Who Participated in the Arab Spring? A Comparison of Egyptian and Tunisian Revolutions
Posted: 16 Jul 2012 Last revised: 2 Sep 2013
Date Written: 2012
This study uses original survey data to examine who participated in the Arab Spring revolutions and who, among those who participated, prioritized democratic ends. Both revolutions were disproportionately middle class, but the Tunisian Revolution was younger and more diverse in class composition than the Egyptian Revolution, though significantly less diverse in class terms than Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (where cultural divisions played a larger role). Despite the fact that both revolutions produced free-and-fair elections, most participants in the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions were motivated primarily by economic concerns, not by desires for civil and political freedoms. However, in Egypt civil society association most strongly differentiated revolution participants championing civil and political freedoms from other participants, whereas in Tunisia it was income. We explain these differences by reference to the disparate strategies of autocratic domination and welfare politics pursued in pre-revolutionary Tunisia and Egypt and the patterns of political opposition that these evoked. Thus, in spite of their broadly analogous attacks against arbitrary rule and corruption, recent revolutions have relied on different coalitional configurations, formed largely by the types of cleavages and divisions existing within these societies and the ways in which these intersected with regime strategies of domination and maintenance.
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