The Myth of the Youth Revolution: The Role of Young People in the 2011 Arab Uprisings
The Arab Transformations Working Paper No. 21
33 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2017
Date Written: December 9, 2017
The story of the ‘Arab Spring’ as a revolt of young people against autocratic rule and to bring democracy to their countries is not a good fit to the available data. Younger people were indeed over-represented in comparison to the age distribution of the population as a whole, but some of those ‘identified’ as young were in fact well into middle age, in no country were a majority of the protestors younger than 35, and the introduction of procedural democracy was not the only or even the main aim of the Uprisings. There is little evidence for the ‘rising tide’ in MENA which has been expected to sweep away autocratic rule in favour of democratisation as successive younger generations became individualised, liberalised and secularised. There is partial evidence for secularisation but little for the radical change in liberal values and the growth of rights-based politics. (For the latter we take attitudes to gender equality and gendered norms as our case study.) The neoliberal ‘structural adjustment’ which MENA countries have been urged to adopt has failed to provide a basis for such a normative change, failing either to generate the jobs which would have turned the ‘youth bulge’ into an economic ‘youth dividend’ or to establish an independent middle class within which liberalisation of norms and values leads to the demand for democracy.
Keywords: Youth, Arab Uprisings, Generaltional change, Democratisation, Political, social and Economic Rights, Gender Equality, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morooco, Tunisia, Corruption
JEL Classification: Z10, Z13, Z18, Z19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation