflicts involving Israel has been ordered and paid for by the US. Since the accords, our “foreign aid” to Egypt has been exceeded only by that to Israel.

    link to

    I agree with those who have noted a disturbing similarity to Egypt in our own growing wealth divide.

    If ElBaradei eventually replaces Mubarak, the US media will brand him a radical to discredit and ridicule his conclusions on Iran’s nuclear program for the IAEA.

  32. Interesting analysis. I didn’t see you discuss the broad political repression and the pervasive police brutality during Mubarak’s rule. He banned opposing political parties, imprisoned opponents, and jailed and punished activists who spoke out against him. Also, the security services are widely considered to serve Mubarak, not the people or country. Torture and police brutality are widespread (not just of suspected “Islamists”).

    This revolution isn’t just about redistribution of wealth. It’s also about restoring personal dignity and freedoms – the freedoms we in the US often take for granted.

  33. Tear Gas Causes Anti American Sentiment in Egypt


    The Tear Gas (Smoke Bombs) Used Against Egyptian Protesters were also Used at G-20

  34. Thanks for the insightful posts!
    I have a few questions:
    1) if the economic problem is mainly demographic and related to external factors (oil prices), what can another government hope to achieve?
    2) if the Muslim Brotherhood is, as many commentators say, the most well-organized opposition party, it is very likely that it will acquire a fair fraction of the power: this will lead (in my opinion) to renewed confrontation with Israel, to ineffective and demagogic economy policies, and possibly to antidemocratic measures. What is your view of the likelihood of this possibility?
    3) as a European, I am always surprised by the fact that most educated Americans are indignant about the fact that their government always put their interest above all. What do you think all the other world governments try to do (just with less success and on a shorter scale)? Why do you think a government should do the interest of some other country? How this could be sustainable (I mean, it would immediately be fired by the electors)? Of course, one could do his/her own interest in many ways, and often long-term, deeper interests are in contrast with short-term superficial ones, but how come you often seem to expect a government to act out of moral principles instead of rational self-interest?

    • Actually, Luk, most educated Americans support the empire and want to make it “nicer” partly out of fear that the subjugated peoples will rise up against it. The educated Americans you have been reading are not typical of the greedy, shortsighted, ignorant bourgeoisie. We invade a country, and most Americans hold their breath for a few weeks hoping that we’ve “gotten away” with it. Then they relax and go back to buying stuff. That’s very telling.

      If you study the evolution of the international law of military occupation, which Juan often discusses, after WW2 the US pushed to strengthen prohibitions against profiting from conquest, and if anything made American corporate penetration of Occupied Japan less than it had been during the 1920s. That was a sort of golden moment of enlightened self-interest, where FDR recognized that the power of empire could turn any country into the next Reich and that no country could ever be put in the position where conquest was more profitable than trade. Those are principles against unregulated self-interest, based on common sense. It’s all been downhill ever since.

  35. My Arabic was never what it should have been, but Is a new and earnest journalist in Cairo in 1980/1981 I did not find very many Egyptians ‘largely supportive’ of the peace with Israel. That said I think your comments about Islamic movements gaining authority by providing the services jettisoned by neo-liberal states is excellent.

    As a slightly more experienced journalist I watched it in Turkey and it will be very interesting to see what happens in Tunisia.

    • I was in Egypt in 1978, and they were supportive then, as far as I could tell. Tired of war and sacrifice.

      • Really? They didn’t seem to grieve much for Sadat’s assassination. Tired of war surely, but supportive is another thing. No Egyptian I know was ever (openly) supportive of Camp David, but many suggested that it was the best that could be achieved at the time, as the country needed to focus on more pressing problems than liberating Al-Quds for the Palestinian few (as compared to the Egyptians, that is).

        • Sadat was not personally popular. But peace was. People thought it would lead to an end to rationing, vast military expenditures, and would lead to prosperity. Obviously I am giving evidence from anecdote and personal observation, but it is important to challenge the glib nationalist or Muslim fundamentalist narratives that make such attitudes unimaginable. They did exist and were relatively widespread at the time from my observation.

  36. Professor Cole, I found your analysis synthetic yet enlightening. However, I wouldn’t dismiss the Muslim component so easily. It is true that the problems of Egypt cannot be solved with religion, and most Egyptians know that. But, having visited part of the Nile and Cairo last year in April, after more than 32 years of absence, I have noticed that the society is much more “islamised” as it was in the late seventies. As an example, I talked to a school teacher and she said that all girls in public schools *must* wear the veil. Mubarak’s regime has not only repressed the Muslim Brotherhood, but has had to concede something to them in order to stay in power. After Socialism and Capitalism have both failed Egypt (and given the successes of Islamists in Turkey), don’t you think that political Islam may not be so strange an alternative?

  37. Professor Cole,
    What is the reason for the relative observable small number of women among the Egyptian demonstrators(from what we could see via the internet), compared to participation of women in the 1978-79 demonstrations in Iran?

  38. How much of the “mysterious” population growth in the middle east is a reflection of the oppression of women?

    Education and job opportunities are, I think generally recognized as the most potent instrument of mass contraception there is.

  39. A Note of Warning and Encouragement for Egyptians
    From an Iranian writer who lived through the 1979 Revolution.

    the United States issued ambiguous statements, indicating support for the leader’s desire to establish law and order on the one hand while at the same time insisting that the march of democracy must continue, and that the use of force could not be a solution to the country’s problems. Benefiting from the subsequent chaos, radical Islamists, posing as democrats, used the chance to seize power and deracinate the democratic movement in favor of tradition and theocracy.

    The country I am speaking of is not Egypt in 2011 but Iran in 1979. The leader is the Shah, not Hosni Mubarak. Yet, as this history makes clear, the parallels between then and now are numerous. And they offer some key lessons for Americans and Egyptians alike.

    For U.S. policymakers, the Iranian Revolution illustrates the perils of vacillating between defending an old regime and establishing ties with new democrats. President Obama must use all of his persuasive power to demand that Hosni Mubarak immediately declare that he will not seek reelection. The Egyptian dictator must be persuaded to appoint a caretaker government that will handle the daily affairs of the state, headed by a moderate member of the opposition like Mohammed ElBaradei. This might be the last chance to arrange an orderly transition to democracy, one wherein anti-democratic forces in any guise—religious, military, secular, or theocratic—cannot derail the democratic process.

    For Egyptians, the history of the Iranian Revolution should serve as a warning. In 1978, Ayatollah Khomeini hid his true intentions—namely the creation of a despotic rule of the clerics—behind the mantle of democracy. More than once he promised that not a single cleric would hold a position of power in the future government. But once in power, he created the current clerical despotism. And when, in June 2009, three million people took to the streets of Tehran to protest decades of oppression, they were brutally suppressed.

    With this history in mind, Egyptian democrats must not be fooled by the radical Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood. If and when Mubarak falls, they simply cannot allow the most radical and brutal forces to win in the ensuing chaos. If these forces are allowed to claim power using the rhetoric of democracy, Egyptians will find themselves decades from now needing another uprising, which is precisely the current situation of the Iranian people.

    The propaganda machine for the clerical regime in Tehran has been gloating about the similarities between the events of Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran and developments in Egypt now. It shamelessly claims that today’s uprising in Egypt is but an aftershock of the revolution in Iran. The Egyptian people must prove them wrong.

    And not just for the sake of Egypt. For over a century, Egypt, like Iran, has been a bellwether state for the entire region. The arrival of freedom to Egypt would therefore put the Iranian mullahs on the defensive. Far from a repeat of 1979, the Egyptian uprising might begin to seem like a close cousin of 2009—a true democratic revolt. This would give confidence to democrats across the Middle East. It would suggest that the tectonic plates in the region really are shifting away from despotism and dogma, toward democracy and reason. Inshallah!”

    Unless there is a deliberate force trying to install radicalized and anti-Western regimes on purpose to provide legitimate excusse to carpet bomb or nuke the entire region???

    Khomeini was influenced deeply by the Islamist brotherhood.

    link to

    • Interesting parallel. It shows that despite its past mistakes the US Administration lives in the permanent delusion that it can control events indefinitely. But, like 1979’s Iran, todays Egypt is out of control. Like Iran, the USA (with the help of many European countries, let it be said) has made its mistakes in Egypt long ago and there’s no magic time machine to go back and fix them. Whether true or not the USA and its Western allies are seen, in Egypt, more as the protectors of Israel than honest benefactors of Egypt. All they do is obsess about “Islamic extermists” taking power (as if their best ally, Saudi Arabia, was ruled by democratic liberals). Unfortunately there is not much you can do now. El Bardaei has been seeking help from the “West” in peacefully replacing Mubarak since he left his IAEA job; all has fallen to deaf ears (remember Barak Obama rushed to Cairo to give his support to Mubarak’s regime).

      It’s too late now. When the dam breaks you don’t call the engineers to design a new one, you just.

      The next big mistake that the USA could (and will probably) make is to resist the most likely ascent of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood from an underground network to political power. Instead, let them go, don’t turn yourself into their “enemy” as they did with Iran’s Ayatollah’s (or Palestinian’s Hamas). Look at Turkey and its “extermists” in power. Is it so scary? Did they destroy Israel? (So far, it was Israel that managed to assassinate some Turkish citizens on a boat heading to Gaza, as far as I can tell. Turkey is not calling to the destruction of Israel and is ready to maintain the previous relationship, provided Israel takes responsibility for its irresponsible acts.) The Muslim Brotherhood, if it ever comes to power, will most likely burn itself into just another “moderate” regime: it has too much to loose from alienating the USA and the EU. They may be fanatical, but they’re not as stupid and blind.

      The problem with the USA is that it worries disproportionately more about Israel’s “security” while neglecting or taking for granted its relationships with the Arabs. No wonder its unable to control events.

  40. Hey Juan,

    just saw you on Al Jazeera. Nice points about the history of revolts in Egypt. I was wondering, what are your thoughts on Asad Abukhalil?

  41. Learn from our mistakes
    Letter from an Iranian to the people of Egypt

    Over 32 years ago, Iranian people did the same against the oppressive regime of the then Shah of Iran, for the same reasons.

    My dear Egyptian brothers and sisters,

    When we look back in our own lives, sometimes there are situations we wish we handled differently, had we KNOWN more, or had we been wiser. Life of a nation is no different. So I am writing to you, to share our experience, in the hope, the people of Egypt can do better than people of Iran, in dealing with their dictator, and build a better Egypt.

    32 years ago, as the emotions of our nation was focused on the immediate removal of the Shah, our mind was not looking forward as to what to replace that old bankrupt system with? Today, not only are Iranian people no closer to a more accountable government nor better living standards, our social freedom along with our political freedom has been taken away from us as well.

    Egyptian brothers and sisters,

    Today in Iran, we don’t have basic political freedom to assemble, as the Islamic Regime of Iran, does not allow freedom of assembly. Today, the Islamic Regime of Iran, does not even allow a candidate that passed its filtering process, and according to their own statistics received over 13 million votes, to hold a simple rally. How much freedom do you think an Iranian have today? Today, we do not have political parties. Even political factions are not tolerated within the Islamic regime.

    My dear Egyptian brothers and sisters,

    In spite of Iran’s vast natural resources, many in Iran live in poverty and those who ask for accountability, are persecuted. So to flee Iran, appears to be the main option. As a result, some of the best and brightest talents of Iran, lives outside Iran, contributing to the host country who sheltered them instead of their own!

    Not only books, films, newspapers are routinely censored for not having the same view as the Islamic Regime, their authors are often imprisoned and in many cases even murdered for such attempts.

    Under Islamic Regime of Iran today, we do not have freedom of speech, access to unfiltered internet, nor even can we watch news other than what they want us to see on satellite TV in the privacy of our home! For the past 32 years, the Iranian people have faced the threat of a Islamic Regime guard raiding their homes, for the crime of watching something other than appears on their TV’s.

    Today in Iran, our women are not allowed to wear Hejab if they so choose and not wear the Hejab if they don’t. The women are beaten or arrested if they don’t abide by Islamic Regime, Talebani version of Islamic code.

    But our lessons:

    — Don’t bring religion to government. We Iranian people unfortunately did, and the results are far worse than what we had. Fortunately, you do not have a powerful character like Khomanee who said one thing, before reaching power, and the opposite after. But still, avoid those who provide their strict religious belief as the solution, for complex problems that faces us today. Our problems today, require collective cooperation and rational thinking, and the freedom to do so. Do not let political-Islam to make you envy even these dark days of Mobark, 30 years later!

    –Don’t just focus on removal of that brutal, ignorant dictator Mobark, but also focus on visionary Egyptions that are NOT power hungry, focused on solving the issues, and are not hateful in their speeches.

    –When the tyrant Mobarak finally agrees to step down, don’t try to destroy your government and start from zero. That would only take you back another 30 years like it has done so for Iran. Every system, has bad but also very good individual that serves it.

    –Don’t execute or torture anyone, even those who tortured you or executed your loved ones. That’s the only way to insure, execution and torture will be eradicated.

    –Destruction of headquarters of Mobarks party is valid reaction to his despotic rule, but do not destroy banks, theaters. Those all belong to Egypt not Mobark.

    –When you are rewriting you constitution, do not trust closed door sessions. Read every page of the documents and understand their ramifications. It is better to take the time to come up with a great document, than to hurry this process and have to redo it again in 30 years!

    –Here’s one we should have chanted from day 1 and we did not, Iran for all Iranian. Say, Egypt for all Egyptians! Moslem or Christian, northerner or southerners. Be aware of anyone who tries to do otherwise.

    The whole world is watching and we hope you set a better example than our revolution did. We hope we can learn from you. A powerful, democratic Egypt is good for the region. Egypt is now in a unique position to be great both for her own people but also a good example for the region.

    link to

  42. Azadi Sq. (Tehran) v Tahrir Square (Cairo)
    Look how many “affluent North Tehran” kids took part in the protests in Tehran (Left) and nearly ‘all sections’ of the Egyptian society turning up to Tharir Sq. in Cairo (Right)

    and yet Iran protests were so under reported. Why? Because IRI quickly kicked out foreign journalists and cracked down hard on any one seen with a mobile phone camera.

    link to

  43. Lots of interesting information here, and as others have said, so much better than most mainstream coverage.

    I’d just like to comment that some have noticed very few women among the protesting crowds, and in the now standard feminist discourse seem to find something odd about this absence. It’s certainly interesting to note the far larger participation of women in the streets of Tunisia, although they appear to be the middle to upper educated class. One should bear in mind the culture of most Middle Eastern and Mediterranean societies which, although happy to have women in universities, board rooms and presidential cabinets, are not so willing to have them risk bloodshed and injury: those remain jobs for the men.

    I daresay most US feminists imagine Egyptian men threatening their women if they express a wish to join their brothers and sisters in protest. This plays into the popular image of the repressed Muslim woman. I think it more likely the women themselves are pressuring their men folk to get out on the street while they take care of the kids!

    Besides this cultural consideration, it seems the chances of bloodshed in the Egyptian protests was far more likely and people knew this instinctively, than it was in the Tunisian revolt. Not many women, feminists or not, are likely to willingly stand in front of a tank, or take a bullet for democracy.

    And as for the rise of fundamentalist attitudes among Muslims everywhere, this has been as a direct result of repression of religious leaders, no matter whether radical, fundamentalist or liberal. It is also very short sighted to assume that the increase in wearers of the hijab indicates a rise in ‘Islamisation’. This assumption leads naturally to the notion that whatever replaces Mubarak will involve fundamentalist Islamisation of Egyptian society, something the people are unlikely to tolerate. And the usual ‘black or white’ argument which says the only alternative to a Moslem Brotherhood/Khomeini style democratisation is Elbaradei, is just as lacking in imagination and insight.

    I have a suspicion Elbaradei will come to be seen as a US/western ideology stooge. Besides this handicap, he has little or no political experience besides batting back and forth with US-UN connivences against Iran. It is too easy to draw comparisons with similar events from the past and draw conclusions which mirror the resolutions of those events. The past does not dictate the future and no matter what similarities or likelyhoods we entertain, the future is unfolding despite them.

  44. But Weber defines authority as the likelihood that a command will be obeyed. Leaders who have authority do not have to shoot people.

    Importantly, a lot of the police and army don’t seem ready to obey orders to shoot the people

    Women of Egypt: All Hail the African Revolution

    link to

  45. Thanks for this much needed information.

    It helps to understand a little bit of what is transpiring over there in Egypt.

    Were do you see the nation of Egypt in the next 5 years?

  46. Juan

    As you lucidly explain, the loss of legitimacy by the Mubarak regime clearly constitutes a central factor and an important solvent of power and authority. However, the other side of the equation is the potent integrative force working on the forces of opposition converging around a renewed, broad-based sense of/and commitment to a deeper nationalist identity embracing widely different groups. This theme has been consistently expressed in the comments of demonstrators interviewed over the last few days. Once again, it seems, revolution has its catalyst in the collective sense of hope as much as the crucible of ammiseration and repression.

  47. The Suez Canal was majority owned by the French, as part of a company entitled to run it for ninety-nine years. Using corvee labour, so we can say that Egypt is morally entitled to it. But that’s not what you imply.

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