So much for the Arab Spring. In Egypt, history appears to have completed a bloody full circle. The country is back to a “temporary” martial law that will probably last for years.
Given the breadth and depth of the fissures that run through Middle Eastern society, it is tempting to conclude that democracy is bound to fail there. Sooner or later, the pessimists now argue, the countries of the Arab Spring will revert to the old kind of harsh rule by “strongmen.”
Yet I am not quite so pessimistic as to expect a complete restoration of the old order. The Arab Spring may appear to have failed, but in five important respects the Arab world has been changed irrevocably.
The institution of tribalism is not as strong and cohesive as it used to be. Individuals within a tribe or clan have developed other loyalties and can defy traditional forms of authority in ways that were unthinkable a generation ago. The combined factors of urbanization, young demographics, displaced peoples, and emigration will further erode tribal and clan loyalties.
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