Revolution, Non-Violence, and the Arab Uprisings


Author/s (editor/s):

George Lawson

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:

George Lawson, ‘Revolution, Non-Violence, and the Arab Uprisings’, Mobilization, 20(4) 2015: 453-70.

This article combines insights from the literature on revolutions with that on nonviolent protest in order to assess the causes and outcomes of the Arab uprisings. The article makes three main arguments: first, international dynamics were the precipitant cause of the Arab uprisings; second, because the region’s “neopatrimonial” regimes were particularly vulnerable to shifts in state-military relations, the hold of elites over state coercive apparatuses played a decisive role in determining the outcomes of the revolutions; and third, the organizational character of the protest movements, including their use of information and communication technologies, helped to raise levels of participation, but limited their capacity to engender major transformations. Of particular interest to scholarship on nonviolent movements, this article demonstrates the ways that, as the revolutionary wave spread around North Africa and the Middle East, protestors in states outside the original onset of the crisis overstated the possibilities of revolutionary success. At the same time, regimes learned quickly how to demobilize their opponents. The lesson is clear: the timing of when movements emerged was just as important as their organizational coherence and levels of participation.

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