As one of the powerful geopolitical and historical centres of the Arab world, Egypt has restored its long-lasting system of ‘strongman’ rule following President Morsi’s ousting in July 2013. Within the context of state-society relations and the role of Islamic identity in domestic politics, the revolutionary period of 2011-2013 constituted a remarkable exception in the modern history of Egypt. In order to understand the Egyptian uprising of 2011 and its aftermath, the sociological realities and domestic politics of the country need to be researched from an unbiased and academic perspective.
Egypt’s Revolutions: Politics, Religion, and Social Movements was originally published in French and edited by two well-known scholars of Middle East Studies; Bernard Rougier and Stephane Lacroix. It was written by Egyptian, American and French scholars and experts who observed Egypt’s turmoil at first-hand. The book focuses on the historical background and continuous clash with the state apparatus over four sections. The first part examines the rise and fall of the Muslim Brotherhood, in particular from the 2000s to July 2013, and its political / economic approach. The second part analyses Egypt’s government, institutions, and political processes with a special emphasis on the elections, disputes over the constitutional process, the role of the judiciary and the changing face of electoral sociology. The third part includes an in-depth examination of specific social groups, shedding light on the altering positions of the Salafis, Sinai people, labour movement, and the Copts. The fourth part gives biographical information about the influential personalities of 2011-2013 revolutionary period, namely; General al-Sisi, Hamdin Sabbahi, Mohamed Morsi, Khairat al-Shater, and Yasser Borhami.
In general, Egypt’s Revolutions is a meticulously researched and powerfully argued book which specifically discusses the main actors, dynamics, and institutions affecting the revolutionary and post-revolutionary domestic conditions. It also considers the material resources of the Muslim Brotherhood and their influence on their decision-making process, which is generally neglected by experts when explaining its organization, politics and relations with the state structure and business circles. In this context, the roles of the army and security institutions in politics and the economy, along with transition process, could have been discussed separately, as could the impact of the judiciary. While scrutinizing the Muslim Brotherhood’s domination of domestic politics and excluding non-Islamist revolutionary forces from equations of power in the aftermath of 2011 uprising, one inevitably recalls 1979 Revolution of Iran and hegemony of Islamists who eliminated their revolutionary partners with different political backgrounds and future plans. This clash within the intra-revolutionary forces to maximize its own group interests and ultimate threat of total failure of the revolution present a clear message to all potential revolutionaries of the region in terms of inclusiveness, cooperation, popular support and persistence.
As a thought-provoking argument, one of the books’ writers, Aclimandos, claims that “large segments of public opinion believe that only a military figure has the know-how and ‘strategic vision’ needed in the current situation” (p. 258) when explaining the transition process following the 2013 coup. Although, this argument needs to be backed up with public opinion data, it still reflects the political psychology of certain segments of Egyptian society and elite, as well as their perception of threat and general understanding.
Youth and labour movements are analysed in detail by the authors in different chapters of the book, however the role and impact of women within Egyptian society and the revolutionary process is not elaborated on. On the one hand, the Salafi movement and its arbiter role in domestic politics is well-explained along with internal fragmentation among the Salafi Call. However, a relatively contemporary concept in describing the differing attitudes of the North African Salafis, Madkhali Salafism, which advocates absolute obedience to the ruler and is especially critical of the Muslim Brotherhood, is not examined in the Egyptian context by the contributors. This is despite its importance in explaining their alignment with the Saudi-UAE foreign policy in North Africa and the effect of that alignment on the unfolding of t events domestically. In addition, international relations of the 2011 revolution and 2013 coup d’état in general, and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular have been totally ignored in the book.
The lack of a foreign pillar of domestic power politics profoundly affects the general framework of the research and limits the regional and international level of analysis by solely focusing on the internal affairs. In order to better understand the domestic competition for power, Turkey’s role and ties with the Muslim Brotherhood government during the 2011-2013 era, and Saudi Arabia, the US and Russia’s vital support of the 2013 coup and General al-Sisi’s modern ‘strongman’ rule are highly important regional and international dynamics. As are the impact of the Syrian internal war and Israel’s crucial interests.
In conclusion, despite the lack of consideration of international dynamics’ role in Egyptian politics and society, Rougier & Lacroix’s comprehensive research combines rich information on domestic politics and sociology with an analytical perspective which is supported by qualified field studies. Moreover, thematic classification of the domestic dynamics and comparative analysis among three periods (pre-revolutionary, revolutionary, and post-revolutionary) grant additional value to the research.
 Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens (2018). ‘Salafism in America: History, Evolution, Radicalization.’ The George Washington University- Program on Extremism (also available at: https://extremism.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2191/f/Salafism%20in%20America.pdf ) ;
Taylor Luck (2018). “Libya crisis as opportunity: Who are the Madkhalis?”, the Christian Science Monitor, January 17, 2018, available at: https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2018/0117/Libya-crisis-as-opportunity-Who-are-the-Madkhalis