Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 May 2022
The uprisings that shook the Middle East in 2011 shaped the subsequent decade of civil wars, coups and political crisis. The ‘Arab Spring’ has, therefore, come to be seen as a failure – a failure of transition from authoritarian to democratic regimes. Such transitions were expected to follow the model established in the last quarter of the twentieth century, producing only political rather than social transformation. Rather than revolutions, however, the 2011 uprisings have come to be seen as at most unsuccessful revolts. The reasons for this failure are typically ascribed to peculiarities of the region, in the presence of Islamist oppositions, sectarian division and external intervention into relatively weak states. Yet the crushing of the Arab uprisings represents not an inevitable failure or defeat but success: the success of counter-revolution.