[This is the second and last installment. See Part 1 here]
The revolution in Tunisia was a response to a sense of closed possibilities. Nowhere do we see any identifiable “structure of opportunities” that could have made it possible. Everywhere we see the opposite—absence of any opportunities whatsoever. The pre-revolutionary climate displays a scene of extreme desperation and exasperation. And it is precisely that scene that was so poignantly allegorized in the protest-suicide of a young man after the police took away from him the last meager resource he had for leading a decent life.
Revolution here is triggered in a closed political cosmos. Obviously, regime’s insistence on substituting the leader cult (or official populism) for democracy or civil society can at the end of the road only produce a revolution, regardless of how strong the regime’s repressive apparatus might be. The weaknesses of this model of governing may now be apparent to Arab leaders, but their demonstrated short-sightedness, pervasive corruption, and entrenched ethic of self-service, make it questionable as to whether they may be shaken into learning the right lesson, even though it might be in their own interest. But regime leaders could be just as suicidal as their opposition could be, especially if the political scene they had spent decades creating and honing cannot accommodate any reform without crumbling completely. This is perhaps the conundrum that we are facing now, and there are two likely reasons for it.
This article is now featured in Jadaliyya`s edited volume entitled Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of An Old Order? (Pluto Press, 2012). The volume documents the first six months of the Arab uprisings, explaining the backgrounds and trajectories of these popular movements. It also archives the range of responses that emanated from activists, scholars, and analysts as they sought to make sense of the rapidly unfolding events. Click here to access the full article by ordering your copy of Dawn of the Arab Uprisings from Amazon, or use the link below to purchase from the publisher.