THIS IS WHAT SCIENCE HAS TO OFFER ON THE ARAB SPRING
“Contemporary world politics is not a seamless web; it is a tapestry of diverse relationships. In such a world, one model cannot explain all situations. The secret of understanding lies in knowing which approach or combination of approaches to use in analyzing a situation.” (Robert O. Keohane, Joseph S. Nye: Power and Interdependence, 1977; 4th ed. 2012: 4)
“On the tenth anniversary of the Arab Spring, the results from the perspective of Western democracies are mostly negative. But what criteria is this analysis based on? Couldn’t a democracy-theoretical approach also lead to other findings? This article will also discuss other theories that contribute to an understanding of the current crises. The approach of system transformation, or rather transformation theory, points to deeper socio-economic and cultural contexts: According to this, there have already been consecutive processes of transformation or reform in economy and politics in the Arab world in the early 1990s. One approach that indeed predicted the Arab Spring was modernisation theory. Its marginalisation in the further discourse Is incomprehensible, as it can explain quite simple but important interrelationships. For example, the strengthening of women’s rights in Tunisia was the engine of social progress and a trigger for the revolution. Finally, the interdependence theory helps to assess the Arab Spring in the context of international politics. Accordingly, it was not only an expression of domestic developments; ; instead, external actors bear a joint responsibility for today’s results. This ultimately leads to a reassessment of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). …”
THE THEORIES LEAD TO DIFFERENT INSIGHTS
MOST BALANCE SHEETS ARE BASED ON DEMOCRACY THEORY – BUT BY WHICH CRITERIA?
♦ Most assessments of the Arab Spring are based on democratic theory. They measure the success of the protest movements in the Arab world by the change in their political systems.
♦ Two models are compared, democracy and authoritarianism. The results are mostly negative: With the exception of Tunisia, there has been no system change towards democracy anywhere. Authoritarian regimes, in contrast, have been able to consolidate their power.
♦ The focus on these two models neglects changes within the existing systems. If, for example, system-relevant constitutional reforms are taken into account in the balance, even authoritalrian states like Egypt and Syria perform much better.
♦ In relation to the 22 member states of the Arab League, the democratic-theoretical approach is applied selectively. There are hardly any analyses of the political development of monarchies such as Morocco, Jordan and the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, UAE).
THE APPROACH OF SYSTEM TRANSFORMATION AND THE TRANSFORMATION THEORY ALSO ILLUSTRATE THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CONTEXT:
♦ The approach of system transformation is hardly mentioned in the analyses of the Arab Spring. There is apparently little interest in comparing the systems of the former socialist states of Eastern Europe / Central Asia and the Arab world, although synergy effects are to be expected here.
♦ According to findings from transformation research in the 1990s, the democratisation of Europe took place in four waves over a period of about 80 years. Consequently, the negative conclusions about the Arab Spring after 10 years have only limited significance.
♦ The transformation theory addresses the fact that the Arab Spring hardly led to any economic changes. But we could speak of consecutive transformation processes in North Africa. After 1990, Algeria, Libya, Egypt and Syria liberalised parts of their centralised economies.
♦ Decades before the Arab Spring, the entire MENA region experienced a wave of economic liberalisation. In most authoritarian regimes, only the elites benefited from this. External donors such as the IMF and the EU recommended that reforms continue, even though the countries fell into a debt trap.
♦ In the Arab Spring, the same systemic feature came to light: In all countries, governments influence Islamic institutions and teachings. Therefore, Islam remained a vital ideological framework among opposition movements (Riedel 2017).
♦ With the Arab Spring, a transformation process started that could lead to a separation of state and religious institutions in the longer term. Preventing this is the goal of authoritarian (neighbouring) regimes that legitimise their power with oil revenues and “God’s will”.
TODD / COURBARGE (2008) PREDICTED THE ARAB SPRING WITH THE APPROACH OF MODERNISATION THEORY:
♦ Researchers were able to predict the Arab Spring on the basis of modernisation theory: The French demographers Emmanuel Todd and Youssef Courbarge published “The Unstoppable Revolution” a few years earlier (Todd/Courbarge 2008).
♦ They can explain why the protests started not in the Arab monarchies but in the republics. The decisive factors were literacy and the decline in the birth rate. The changed position of women initiated a modernisation process.
♦ Moreover, rapid literacy in patriarchal Arab societies led to generational conflicts. The break in relationships of authority spread from the family to the political system and weakened trust in the elites.
♦ Modernisation theory leads to the realisation that the Arab monarchies remain at a social level pre-modern. Their striving for technological progress may hide this, but like in Saudi Arabia, it produces a schizophrenic situation that can harbour political instability.
THE INTERDEPENDENCE THEORY (KEOHANE / NYE) EXPLAINS THE ROLE OF THE ARAB SPRING IN INTERNATIONAL POLITICS
♦ The Arab Spring is often described as an internal event, ignoring exogenous factors. R.O. Keohane and J.S. Nye, on the other hand, coined the concept of interdependence in 1977, according to which domestic and foreign policy can hardly be separated. Since long, transgovernmental and transnational networks have determined political agendas alongside interstate actors.
♦ Building on transformation theory, this approach can explain the interests of states such as Iran or Saudi Arabia: They are expanding their regional supremacy through Islamic institutions and a foreign religious policy.
♦ This approach explains that the Western community of states has adopted the threat perception of the Gulf monarchies, especially Saudi Arabia. This suggests a complex interdependence.
♦ In contrast, the Western community of states has dropped other Arab states, especially those from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). At the same time, it contains at its core a security structure that could solve current conflicts.
Cf. the following figure on the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) from its foundation in 1961 (member states: 25) to present day (2021: 120 member states).
SABINE RIEDEL IN THE SCIENTIFIC DISCOURSE ON THE TOPIC:
Sabine Riedel, Die MENA-Region: Föderalisierung – Autonomien – Dezentralisierung, FPK, Vol. 4, No. 13 (2020 Nov 15), 14 Seiten (Nachdruck aus: Jahrbuch des Föderalismus 2019, S. 187-201).
Sabine Riedel, Der Irak als Schlachtfeld externer Kriegsherren. Die 2003 importierte „Demokratie“ unter der Herrschaft islamischen Rechts hat den Weg geebnet, FPK, Vol. 4, No. 1 (2020 Jan 21), 8 Seiten.
Sabine Riedel, Flucht und Religion. Aktuelle Herausforderungen an europäische Standards des Menschenrechtsschutzes, in: Judith Könemann, Marie-Theres Wacker (Hg.), Flucht und Religion. Hintergründe, Analysen, Perspektiven, Münster, 2018, S. 67-96, Nachdruck in: Forschungshorizonte Politik und Kultur (FPK), Vol. 3, No. 10 (2019 Dec 26), 15 Seiten.
Sabine Riedel, Pluralismus im Islam – ein Schlüssel zum Frieden. Erfahrungen aus dem Irak, Syrien, Türkei, Ägypten und Tunesien im Vergleich, SWP-Studie, S 14, Juli 2017, Berlin.
Sabine Riedel, Fluchtursache Staatszerfall am Rande der EU, Die europäische Verantwortung, Arbeitspapiere FG Globale Fragen, 2015/ Nr. 02, Oktober 2015, 44 Seiten.Anna Mühlhausen, Sabine Riedel, Algerien zwischen Transformation und Kontinuität, Stabilisierung autoritärer Herrschaft am Rande des Arabischen Frühlings, Arbeitspapier FG Globale Fragen, 2015/ Nr. 01, Mai 2015, 51 Seiten.
THIS IS PARTICULARLY RELEVANT FOR RESEARCHERS:
Beyme 1994, Klaus von Beyme, Systemwechsel in Osteuropa, Frankfurt/M. 1994, 3. Auflage 2016.
Dahl 2004, Robert A. Dahl, Democratic Polities in Advanced Countries: Success and Challenge, in: Atilio A. Boron (Hg.), New Worldwide Hegemony. Alternatives for Change and Social Movements, Buenos Aires.
Keohane/Nye 1977, Robert O. Keohane, Joseph S. Nye, Power and Interdependence, 4. Ausgabe, New York 2012.
Merkel 2008, Wolfgang Merkel, Plausible Theory, Unexpected Results. The Rapid Democratic Consolidation in Central and Eastern Europe, in: International Politics and Society 2/2008, S. 11-29.
Todd/Courbage 2008, Youssef Courbage, Emmanuel Todd, Die unaufhaltsame Revolution – Wie die Werte der Moderne die islamische Welt verändern, München 2008.
Todd 2011: Emmanuel Todd, Frei. Der arabische Frühling und was er für die Welt bedeutet, Emmanuel Todd im Gespräch mit Daniel Schneidermann, München 2011.