Egypt: getaway plans

January 26th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Issandr El Amrani on managing protest:

My own experience is that elite Egyptians tend to think in terms of getaway plans, because they are either deeply in bed with the regime or because they expect an uprising to become a class war

[doh: it’d be interesting to map the world in terms of how much consideration elites give to escape plans. You’d come out with some combination of physical insecurity, political insecurity, and paranoia. Who in Europe has a second passport ‘just in case’? Or realy, really wants one? Almost nobody. But in Egypt? In Israel? In China?]

There has been a dramatic state failure to maintain basic health services and deliver good education. This is perhaps Egypt’s biggest failure. And as in all Arab countries, autocratic political systems have de-intermediated citizens from their rulers. What I mean by this is that the channels to relay popular grievances to governments have been deeply eroded by money and power. This is dangerous, because in the end it blindsides the regimes to the popular mood, and means there are people at the local level who have the moral authority to calm the situation should there be an outburst of anger.

The Arabs: a history

December 25th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

The Arabs: A history, by Eugene Rogan, has just been published in hardback. The various reviews present it as an important work, perhaps even as a successor to Hourani’s History of the Arab Peoples — respected, but now somewhat long in the tooth. Hourani was Rogan’s “mentor”, whatever that means, but the younger historian has concentrated mainly on media and historical circumstances, in contrast to Hourani’s excursions into “demography, trading patterns and literature“.

Sadly, the reviews in the Guardian and Telegraph concentrate on the Arabs’ contact and conflict with the West. I’m hoping this is just an artefact of the British newspaper industry, not of a narrow focus in the book itself.

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