Monday, March 04, 2013

Good reads: Ellis Goldberg on Egypt's democratic transition

The title is: "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Democratic Transition."

It's one of the best things I've read about Egypt recently.

Here are a couple teasers:

The dominant concern in Egypt today is the high, and increasing, level of polarization. It seems to be common in the US and Europe to describe this a conflict between the country’s minority urban secular middle-class and its religious (Islamic) majority. That Egypt has become increasingly polarized is apparent but it is doubtful that the polarization that paralyzes the country is between the secular middle-class and the rest of Egypt. Much of the violence in the streets today is occurring outside of Cairo in the Canal Zone and the provincial cities of the Delta, places not known for their large, secular middle-classes. The violence is often specifically between the Muslim Brotherhood, its direct supporters and its occasional allies on specific issues, and the restive lower middle and working classes in these cities. 


Today’s polarizing conflicts in Egypt are far from limited to differences between the MB and a secular, middle class (or Facebook) opposition. It is possible that, for example, many of the young people who showed up to dance the “Harlem Shake” in front of the Muslim Brothers’ national headquarters were engaged in middle class mockery. If that were the opposition with which the MB had to contend they would be in a very different situation than they find themselves. The dock workers who have several times shut down the port at Ain Sokhna (most recently in mid-February 2013) were interested neither in embarrassing the MB nor in line dancing. Nor are industrialists like Magdi Tolba dancing for joy: the weakened pound is causing nearly as many problems as it solves for textile exporters like him.

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