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The Arab Spring: A Global March Toward Democracy, or a Revolt Against Neoliberal Capitalism?

Mon, August 18, 2:30 to 4:10pm, TBA


The Arab Spring has been explained by many in both the popular media and the academia either as the last episode of the glorious waves of democratization and a global march toward liberal democracy, or as a function of the global expansion of capitalism, or as part of a globe-wide revolts against neoliberal capitalism. Finding these as one-sided, somewhat reductionist and Western-centric views that miss the complexities of this massive event, this paper argues that it can be explained with reference to an interplay between global developments (changes in the international politico-military context) and local politico-economic, psychological and cultural influences. The paper tries to demonstrate this argument by first overviewing the major macro-social factors that helped shape the Arab revolts, and then focusing on their specific economic and psychological causes, including the people’s, and in particular the youth’s, reactions to inequality, lack of economic opportunities, and their demand for economic justice on the one hand, and their more general (and long-oppressed) aspirations toward social and political liberties and justice, on the other. It also argues that these two factors were complemented by the people’s search for dignity in the face of frustration with oppression as well as neoliberal social and economic policies.