The Arab Uprisings by James Gelvin is devoted to a detailed examination of the history of uprisings in Arab countries. The author organizes the narrative into a question-and-answer form and tries to highlight the causes of uprisings in the Arab world, describe the course of the most significant protest operations at the junction of the first and second decades of the 21st century, and identify their main features. Gelvin pays special attention to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, which became the starting point for subsequent uprisings in other Arab countries (67). He also analyzes major events in Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, and Syria events. The key criterion the author relies on during the analysis of uprisings is the accompanying economic conditions, both within Arab countries and around the world.
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Discussing the causes of uprisings in Arab countries, Gelvin tries to answer the central question: why the Arab Spring did not lead to the desired result of the protesters? According to the writer, the answer to this question lies in the fact that all democratic initiatives and changes in the society of different Arab countries were sooner or later interrupted by economic difficulties, which, for various reasons, could not be overcome. As evidence of this point, the author mentions the 2005 municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, which were canceled by 2009 and thus stopped democratic transformations in this country (Gelvin 38). The author also mentions the sectarian violence in 2006 in Iraq, which nullified society’s chances to abandon the authoritarian system.
Among the main methods, the author resorts to the method of diachronic analysis, and the historical-comparative method should be mentioned. The former is used in the parts of the book describing the history of uprising movements in different Arabian countries. The historical-comparative method is applied in the first and last parts of the book, where the specific episodes of revolts are analyzed synchronically. To describe some notions, the author also resorts to linguistic analysis.
Though the book follows historical research methods, some aspects of the argument lack objective shreds of evidence and tend to be subjective. There are numerous evaluative expressions, “the Lebanese politics became hopelessly stalemated”, and “Mubarak’s pledge proved hollow,” that may bring water to the narration (Gelvin 37). Moreover, classifications and subdivisions provided in the book are not referred to any sources. As for the structure of the book, it contains five parts, which are not connected by linking paragraphs. Each of them may serve as a separate article. The lack of links makes it difficult to follow the author’s thinking. The absence of a clear thesis and general conclusions makes the book more descriptive than argumentative.
Notwithstanding the structural shortcomings, the book is interesting to read. The provided information contributes a lot to understanding the reasons and perspectives of the uprising movement in Arab countries. In a clear and entertaining manner, the author tells the readers about the political and economic factors that have not seemed to be evident. He pays much attention to describing and analyzing all terms and notions applied to the book’s topic. Due to this, The Arab Uprisings becomes easy to read. It would not be the fundamental source for further research on the issue, but it can become an excellent source of information for a general understanding of the problem.
Gelvin, James. The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know. 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2015.