Negotiating the Arab Spring: Lessons for theory

  • William Zartman
    John Hopkins University, USA


In simple terms, if we posit that the purpose of the intifadat was/is to remove the Old Order and replace it with a New Order, the next question is how. The answer has been posited as negotiation. The authoritarian ruler has to be talked out of his office, and even when the authoritarian ruler cannot be persuaded to leave and needs to face force (as only in the two cases of Libya and Syria), negotiation is still required to effectuate the force (as Theiss’ chapter shows) and to pursue its conditions and consequences (in terms of coalitions and formulations, as the Aita and the Mezran-Alunni chapters show). The evidence also shows that the working assumption is supported empirically, albeit unevenly and differently according to cases. The simple model proposed for analytical purposes and also hoped for by observers then saw the surprising overthrow of Arab authoritarian rulers as the opening for a newly liberated population to build a New Order of justice and dignity based on a consensus of legitimacy through participation. Negotiations for coalition would bring existing and new groups of civil society together to pursue negotiations for formulation over the shape of the New Order. Such a course events would not produce a heaven on earth but would at least open the societies affected to normal politics of political demands and supplies. As in the case of all ideal types, reality has deviated, in varying degrees. What are the conceptual lessons of that variation?

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