The tide that failed to rise: Young people’s politics and social values in and after the Arab uprisings

The story of the ‘Arab Spring’ as a revolt of young people against autocracy does not stand up to survey analysis at country level. Data from the Arab Transformations Survey show that young people were over-represented as participants, but it is necessary to stretch the concept of ‘youth’ into middle age in some countries to say this, there were plenty of older participants, and the protests were aimed less at political rights and more at social justice. Fundamental political changes have been expected in MENA which would sweep away autocratic rule in favour of democratisation, as the values of successive younger generations became individualized, liberalized and secularized under the influence of economic and market development and the spread of education, but there is very little evidence that this is what occurred in the Arab Uprisings. Whether young or older, protestors were looking for regime change, an end to corruption and a reduction in IMF-inspired austerity, but political freedoms and democratic governance do not appear to have been at the top of their agenda.

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