Bread (Rawls) + Freedom (Sen) = Social Justice? Religion and Economics in the Egyptian Spring

38 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2017 Last revised: 27 Jul 2017

See all articles by Mahmoud El-Gamal

Mahmoud El-Gamal

Rice University - Department of Economics

Date Written: August 15, 2015


Many observers were surprised when Egyptians took to the streets first to overthrow the Mubarak regime, in early 2011, and then to overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood government, in mid 2013. Bayesian Network analysis of public opinion surveys is used to uncover dependence structures in respondents' attitudes. The analysis shows that the revolutionary moment leading up to 2011 was characterized by confounding of Islamism with redistributive egalitarianism, which was at the heart of Nasserist rhetoric that led to a failed experiment in Socialism. Muslim Brotherhood leaders had subscribed to this form of Islamism in the early twentieth century, but embraced less egalitarian models in later decades. Therefore, they pursued the same neoliberal economic policies of the Mubarak era, and thus demolished the 2011 Islamist-leftist coalition. Unlike in Turkey and Malaysia, theories of justice enshrined in today's neoliberal economic policies were strongly rejected in Egypt, where the middle class has fallen behind, and the public demanded greater redistribution. Moreover, Egyptians' apparent acceptance before 2011 of a variation on Washington-Consensus II policies plus redistribution was no longer in evidence by 2013. A viable social contract may be exceedingly difficult to find under these circumstances.

Suggested Citation

El-Gamal, Mahmoud A., Bread (Rawls) + Freedom (Sen) = Social Justice? Religion and Economics in the Egyptian Spring (August 15, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Mahmoud A. El-Gamal (Contact Author)

Rice University - Department of Economics ( email )

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