The only comment I would add to this otherwise excellent analysis of the current revolutionary wave washing over the middle east and north Africa by Michigan historian Juan Cole is that the combination of authoritarian rule and neo-liberal reform is not peculiar to the region.
There is no alternative, as Thatcher would say, to authoritarian rule in order to implement neo-liberal reform – from Poland to China to Egypt it has always and everywhere been accompanied by repression, forced restructuring and unemployment and political corruption leading to inequality and the harshening of class conflict.
The myth of the two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall that globalization would lead to a stable rule of law and democracy has now been exposed for what it is. The events of the last few weeks, only the most visible of a long wave of resistance to restructuring in places like Egypt, only highlight this reality.
Cole says there are now renewed hopes for liberalization, which he suggests indirectly are naive. That is to be determined. The question is the content of “liberalization” – the aspirations of a Wael Ghonim, the Google entrepreneur in Egypt, are likely to be satisfied with a far different approach to reform than the textile workers at Ghazl Shebeen el-Koum.