After initial enthusiasm, the ‘Arab Spring’ has increasingly come to be seen as a harbinger of turmoil, chaos and disorder. Today, a growing chorus of otherwise divergent voices bemoans the departure of the former autocrats and the demise of the anciens régimes. Once again, forty years of tyranny seem to be preferable to a night without government, if necessary at the price of foreign intervention.
In a nutshell, the paper argued that similarities and differences at the levels of popular contestation, regime responses, and ensuing political dynamics reflect the historical trajectories of the states concerned, in particular aspects of state formation. For instance, more consolidated and therefore ‘stronger’ states underwent various forms of (regime) transformations while less consolidated and ‘weaker’ ones disintegrated and even collapsed. In all cases, though, contestation and its consequences reflect the growing incapacity of (authoritarian) political regimes to adapt to changes in the international economy that over the past decades reconfigured interests and thus eroded the domestic coalitions from which they drew support.
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