Authoritarian Resilience and Political Transformation in the Arab World: Lessons from the Arab Spring 2.0



Middle East and North Africa, authoritarian upgrading, adaptive authoritarianism, Arab Spring, non-democratic regimes, rentierism


In 2019, a renewed protest wave in the Arab World has drawn the attention of scholars to the profound challenges of theorizing the political transition process. This article pays particular attention to the different theoretical discourses and previous experience of the 2011 wave of protests. The 2019 wave of protests mainly reached the rentier republics, where the old social contract had collapsed, and a transition had started. This paper argues that the political transformation of the region has not ended yet, and the recent protest wave is part of the emergence of neo-authoritarian regimes. This study addresses the divergent trajectories of political transformation in the countries impacted by the second wave of protests. Namely, the research asks, which factors and mechanisms explain the different results of the process? Why did discontent in the four countries – Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon and Iraq – not erupt in 2011, but in 2019 only? The study considers four explanatory factors (regime type, the role of armed forces, the collapse of the social contract, and sectarianism) to analyse select cases (Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Sudan) from the recent upheavals of 2019. The theory of adaptive authoritarianism is applied to the four cases, finding that the initial political context significantly determines the outcome of the protests.