What makes the dream come true?
November 23, 2011
Word count: 3028
A Revolutionary Success
What makes the dream come true?
The Arab Spring of this past winter has sparked conversation among academics and non-academics alike, about what it takes to make a revolution succeed. Why did Egypt's revolution succeed and not Iran's for example? What mechanisms were in place to ensure its success? What do all these revolutions have in common? Is it just an Arab phenomenon, or could a ripple effect of revolutions happen in somewhere like Central America? Maybe many of the states in the Arab World share similar structural conditions that are conducive to a successful revolution that are found nowhere else in the world at present. Maybe there was something special about the people? This paper will argue that the success of a given revolution is contingent on both the actions of the revolutionaries and the structural conditions associated with the would be revolutionized country. It will argue that unpopular structural conditions provide a foundation for a revolutionary over-haul by providing the impetus for mass organized opposition of the state. However, these mass social uprisings created by said structural conditions, further erode the state, allowing for increased support of the movement. This cycle will continue ad infinitum until the movement reaches a tipping point whereby a successful revolution emerges. The success of a revolution depends on the mutually reinforcing and perpetuating nature of structural conditions and individual agency. In this paper I will employ Egypt and Tunisia, the springboards for the wave of revolution in the Arab World, as the cases to test my hypothesis. This paper will begin by outlining the basic debate between both camps, what I will call the pro-revolutionaryists and the pro-structural conditionists. I will then proceed to the literature review and provide background information on the most recent revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. The literature review will include an examination of the structural conditions of both countries at the time prior to, and during revolution, as well as the actions of the revolutionaries involved. The arguments of both the pro-revolutionaryists and pro-structural conditionists will then be applied to both revolutions in question. From this observational experimentation, I will then prove my thesis and conclude. For the purpose of this experiment, I will consider revolutionary success as an abrupt significant structural re-ordering of the state. I will begin by exploring the pro-revolutionaryist argument, or what Goldstone calls the 'fourth generation' of revolution scholars, that contends that a successful revolution depends more on the actions of the actors involved in revolutionary mobilization. (Goldstone 2001, 141) Patric Van Inwegen argues that rational choice theory is the key to understanding revolutionary mobilization as well as the key to revolutionary success. (Van Inwegen 2006, 180) He contends that individual and group goal oriented actions lead to “tipping models,” that are the dominant reason for revolutionary success. (Van Inwegen 2006, 180) Van Inwegen argues that in any state, there will always be individuals who are dissatisfied with the state and who actively want to oppose it. (Van Inwegen 2006, 180) Theses people, he argues, usually belong to inefficient fringe groups that remain inefficient only until they become mainstream, then dissident ideology may become mainstream. It is only when mainstream groups accept anti-state or revolutionary sentiments that strong state opposition emerges and revolution becomes possible. (Van Inwegen 2006, 181) Van Inwegen argues that without mass public support, revolution is altogether impossible. Van Inwegen's tipping model theory states that once enough of the mass public