Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Revolutionary Road Roundup

Dan Gardner, "The Psychology of Revolution," Ottawa Citizen, February 2, 2011

For those struggling to understand what's happening in Egypt, and what will happen, the Iranian revolution of 1978-'79 is an obvious reference point. It's also handy for lazy pundits. The Shah used violent repression? Then violent repression will fail in Egypt. The Iranian revolution ultimately produced an Islamist government? Then Egypt is going Islamist. Pick your parallel and place your bet. These facile equations are useless. Iran is not Egypt, the Shah is not Hosni Mubarak, and 1979 is not 2011. Every event is unique. History is not math.>>>

William Pfaff, "Uprisings: From Tunis to Cairo," New York Review of Books, February 24, 2011

Dictators do not usually die in bed. Successful retirement is always a problem for them, and not all solve it. It is a problem for everybody else when they leave. What’s to be done afterward? The popular uprising that overturned the dictatorial Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali regime in Tunisia in mid-January sent a thrill of hope through Arab populations.>>>

Benjamin Kunkel, "How Much Is Too Much?" London Review of Books, February 3, 2011

The deepest economic crisis in eighty years prompted a shallow revival of Marxism. During the panicky period between the failure of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 and the official end of the American recession in the summer of 2009, several mainstream journals, displaying a less than sincere mixture of broadmindedness and chagrin, hailed Marx as a neglected seer of capitalist crisis. The trendspotting Foreign Policy led the way, with a cover story on Marx for its Next Big Thing issue, enticing readers with a promise of star treatment: ‘Lights. Camera. Action. Das Kapital. Now.’>>>

David Byrd, "Life without Ben Ali," Voice of America, January 25, 2011 (hat tip)

Tunisia scholar Kenneth Perkins, professor of history at the University of South Carolina, says “it is true that Tunisia’s economy appeared to be prosperous, but while some people benefitted, many outside Tunis, in remote areas, did not see the results of Tunisia’s prosperity.” Author of A History of Modern Tunisia, Tunisia: Crossroads of the Islamic and European Worlds and Historical Dictionary of Tunisia, Perkins says one example is students who completed university degrees but often found it difficult to obtain employment commensurate with their skills unless they were willing to go to Europe.>>>

Robert D. Kaplan, "One Small Revolution," New York Times, January 22, 2011

The West stands captivated by Tunisia, where a month of peaceful protests by secular working- and middle-class Arabs has toppled a dictator, raising hopes that this North African country of 10 million will set off democracy movements throughout a region of calcified dictatorships. But before we envision a new Middle East remade in the manner of Europe 1989, it is worth cataloguing the pivotal ways in which Tunisia is unique.>>>

John Simpson, "Pressure mounts on Egypt's Mubarak," BBC, February 1, 2011

In every revolution, popular or otherwise, there comes a critical moment - a tipping point - at which the future is decided. . . . In China's Tiananmen Square in 1989, crowds a million strong gathered - not just students but sometimes judges, senior policemen, politicians as well - but Deng Xiaoping refused to go and eventually found a general who was prepared to shoot the demonstrators down.>>>

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