Catalonia: democracy and secession


The Catalan question is not a national question, nor a question of a nation state, but a question of democracy.

For DiEM25 as a pan-European and transnational movement, the emancipatory critique of all nationalisms is a given. It is simply a matter of principle, and therefore beyond discussion.

But that does not mean that we belong to the broad chorus of those who ascribe “mistakes” to all parties in the dramatic crisis of the Spanish state. The central government in Madrid, because it “overreacts”, its armed forces because they act “disproportionately”, and the Catalan government, because it is/was “nationalist” and therefore the main actor responsible for this crisis.

Things are not that simple.

At the heart of the matter, first of all, it is important to note once again the complete and, in this case, infamous failure of the European Commission and the governments of the EU member states. The rejection of the Catalan Government’s request that they play a mediatory role in their conflict with the Spanish State and its police force is only the final confirmation of this failure and infamy. In fact, the Europeanization of the Catalan question could have been the beginning of a progressive response.

The Commission, however, declares the conflict to be an “internal affair” of Spain and thus definitively takes sides with the regime in Madrid. It thereby reaffirms the commitment of the governments of the EU member states, which had previously already supported the Spanish State.

The attitude of the Commission and its governments follows the calculation that politics must be reduced to the unconditional securing of one’s own power. Madrid, Brussels, Paris and Berlin also agree among themselves that they will base this calculation primarily on the use of a paramilitarily reinforced police force. With the violent attack on the mass protests against the Hamburg G20 summit, Berlin has once again set the line of march, a violence seconded by Paris when it made the French state of emergency permanent.

From the perspective of over 900 people who have been brutally injured by Rajoy’s uniformed squad groups, the only legitimate judgement on the Spanish situation is summed up in the sentence “Spain is dead“, deployed by the author Albert Sanchéz Piñol in his commentary on these events.

In view of this complicity of the EU and its governments with the police riots and the millionfold robbery of the right to the freedom of political choice and the right to free political expression, we add: “This EU is dead.”

The violence of majoritarian servitude

It is not only the Spanish State, which once again has impressively confirmed its Francoist origins, that calls for our condemnation. And not only the complicity of the EU and its governments with the post-Francoist regime. What also deserves our condemnation in no small part is the subjective loyalty of the Spanish majority to its regime. In this lies the essentially political problem of this crisis, as well as many another crisis, which therefore are the most difficult to solve: the problem of the voluntary servitude of the majority, and the problem of the violence used by these servants against those who no longer want to be servants.

This includes those parts of the Spanish (and not only the Spanish) left, who wanted to criticize the regime in Madrid only to the point where they requested the movement for a referendum to recognize the unity of the Spanish state, and thus to subjugate itself to it. The hypocritical arguments of these left must also be taken to task: the references to the “petty bourgeois” foundation of the movement, the alleged “concealment” of the allegedly only relevant “social question” and, last but not least, their reduction of the Catalan movement to a nationalist movement.

All these arguments are only repeating with regard to the Catalan question, what the Spanish left has already said to the Basque question. They are repeating what the Turkish left said to the Kurdish question, what the French left said to the Corsican question, what the British left said to the Irish and Scottish question, what the Israeli said to the Palestinian question, what the Sinhala left said to the Tamil question. They repeat what the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi as a defender of the unity of the state of Myanmar said to the slaughter of the Rohingya minority.

In their criticisms of “nationalism”, or, more precisely, of “separatism” and “secessionism” – they all suddenly become advocates for the party of their respective majority society, and thus the party of their state. They become a party par excellence of the state, the party of the unity of the state to be secured at (almost) any price, and consequently a party to the violence used by the state. It doesn’t matter at all if this criticism is based not in national, but in social categories: in both cases, majoritarian decisions are taken. This is what we fundamentally oppose.

For the same reason, the Catalan question for us is not a national question, nor a question of a nation state, but a question of democracy. It poses itself not only in every actually existing, but also in every possible democracy. It is the inevitable self-questioning of every democracy. It stands as long as democracy is constituted by the state, and it is set up as long as democracy is in a majority ratio. It articulates the right of the self-defence of minorities, and it defines this right as a right to separation and secession.

The last step is essential, because the right to self-defence of the minority becomes practical only as a right to separation or secession. The right to separation or secession therefore becomes the essential right also of the minorities in a Catalan, Kurdish, Corsican, Irish, Scottish, Palestinian, Tamil, or Rohingya state, and thus the ultimate proof of democracy.

However, the right to self-defence of the minorities proves itself not only as the right to separation and secession from the majority, nation and state, but also as a right to the transgression of nation and state in favour of a global, practically-speaking a continental, for us a European perspective.

The overcoming of the unity of majority, nation and state, always invariably and without exception, has to be tackled at the same time both in the great and in the small: going the widest distance and to the proximate nearness at one and the same time. This is the cause of the city as cosmopolis, and it is the cause of a federation of cities as a cosmopolitan federation: a federation of individuals. The good part of this is that in the cosmopolitan trajectory path and goal always coincide. Spain is dead, this EU is dead.


Thomas Seibert is a philosopher and member of DiEM25.


By: Thomas Seibert
Date: October 4, 2017
Source: OpenDemocracy

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Martin Luther King’s ‘Creative Maladjustment’ Resonates Today


Seeking perspective on the current chaotic state of U.S. politics, I reread a powerful speech delivered fifty years ago by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in September 1967.

King, who was delivering a keynote speech to the annual conference of the American Psychological Association, noted how psychologists had given the world the notion of maladjusted. “You have given us a great word,” he said, continuing: “There are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we should never be adjusted.”

King argued that the powerful, in their efforts to maintain order, actually maintain inequality—tamping down social movements and ignoring the cries of the hopeless as they are expressed by urban unrest.

“We must never adjust ourselves to economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few,” King insisted. He called for “creative maladjustment,” wherein people refuse to normalize inequality and work continuously to expose injustice so that, “we may be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man, into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.”

He urged the academics in attendance to use their scholarship and influence to “tell it like it is.” He said they should produce works that assist in the redemption of an America “poisoned to its soul by racism.” He continued: “All too many white Americans are horrified not with conditions of Negro life but with the product of these conditions—the Negro himself.”

In our present context—the prevalent inequity in the suffering after Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria, and the degenerate response from our country’s leader—King’s words command our attention. They link in a powerful way a seemingly disparate collection of social justice struggles, including removing Confederate Statues, Black Lives Matter, fighting for the rights of undocumented students, the plight of LGBTQ communities, and preserving public education for students.

In an age when we can no longer depend on government officials to deliver on the promises of our founding principles, the call for creative maladjustment commits us to seek solutions outside the system while pressuring it to respond to legitimate demands.

As King conceptualized the problem, “I believe we will have to find the militant middle between riots on the one hand and weak and timid supplication for justice on the other hand.” For King, that middle ground was civil disobedience, which he argued could “be aggressive but nonviolent” with the power to “dislocate but not destroy.”

King’s ideas provide a call to arms for academics and activists in the 21st century—to find constructive points of conversation and also to use dislocation as a catalyst for social engagement that seeks new pathways to combating racism, economic inequality, and oppression.

In late September, more than 200 academics produced a statement on the appalling conditions on Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, decrying the poor governmental response. The scholars state, “the destruction brought by Hurricane Maria has exposed the profound colonial condition of Puerto Rico, as millions of human beings are faced with a life or death situation.”

Crowdsourcing educational resources is another example. Widely shared and communally generated documents like the 2014 #FergusonSyllabus, a set of resources for those seeking to confront and explain police violence against black youth. The syllabus connected scholarship to music, art, and culture and has been become a model for conversation and collaboration between scholars and activists.

Creative maladjustment is a tall order, but it does provide an organizing idea around which to channel our efforts. As King explained to those gathered fifty years ago, “It is fashionable now to be pessimistic.” King was nevertheless hopeful.

“Undeniably, the freedom movement has encountered setbacks,” he admitted. “Yet I still believe there are significant aspects of progress.” His desire for scholarship that seized on chaos and disorder to provide forward-thinking solutions to racial prejudice, economic inequality, and political alienation rooted in civil disobedience remains relevant. His words echo with powerful resonance in our own time.


Yohuru Williams is professor of history and dean and McQuinn Distinguished Chair of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.


By: Yohuru Williams
Date: October 6, 2017
Source: The Progressive

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‘The State is Broken’ in Guatemala and Only Social Movements Can Fix It


The political crisis in Guatemala can be explained really quite simply.

“The state is broken,” as Leiria Vay, a leader from the the Campesino Development Committee (CODECA), told Upside Down World.

It’s a position that Guatemalan online news outlet Plaza Publica articulated in a scathing editorial Thursday in response to the Congress’ latest attempt at legislating impunity: “Let’s stop pretending we believe they’re politicians: the vast majority are criminals, delinquents, truants, thieves: tricksters and pretenders.”

But the only thing standing in the way of this cartel-like Congress is civil society, and it may take a repeat of the 20 straight weekends of protests which helped unseat former President Otto Pérez Molina to resolve this current political crisis and corruption scandal.

Since Aug. 27, grassroots organizations have taken to the streets to protest government corruption and to demand embattled President Jimmy Morales’ resignation, following an early morning video that declared Ivan Velásquez, a Colombian lawyer and lead investigator of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), the U.N. backed anti-corruption body, a “persona non-grata.” Morales and his brother and son had been under the microscope of investigators, and CICIG had requested permission to probe the president over alleged illicit campaign financing. Morales ordered Velásquez’s immediate deportation from the country, arguing that the CICIG chief had meddled “in domestic affairs, which are the sole responsibility of the Guatemalan state.” But this declaration was derailed by the country’s Constitutional Court the same day, which declared that the president could not expel the lead investigator.

As social movement pressure on Morales continues mounting, the majority of Congress is doubling down to protect the political elite from being accountable to the people for corruption. But a mobilization of outraged citizens, backed by the Constitutional Court, has stopped Congress’ brazen power move from going unchecked, and political elites have shown signs of backtracking under popular pressure.

In record time without any debate, on Sept. 13 Congress rammed through Decree 14-2017 and 15-2017, which repealed anti-corruption legislation passed in 2015. Specifically, the decree changed who is responsible for managing donations to political parties, absolving Morales for the charges he faces for failing to declare the source of donations in his 2015 presidential campaign. The reforms also made it possible for anyone convicted of a crime that carries a sentence of less than 10 years to pay a fine  rather spend time in prison. According to prosecutor Rootman Pérez, this would mean that many crimes – including extortion, embezzlement, and even some cases of murder, could lead to zero prison time.

These reforms were provisionally suspended Thursday by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court amid widespread protest. Even before the court ruling, lawmakers showed signs of attempting to back-pedal, stating that the decision to pass the reforms was an “error.” Topping off the recent political circus, Congress voted 130 to zero Friday, Guatemala’s independence day, to reverse the controversial reforms. Local media characterized the decision as a response to social movement pressure.

Members of Congress were met by angry protesters that surrounded the Congress as they arrived to vote on the reforms. The protest lasted for seven hours, blocking the lawmakers from leaving the building and increasing tensions. Finally, at nearly midnight, nearly 200 riot police deployed tear gas and pepper spray on direct order from Morales to disperse the protesters.

Grassroots organizations and student groups have called for ongoing protests, including a national strike on Sept. 20.

“The people have to come out, because if not, they’ll just continue with this plan — and it’ll get worse,” Manfredo Marroquín, president of the board of Acción Ciudadana, Transparency International’s Guatemala branch, told the New York Times.

Marroquín’s comments are in response to Thursday’s proposed reforms, and underscores civil society’s role in keeping Congress in check and blocking any kind of gratuitous overreach or attempts at undermining CICIG’s work of dismantling corruption within the country.

And the situation is poised to get worse. According to the Guatemalan daily newspaper La Hora, Congress is considering at least 3 other reforms that institutionalize impunity. And if recent action in the streets is any indication, further legislation that favors impunity will only draw more outrage from the population.

Two days prior to the vote on repealing the anti-corruption laws, 104 of the 158 members of Congress voted against removing the president’s immunity, upholding his protection from prosecution. Only 25 voted for removing his immunity and 29 abstained. The vote came after the Supreme Court ruled on Sept. 4 that the president could face charges and deferred the decision on whether to remove the president’s immunity to Congress.

“Congress protected Morales, in part, in order to protect themselves,” Jesus Hernández, a political science professor at the Rafael Landívar University in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, told Upside Down World. “At the moment there are around 40 congressional members that have cases pending against themselves for corruption.”

And the fraud allegations reach all the way to the top of government. early two years after a massive government corruption  scandal and large protests in 2015, investigators from CICIG, and the Guatemalan Public Prosecutor’s office, led by Attorney General Thelma Aldana, announced the filing of charges against Morales for illicit financing during the 2015 election.

Grassroots organizations responded almost immediately to show their support for Velásquez and to demand the resignation of the president. The coalition of grassroots organizations carried out a demonstration in the central plaza of Guatemala City, where several hundred campesinos and supporters gathered.

“We are here to support the work that Velásquez is doing,” Vay told Upside Down World. “But he has a lot more to do in order to combat corruption. The CICIG needs to continue these investigations, and our job is to support them in this work.”

Protests continued for days in front of the offices of CICIG, where both those in favor of Velásquez and those against him gathered on opposite sides of a police line. As the demonstrations outside the CICIG occurred, nearly 30,000 campesinos from the largely Indigenous municipality of Sololá blocked highways to protest the president’s call to remove Velásquez.

The CICIG’s influence grew in 2015 after it unearthed widespread corruption in Pérez Molina’s administration that reached nearly every level of government. The scandal led to mass protests against corruption, and the eventual collapse of the administration and the incarceration and prosecution of high-level authorities, including Pérez Molina and his vice president, Roxana Baldetti, for operating a tax-fraud ring that stole millions through the country’s tax administration.

Morales exploited the crisis in his presidential campaign with the military-backed FCN-Nación political party by promising voters that he was neither “Corrupt or a Thief.” But the latest scandal exposes the extent to which corruption and impunity have burrowed their way into the state in the more than two decades since the return to democracy in Guatemala.

Grassroots organizations rally around CICIG

Thousands across Guatemala mobilized following the move to repeal the anti-corruption laws. Protesters mobilized outside Congress in Guatemala City and in towns across the country to slam the impunity that still plagues the Guatemalan political system two years after the former president and vice president were forced out of office.

A coalition of 34 grassroots organizations, including the Indigenous Ancestral Authorities, CODECA, the United Campesino Committee (CUC), Radios Comunitarias, among others, have come to the front lines of the movement condemning Morales, the illicit financing of his 2015 campaign, and widespread corruption in the country’s political class. In response to these violations, the organizations demanded on Sept. 7 that “Jimmy Morales resign the Presidency of the Republic and submit himself to the courts of justice.”

CODECA and the other organizations have stated that the protests will continue and escalate if the president does not resign.

The campesinos associated with CODECA have been at the forefront of the pressure on Morales since he entered office in 2016. Since he took power, the organization has carried out at least four major protests against the president. These actions have included protests in the capital city, as well as full scale nationwide shutdowns, where campesinos blocked highways across the country.

In July 2017, CODECA carried out two days of blockades along major highways across Guatemala. “We are going out and asking for the resignation of the president, his cabinet, and the 158 [congressional] deputies,” wrote representatives from CODECA in their statement to the press.

Morales’ frustration with CICIG also stems from the organization’s failure to investigate CODECA, according to an article by the Guatemalan daily newspaper Prensa Libre, which called CODECA a “headache” for the embattled administration. But CODECA’s Vay points out CICIG is welcome to investigate the organization, maintaining it has nothing to hide.

“The continued calls to investigate us shows the worry of the state,” Vay told Upside Down World. “We are open to any investigation because it would show the continued corruption of the state.”

The organization has continued to promote a national constitutional assembly that seeks to re-found the state, one that represents all citizens. The assembly would involve writing a new constitution that reflects the diverse country, where up to 60 percent of the population of 15 million people is Indigenous.

“We believe that the work of CICIG is important, and we want to see the resignation of Morales,” Vay told Upside Down World. “But we also want to establish a new state, one that reflects the consensus of all the people, and respects their will. This would be a call for the people to think of the future, rather than just today.”

Yet this proposal is easier said than done, as the elite interests within the state seek to maintain their impunity. The mobilization of grassroots organizations represents the first step in rooting out corruption and illicit interests within the Guatemalan political system, but there is still a long way to go to forming a state that represents the needs of all Guatemalans.

“We have to remember that the state was founded for the elite – the Indigenous peoples are left out,” Vay told Upside Down World. “We know that there are [elite] sectors that do not want change, and the CICIG needs to continue to root them out.”


Jeff Abbott is an independent journalist currently based out of Guatemala. His work has appeared at The Progressive, In These Times, and the North American Congress on Latin America. Follow him on Twitter @palabrasdeabajo.


By: Jeff Abbott
Date: September 18, 2017
Source: Upside Down World

‘The State is Broken’ in Guatemala and Only Social Movements Can Fix It

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In a society too short of common goals, identity politics are an imperfect answer


Last November, Columbia University historian Mark Lilla published a comment piece in the New York Times, entitled The End of Identity Liberalism. Numbed by Trump’s election victory, Lilla placed the blame largely at the door of “identity politics”, which, he argued, had atomised American politics, undermined civic culture and destroyed the Democrats’ electoral chances. Liberalism, he wrote, “has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing”.

Lilla’s essay became the eye of a furious political storm. Some critics suggested that he was whistling in the wind – all politics, they insisted, is necessarily identity politics. Others saw it as an attack on minorities. Katherine Franke, professor of law at Columbia, and a colleague of Lilla’s, claimed that Lilla was doing the “background work of making white supremacy respectable”.

It’s a debate equally significant for politics on this side of the Atlantic. Here, too, the left has considerably weakened, society has become more fragmented and there has developed an equally fraught debate about the politics of identity.

Now Lilla’s op-ed has become a book, The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics. Its publication has reignited the debate over the politics of identity. According to Lilla, the high point of American liberalism came with Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s, which focused not on individual needs but on the collective good. To regain power, Lilla argues, the liberal left needs to rediscover that notion of the common good by adopting a pragmatic form of politics. He is particularly caustic about protest movements such as Black Lives Matter. “We need no more marchers,” he writes. “We need more mayors.”

Between them, Lilla and his critics sum up well the impasse of contemporary politics on the left. Many of his critics cannot see that the politics of identity, far from defending the marginalised and the powerless, fragments the possibilities of meaningful social change. Lilla cannot see that the self-proclaimed “liberal centrist” politics he espouses has helped create the fragmentation of which he despairs. In Europe, too, debates about immigration and multiculturalism, about nationalism and federalism, expose a similar kind of deadlock. The roots of contemporary identity politics lie in the new social movements that emerged in the 1960s to challenge the failure of the left to take seriously the issues of racism, homophobia and women’s rights. The struggle for black rights in America, in particular, was highly influential in providing a template for many other groups to develop concepts of identity and self-organisation. Squeezed between an intensely racist society, on the one hand, and a left often indifferent to their plight, many black activists ceded from civil rights organisations and set up separate black groups.

The universalism that once fuelled radical movements has largely evaporated

This is where Lilla’s celebration of New Deal liberalism looks so threadbare. The “Roosevelt dispensation”, Lilla argues, inaugurated a liberalism filled with “confidence, hope, pride and a spirit of self-sacrifice”. Except that it was not quite like that. It was also a liberalism that accommodated Jim Crow laws, segregation and lynchings. Millions of Americans were excluded from the American “we” that Lilla wants to defend. It was in the struggle against such exclusion that the origins of postwar identity politics lie.

“As identity consciousness has increased among liberals,” Lilla has observed, “political consciousness has decreased.” That is to look at the issue back to front. It is not so much that identity consciousness has diminished political consciousness, but rather that the diminishment of ideological politics has allowed the politics of identity to flourish. In the 1960s, the struggles for black rights and women’s rights and gay rights were closely linked to the wider project of social transformation. But as the labour movement lost influence and radical struggles faltered, from the 1980s on, so the relationship between the promotion of identity rights and broader social change frayed. Eventually, the promotion of identity became an end in itself. The universalism that once fuelled radical movements has largely evaporated.

The erosion of the power of labour movement organisations, the demise of radical social movements, the decline of collectivist ideologies, the expansion of the market into almost every nook and cranny of social life, the fading of institutions, from trade unions to the church, have all helped to create a more fragmented society. These are the changes that have snapped social bonds and hollowed-out civic life.

That hollowing out has been exacerbated by the narrowing of the political sphere, by politics that has self-consciously become less ideological, more technocratic. The Democrats in America have discarded much of their old ideological attachments as well as their links to their old social constituencies. Dick Morris, former chief political adviser to the then president Bill Clinton, whom Lilla lauds, called this the process of “triangulation” – the left stealing the right’s clothes, so that it can appear to be above ideological politics. It was an approach appropriated by Tony Blair for New Labour; many see in Emmanuel Macron’s policies an attempt to fashion a new Gallic version of the same.

It is not, however, through triangulation or managerialism that people bind together. They do so through common struggles for social change. Such struggles enable people to reach out beyond their own identities and give meaning to civic solidarity. It is through such social struggles that we can define what common goals should be, and what we might mean by the common good.

As the influence of the labour movement has declined, and broader social struggles have faded, so “solidarity” has for many become increasingly defined not in political terms – as collective action in pursuit of certain political ideals – but in much narrower terms of group identity. Trump himself is a product of this. So are the anti-immigration populists of Europe. One of the consequences of the mainstreaming of identity politics is that, on both sides of the Atlantic, racism is becoming rebranded as white identity politics.

What Lilla fails to recognise is that the demand for “mayors not marchers” – for pragmatic politics over social movements – is a change that has already happened; and the consequence has been the kind of identity politics he rightly despises. The problem is not that there are marchers rather than mayors. It is, rather, that both marchers and mayors, both activists and politicians, operate in world in which broader visions of social change have faded. How to restore a sense of solidarity based on broader politics rather than narrow identities – that’s the real challenge we face.


By: Kenan Malik
Date: September 17, 2017
Source: The Guardian

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New Book: “False Dawn Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East”


Author: Stephen Cook

Published: July 2017

Publisher: Oxford University Press

No. of Pages: 360 pages

Half a decade after Arabs across the Middle East poured into the streets to demand change, hopes for democracy have disappeared in a maelstrom of violence and renewed state repression. Egypt remains an authoritarian state, Syria and Yemen are in the midst of devastating civil wars, Libya has descended into anarchy, and the self-declared Islamic State rules a large swath of territory. Even Turkey, which also experienced large-scale protests, has abandoned its earlier shift toward openness and democracy and now more closely resembles an autocracy.

How did things go so wrong so quickly across a wide range of regimes? In False Dawn, noted Middle East regional expert Steven A. Cook looks at the trajectory of events across the region from the initial uprising in Tunisia to the failed coup in Turkey to explain why the Arab Spring did not succeed. Despite appearances, there were no true revolutions in the Middle East five years ago: none of the affected societies underwent social revolutions, and the old structures of power were never eliminated. Even supposed successes like Tunisia still face significant barriers to democracy because of the continued strength of old regime players. Libya, the state that came closest to revolution, has fragmented into chaos, and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has used the recent coup against him as grounds for a widespread crackdown on his opponents, reinforcing the Turkish leader’s personal power.

After taking stock of how and why the uprisings failed to produce lasting change, Cook considers the role of the United States in the region. What Washington cannot do, Cook argues, is shape the politics of the Middle East going forward. While many in the policymaking community believe that the United States must “get the Middle East right,” American influence is actually quite limited; the future of the region lies in the hands of the people who live there. Authoritative and powerfully argued, False Dawn promises to be a major work on one of the most important historical events of the past quarter century.

Reviews and Awards

The promise of the ‘Arab Spring’ now seems a distant memory. False Dawn offers a sweeping account, a combination of on-the-ground narrative and deep historical analysis of what went wrong. Stephen Cook’s excellent book opens with a quote from deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011 that seemed like a threat at the time but now reads more like a prophecy: ‘The youth who called for change and reform will be the first to suffer.’ Cook tells us why. – Deborah Amos

How did the Arab Spring become the long winter we now see? Steven Cook is one of Washington’s most astute and informed observers of the Middle East, and anyone wanting to understand how the region has ended up in its current unraveling state would do well to read his new book False Dawn. The backlash — and Western misreadings of it — are all too real, and Cook’s book is a major contribution in understanding what we got wrong. – Susan Glasser, chief international affairs columnist of Politico, and former Editor in Chief of Foreign Policy

The collapse of the Arab Spring was more than a defeat for democracy in the Arab world, it broke the Middle East. In this incisive book, [Steven Cook] has masterfully applied the tools of the social sciences to separate fact from fiction in explaining how that moment of hope in the region turned into calamity. Intelligent and well-written this is must reading for anyone interested in understanding the tumult that is unfolding in the Middle East today. – Vali Nasr

For those who want to understand the deeper dynamics that explain what happened specifically in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Turkey, they now have an excellent book to read. False Dawn, Steven Cook’s latest work, offers a smart and analytically compelling explanation for why the events of 2011 were bound to fall short of the promise and hopes they raised. Ultimately, the uprisings forced out individual leaders but not the power structures and institutions that sustained them except in Libya where Qaddafi’s demise left a vacuum. Authoritarian governance, the struggle over identity, and ongoing conflicts are going to define the Middle East for the foreseeable future, and Cook calls for American policy-makers to understand the limits of our ability to change these basic sources of instability in the area. Even those who may not fully subscribe to his policy prescription will profit highly from reading this very well constructed and thoughtful book. – Dennis Ross

‘False Dawn’ is a name fit for the next Dwayne Johnson action movie, however, it talks about the biggest action movie that has never been made: The Arab spring. Steven Cook gives one of the best detailed accounts about the hopes and disappointments in our modern times. The hope that was there and then never fulfilled. A must read book for anyone who wants to know what the hell happened there and doesn’t want to get second hand information from pundits sitting on a CNN panel pretending to know what they are talking about. – Bassem Youssef


Steven Cook, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Steven A. Cook is Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of The Struggle for Egypt and Ruling but Not Governing.


Source: Oxford University Press

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