Clashing Constitutions: On the Tectonics of the Egyptian Revolution 2011

107 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2012 Last revised: 7 Aug 2012

Date Written: June 21, 2012


The popular uprising starting on 25 January 2011, which led to President Mubarak’s resignation on 11 February 2011, was unpredictable as to when it would happen and if it would be successful. At the same time, it was premised on a series of previous developments. Likening revolutions to earthquakes, the question is thus what tectonic tensions had built up in the fundament of the Egyptian polity over the recent decades.

The 2011 Egyptian Revolution can be understood as a constitutional event, in which the power of the regime, which had established a permanent state of exception, was challenged by the power of the people, who were protesting in unprecedented numbers in the streets, with both sides recurring to constitutional rhetoric. More generally, we may speak of underlying conflicts and increasing clashes between Egypt’s many constitutions – its security constitution, economic constitution, juridical constitution, political constitution, and social constitution – which ultimately culminated in the confrontation between the president and the people.

In this paper, these different constitutions and their development in the last few decades are reconstructed from a sociological point of view, drawing on Max Weber’s ideal-typical method and Kaarlo Tuori’s scheme of "the many constitutions". The material for this study is taken from the Middle East Journal, which offers a chronology of the events in Egypt as they were reported in the Western media, and complemented with data on Egypt’s youth, as they were collected in the framework of the World Values Survey.

Taken together this material documents not only the tensions between Egypt’s many constitutions but also the preoccupations of its Western observers. The paper ends with a personal account of the revolutionary events in Cairo, in the course of which the people reasserted Egypt’s living constitution, which forms the genuine core of its polity.

Keywords: Egypt, revolution, constitution, security, economy, polity, law, society

Suggested Citation

Frerichs, Sabine, Clashing Constitutions: On the Tectonics of the Egyptian Revolution 2011 (June 21, 2012). Helsinki Legal Studies Research Paper No. 21. Available at SSRN: or

Sabine Frerichs (Contact Author)

University of Helsinki ( email )

University of Helsinki
Helsinki, FIN-00014

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