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Understanding Revolution in the Middle East: The Central Role of the Middle Class


  • Ishac Diwan

    () (Harvard Kennedy School)


The paper argues that the changing interests of the middle class can explain the authoritarianism of the past and the more recent shift to democracy in some, but not all the countries of the Middle East. The framework proposed includes the evolving class structure and related class preference for economic and social policies. It compares the possible coalitions between classes that can form either an autocratic bargain or a democratic coalition, and it explores the conditions under which a shift from one sort of equilibrium to the other can occur. It then reviews the evidence in two areas. First, it looks directly at changes in opinion in Egypt, Iran, and Morocco and asks whether these are consistent with the predictions of the theory. Second, it examines the corporate sector in Egypt around the time of the revolution, in order to understand the performance of “crony capitalism” and to evaluate whether it may have affected the incentives of the middle class to defect.

Suggested Citation

  • Ishac Diwan, 2012. "Understanding Revolution in the Middle East: The Central Role of the Middle Class," Working Papers 726, Economic Research Forum, revised 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:erg:wpaper:726

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:aei:rpbook:24102 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Mara Faccio, 2010. "Differences between Politically Connected and Nonconnected Firms: A Cross‐Country Analysis," Financial Management, Financial Management Association International, vol. 39(3), pages 905-928, September.
    3. Chekir Hamouda & Diwan Ishac, 2014. "Crony Capitalism in Egypt," Journal of Globalization and Development, De Gruyter, vol. 5(2), pages 177-211, December.
    4. Nadia Belhaj Hassine, 2012. "Inequality of Opportunity in Egypt," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 26(2), pages 265-295.
    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:106:y:2012:i:03:p:495-516_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Acemoglu,Daron & Robinson,James A., 2009. "Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521671422, September.
    7. Filipe R. Campante & Davin Chor, 2012. "Why Was the Arab World Poised for Revolution? Schooling, Economic Opportunities, and the Arab Spring," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(2), pages 167-188, Spring.
    8. Ishac Diwan, 2013. "Who are the Democrats? Leading Opinions in the Wake of Egypt’s 2011 Popular Uprisings," CID Working Papers 256, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    9. Jennifer Gandhi & Adam Przeworski, 2006. "Cooperation, Cooptation, And Rebellion Under Dictatorships," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(1), pages 1-26, March.
    10. Platteau, Jean-Philippe, 2008. "Religion, politics, and development: Lessons from the lands of Islam," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 329-351, November.
    11. Asim Ijaz Khwaja & Atif Mian, 2005. "Do Lenders Favor Politically Connected Firms? Rent Provision in an Emerging Financial Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1371-1411.
    12. Raymond Fisman, 2001. "Estimating the Value of Political Connections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 1095-1102, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Melani Cammett & Nisreen Salti, 2016. "Popular Grievances and Perceptions of Socioeconomic Conditions in the Arab Region Prior to the Uprisings," Working Papers 1006, Economic Research Forum, revised May 2016.
    2. Amr Hosny & Magda Kandil & Hamid Mohtadi, 2014. "What does Egypt's Revolution Reveal about its Economy?," International Economic Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 28(4), pages 589-611, December.
    3. repec:wsi:medjxx:v:05:y:2013:i:01:n:s1793812013500053 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Mohammad Reza Farzanegan & Pooya Alaedini & Khayyam Azizimehr, 2017. "Middle Class in Iran: Oil Rents, Modernization, and Political Development," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201756, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).

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