Understanding the Context: Hopes and Challenges in 2011

This chapter discusses the causes of the Arab Uprisings, who took part, what people saw as the main challenges facing their country and what their hopes were. It outlines the principal explanations for the Uprisings, then uses survey data to explore people’s views on key issues. We consider what we can learn from public opinion surveys about ordinary people’s assumptions about the Uprisings’ causes and outcomes. Data suggest that the Uprisings generated considerable optimism and keen awareness that structural problems remained acute. The chapter suggests that what drove protesters was a demand for social justice as much as for civil-political rights. It also problematises concepts such as democracy which are often discussed in scholarly and policy debates without much reference to how ordinary citizens perceive them.

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