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When Authoritarianism Fails in the Arab World : Processes and Prospects

Final Report Summary - WAFAW (When Authoritarianism Fails in the Arab World : Processes and Prospects)

The program’s scientific contributions, presented in modes of considerable formal diversity are not all yet available, far from it: three important PhD theses are to be defended in the coming year. To the scholarly community, the program’s outcomes have contributed data and analysis from the field and methodological frameworks that enable a finer-grained documentation of the transformations that have affected those societies that, since the beginning of 2011, have been run through by the protest mobilizations that were labeled “the Arab Spring””.
These contributions and transformations concern each of the political, the economic and the social fields, as well as in the field of migration, as well as both within each country and on the regional and international scales.
The first axis of the program, on the reconfiguration of political affiliations, especially Islamist, has documented, on various grounds, the assumption of the extreme plasticity of the Islamist reference. In their “omnipresent diversity”, “Islamist activists have been described as constituting less than ever a homogeneous and coherent category of the Mediterranean political landscape. And the demonstration was made that only the careful and “de-ideologized” examination of the action of the different Islamist formations, in each of the national contexts where they develop (in the Maghreb, Syria, Iraq or Yemen in particular), should to enable the European interlocutors today to rationally determine the nature of the relations to be established with this vast component of their environment in the southern and eastern Mediterranean, which they can absolutely no longer reject altogether.
In the field of Economy, the program contributions bring several innovative elements of understanding: on all of the relationship between the deterioration of economic conditions and political uprising, on the relative marginalization of attempts of elaboration of economic alternatives. In the field of the economy of the votation, research addressing the issue of the logic of the vote and the political relations that they can nurture or translate have led to revisit the theories of clientelism, regularly convened to explain the forms of citizenship in the region (or more precisely to deprive the act of voting of political meaning).
With respect to the social and economic mapping of protest mobilization, specific attention has been directed towards social movements that have, given their weak impact, often gone unnoticed—and that have received little media exposure compared to other, more “material” causes. This research demonstrates that, on the contrary, social mapping is articulated in conjunction with other modes of acting and struggling in the political field. The program shows that economic determinisms are not decisive in explaining varieties of political positioning. They thus do not renew the thesis of “class-based communities” (or, for example, today’s thesis of class-based jihadism). What they do, however, is to demonstrate how trajectories of social demotion, and relative frustrations generated by economic policies, manifestly contribute to the development of the vocabulary of protest mobilization.
As to the main merit of the axis addressing the issue of the roles of migrants, diasporas and political exiles in political revolutions and transitions in the Arab World was to question common-sense visions of the games and issues around national allegiances and partially undermine the well-established “certainties” of researchers about spaces for mobilization and processes of political identification, without falling into the fashionable categories of “cosmopolitanism” or “post-nationalism”: individuals and groups in immigration or exile, far from denying national (or nationalist) references, articulate them on a complex mode, sometimes out of step with the dominant statements.