Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

Full essay here.

Garfinkle links to a piece by Olivier Roy, and summarizes (as he advises he shouldn’t due to the quality of Roy’s piece):

‘What has changed, in a nutshell, to enable this new focus is that the younger demographic in the Arab world no longer respects the social authority of the old system, which, after all, has long since proven its incapacity to negotiate modernity. Changes in technology and the overhang of globalization have individuated Arab society, not uniformly and not all at once, but in ways that undermine old authoritarian habits. As Roy sees it, these deep social changes open the way not necessarily for democracy, but for democratization. Roy insists on seeing the concept not as a static noun but as a process.’

In Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, a strong wind blew away the old regimes, but what is coming up in their places?  Is it merely greater space for radical Islam, or just a resurgent Islam claiming the public square in characteristically undemocratic ways…or is it something more?

Like Fukuyama via Huntington overturning modernization theory:

‘Roy’s argument is that Arabs can become democrats without becoming secularists or liberals, and that, indeed, the new context of Arab society is mandating exactly such a circumstance.’

According to Roy, what’s changed is the individual’s relationship to Islam as social tradition, and ritual…the old set ways…, so the pace is glacial, but it hasn’t necessarily been a wash:

“There is a cultural gap”, Roy points out, “between the Islamists and the younger generation that is less about Islam per se than about what it means for a person to be a believer.” Islamic fundamentalism, as Roy has contended for many years, has aided mightily this process because its appeal is to individual believers in the face of, and as opposed to, received static tradition, which fundamentalists have savaged as being adulterated with accumulated superstition, corruption, laxity, and even idolatry. Fundamentalism, in other words, has diversified––indeed, pluralized––Islam.’

What do we do in the meantime, to protect and promote our interests in dealing with Syria, Iran, Israel, Egypt, Libya?  Does Roy’s map line up with the terrain?

Related On This Site: From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington

Frenchmen do have a different way of understanding the world which is informed by a complex past, especially as it relates to the individual and the State:  Was Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’

The modern State awaits, with a more efficient bureaucratic class overcoming the corruption and earning the public trust here in the West?:  Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest-’The Two Europes’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Is Manaf Tlass’s Defection a Sign That Assad’s Regime Is Cracking?” From Foreign Affairs-’Former Syrian General Akil Hashem on the Uprising in Syria’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’

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