23 Mar 2015
The origins of the third debate within IR theory between rationalism and reflectivism began with two initial 'great' debates. The first debate took place post-World War I, before IR had developed into a coherent academic discipline. It saw the decline of the dominant idealist or 'liberal' paradigm. Idealist theorists believed in a cooperative world where peace could be an achievable goal. A number of sceptics, including E.H. Carr, Reinhold Niebhur, Hans J. Morgenthau and Raymond Aron dismissed liberalism as 'utopian'. Their combined writings, whilst differing on many issues emphasized a 'tragic' nature of politics, where the lust for attaining power is the dominant influence on political decision making. This lust meant that war was an inevitable part of IR that could not be dismissed. This new 'realist' paradigm replaced liberalism as the dominant paradigm within international relations. It has arguably remained the primary school of thought in IR today, albeit in a different form which was developed in the second of the great debates.
In the second debate, realism was challenged internally. Realism began as collection of writings on common topics such as power, security and morality. It was not a theory per se at this point in time. Classical realists such as Niebhur, Morgenthau and Aron took historical and interpretive views of these issues, looking back at history to try and solve the dilemmas of the present. However the 1950s saw the rise of the 'behaviourist' revolution that attempted to inject scientific rigour into the social sciences. In response to this there were growing concerns that IR, and in particular realism were not 'scientific' enough as they did not conform to scientific theory and their methods of inquiry could not be quantified or tested. Kenneth Waltz's (1979) Theory of International Politics attempted to change this by synthesizing earlier realist thought with the new methods being used within social sciences such as economics and psychology. This new theory was named 'structural realism' or 'neorealism'. Alongside neorealism came 'neoliberalism' inspired by Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye's (2001) book 'Power and Interdependence'. It combined earlier liberal principles with the same rationalist structural methodology as neorealism. It uses similar concepts to neorealism but showed how they could be used to explain how states cooperate rather than compete with each other. Both neorealism and neoliberalism make up the core of the 'rationalist' group of theories within IR today.
It has been hypothesized that the third debate began in the 1980s. By this point the rationalist paradigm had overtaken IR, particularly within the United States. However despite it's near dominance of the discipline, a small but fierce backlash emerged against rationalist IR theory, particularly Waltzian neorealism. The initial discontent towards rationalism in IR was clearly shown within Keohane's (1988) edited volume 'Neorealism and it's Critics'. It contained two chapters by the theorists Robert Cox and Richard Ashley that directly critiqued many central tenets of the rationalist paradigm, largely regarding methodology and epistemology. Around the same time, Alexander Wendt (1987) and Nicholas Onuf (2012) amongst others began to incorporate social constructivist ideas into elaborate critiques of neorealism. This would lay the foundations for the constructivist movement within IR theory. Constructivism differs from rationalist theories in that it concentrates on subjective social variables such as identity.
As the backlash against rationalism increased, neorealism and rationalist ideas began to be challenged from numerous standpoints. Taken together these dissenting views began to be named within academic circles as 'reflectivism'. It could be argued that unlike the second debate, there is no clear consensus between the dissenting reflectivist theorists over why rationalist approaches are flawed. Critical theorists such as Neo-Gramscians and feminists have attacked rationalist theorists over their refusal to consider certain factors such as class and gender in their analyses. Meanwhile constructivist and post-modern theorists have focused on meta-theoretical questions surrounding rationalist epistemology and methodology. On the other hand, for many theorists writing on the third debate such as Lapid (1989) and George (1989), questions over meta-theory posed by constructivists and post-modernists have become the defining critique of rationalist theory within the third debate.
It is possible to broadly map out these meta-theoretical differences between rationalism and reflectivism outlined within the third debate. Rationalist theories embrace positivism to a certain extent which means they believe that the practice of IR can be reduced to simple and observable systemic rules and laws which their theories aim to document. This systemic approach attempts to mirror the natural sciences in dismissing non-observable and therefore non-testable factors. For rationalists, a state is a concrete entity and its behaviour can be observed. In contrast social factors such as identity, culture and ideology are deemed non-testable and rationalists usually ignore them. Rationalists believe that research in IR requires a detached, objective and strictly observational standpoint towards their chosen subjects of study. In contrast, the majority of reflectivist theorists believe that positivism is an untenable epistemology for studying social science. For them, socially constructed variables rejected by rationalists are an integral part of the study of social sciences such as IR. Many also dismiss the existence of the belief in science like rules and laws as they believe that these perceived laws are socially constructed and their existence is not a given reality. Thus, most reflectivist theorists are categorized as post-positivist. Finally, reflectivist theorists argue that the subject and the researcher cannot be separated and therefore there is no such thing as pure objectivity in social scientific research.
2.3 Rationalist IR theories - Neorealism and neoliberalism:
This dissertation will look at two rationalist theories within its case study sections; Neorealism and neoliberalism. Neorealism is the archetypical rationalist IR theory. It combines earlier realist thought with positivist epistemology and influence from rational choice theory. Developed by Waltz (1979), it focuses strictly on system level 'top-down' analysis of IR and concentrates on the systemic constraints upon actors within the system, namely states. The concept of 'anarchy' within neorealism posits that the conditions of the international system, where there is no governing hierarchy or global monopoly of violence is the only real influence on actor behaviour. This leads to an international order where conflict is always likely between states. As a theory, neorealism is somewhat useful for analysing state based conflicts. It can also provide some insight into state security issues and broad international strategic formations. For example, Waltz's (1979) classic bipolar stability theory argues that the Cold War period was actually inherently stable due to the United States and USSR balancing each other's military capabilities out. In turn it can be criticized for many reasons. Its 'top-down' approach to IR and its allegiance to the state as the only important actor means that it omits many different actors that play a role in global affairs. The individual micro-characteristics of states are ignored as well as social and political factors that could also influence state behaviour. Therefore, it is often dangerously assumed that all states think and act the same in the same circumstances. As a rationalist theory, neorealism's adherence to positivism also means it dismisses important social variables such as identity, ideology and culture (Wendt, 1999). Ashley (1984) has criticized the tendency of neorealism to ignore the individual and domestic levels of analysis in favour of the international/systemic level. The systemic level excludes analysis of sub-state and civil conflicts as it is assumed that these conflicts are not important at the international level. Again this is a problematic conclusion as it could be argued that civil conflicts often have broad implications on the international stage. Ruggie (1988) has often criticized neorealism by asserting that it is unable to predict and adapt to systemic change. For instance, neorealism struggled to either predict or explain the end of the Cold War and the end of the bipolar world order towards a unipolar system. From these criticisms it is easy to be sceptical over neorealism's ability to provide decent explanations for a national based conflict revolving around social, economic and political factors such as the Egyptian revolution.
Neoliberalism is inherently similar to neorealism. It shares the same general systemic structure, retains the concept of 'anarchy' within that system and also maintains that the state is the primary actor. On the other hand, unlike neorealism it argues that states are not always mistrustful of each other's actions and can cooperate on issues that are mutually beneficial. It also introduces the sub-theories of 'complex interdependence' and 'soft power' where channels of economic and political conflict and cooperation between states increase, whilst traditional military power declines at the same time (Keohane & Nye, 2001; Nye, 2004). It also introduces other actors apart from states into the neorealist structural framework such as transnational economic channels of influence and international governmental organizations (IGOs). Neoliberalism can be seen as an extension of neorealism and it explains certain issues such as economic and political based cooperation at the state level well. It incorporates a greater number of actors and therefore has greater explanatory potential than neorealism. For example, its emphasis on some non-state actors has allowed it to contribute towards institutional theory, in particular the ability of European states to work together in the framework of the European Union (Pollack, 2001). However, neoliberalism faces criticism from both sides of the theoretical spectrum. Neorealists argue that neoliberals are too optimistic about the ability for state cooperation. Mearsheimer (2002) believes that neoliberals overstate the importance of non-state actors such as institutions, as he argues that states only abide by institutional rules and norms when it suits their own egoistic needs. Reflectivists on the other hand criticize neoliberalism for many of the same reasons as they criticize neorealists. They would argue that despite the integration of non-state actors and institutions, neoliberalism maintains the trappings of rationalist structural theories such as a lack of insight into social factors and limitations imposed by its strictly international level of analysis (Onuf, 2012).
2.4 Reflectivist IR theories - Radical constructivism and post-modernism:
The two reflectivist theories that will be used within the case studies are radical constructivism and post-modernism. Radical or 'consistent' constructivism is part of the constructivist branch of IR theory. Constructivists believe that traditional IR concepts such as anarchy and power are social constructions that are engineered by collective thought (Wendt, 1987). Hopf (1998) notes that constructivists believe actors and structures are 'mutually constitutive'. This means that social interaction between actors creates structures which in turn influence actor behaviour. This can be contrasted with rationalists who argue that only structures can influence actor behaviour. Therefore, constructivists focus on social variables and their importance for understanding IR. Radical constructivists can be differentiated from their mainstream counterparts, 'conventional' constructivists who occupy a middle ground between rationalist and reflectivist approaches and do not abandon positivism entirely. Fierke (2002) who coined the term 'consistent constructivism' argues that rationalist theorists and conventional constructivists both ignore important social variables such as language. For Fierke (2002) and Hopf (1998), the study of language or 'discourse' is essential for understanding how social relations and interaction within IR is constituted. Radical constructivism is a potentially useful theoretical tool for studying the factors behind conflicts such as the Egyptian Revolution as unlike its rationalist rivals it has the ability to account for numerous different actors and social variables. It is also possible for radical constructivists to account for different levels of analysis including both the national and international levels. On the other hand, radical constructivists rarely discuss these issues in research papers. Much of the constructivist literature is steeped within meta-theoretical debate with little relevance to practical issues of IR. An example of some of this purely theoretical constructivist literature includes Onuf's (2009) 'Structure?, What Structure'. Whilst some research including Kratochwil's (1993) treatise on the end of the Cold War shows how radical constructivism can be used in practice, these articles are few and far between. As of yet, radical constructivism only has the potential to explain the rationale behind events such as the Egyptian revolution.
Post-modern or post-structuralist IR theory is possibly the most convoluted of the four theories explored within this thesis. Unlike other theories there is no real clear consensus on a coherent theory per se. At the same time there are some clear features that unite different post-modern theorists together. In general, post-modernism holds many similarities to radical constructivism in its post-positivist epistemology and its emphasis on discourse. Indeed, some writers such as Pouliot (2004) argue that the two are fundamentally similar. However, unlike many radical constructivists, post-modern IR theorists completely reject the idea of an 'objective reality' (Pouliot, 2004). They argue that subject and the author's views and biases are completely interlinked (Devetak, 1990). In debt to philosophers such as Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze, post-modernist IR theorists seek to 'deconstruct' traditional IR concepts such as the nation-state, power, anarchy and international system (Devetak, 1990). They argue that these concepts are usually taken for granted by most IR theorists. Some post-modern IR theorists also argue that many actor's voices within conflicts are seldom documented in IR. They try to redress this situation by highlighting those 'without a voice' (Ashley & Walker, 1990: 260-261). In this way they can be compared to critical theorists such as feminists and post-colonialists by advocating a 'bottom up' approach to the study of IR. A good example of post-modernist bottom-up analysis is Chaloupkha's (1990) study on local anti-nuclear movements in the United States and their overall impact on US foreign policy practice. From these features it could be hypothesized that post-modernist IR theory would be very useful for studying the 2011 Egyptian revolution.
However, post-modern theorists have often been accused of style over substance. Spegele (2002) in his critique of postmodernist IR theory, 'Richard Ashley's Discourse of International Relations', argues that Ashley spends too much of his time criticizing rationalist approaches towards IR, whilst failing to provide a suitable theoretical insights himself. Also like radical constructivists, many post-modernist IR theorists do not attempt to bridge the gap between theory and practice as they often become entangled in meta-theory. For instance, Ashley's (1981; 1990) work has arguably become more abstract and meta-theoretical over time. At the same time, there are certain theorists that do try to integrate both theory and practice through the use of empirical evidence such as Michael J. Shapiro's (2007) research into the image of warfare within the media and James Der Derian's virtual warfare and surveillance theories (1990).
From this chapter, evident differences between rationalist and reflectivist IR theories can be discerned. Rationalist theories are structural based systems level theories that have a commitment to positivist epistemology. In contrast, reflectivist theories de-emphasise structure in favour of social variables such as language, identity and culture and share a post-positivist epistemology. The two rationalist theories - neorealism and neoliberalism and two reflectivist theories - radical constructivism and post-modernism have been outlined in detail including their respective similarities, differences, strengths and weaknesses. Subsequent chapters will use case studies on the 2011 Egyptian revolution to test these theories. However, before this is undertaken, it is important to investigate some of the background factors behind the Egyptian revolution.
Examining the Egyptian revolution in a broader context is imperative before investigating how current IR theories can account for its causes and implications. The revolution itself is part of a wider group of social movements that have occurred or are still occurring across the Middle East and North Africa. These movements have been collectively named in both the media and academia as the 'Arab Spring'. The term, 'Arab Spring' itself is heavily contested. It has been criticized as Western terminology that does not understand or respect the cultural significance of the uprisings. The use of Arab can be seen as a misnomer as many non-Arabs were also involved in the protests (Alhassen, 2012). Furthermore, it is not the term that activists would use for themselves. Alternative names for the Arab Spring used by those involved include 'thawra' ('revolution') and intifada ('shaking off'/'rebellion'). The term intifada has previously been used to reference several other acts of resistance, most significantly the Palestinian Intifadas against Israel (Dabashi, 2011). Despite the controversy over the term Arab Spring, this dissertation will continue to use it throughout for continuity purposes. The uprisings are notable for numerous reasons. Firstly, the scope and breadth of the Arab Spring is unprecedented in recent history. It has caused seismic shifts throughout the Arab world in an arguably very short space of time. Secondly, the individual uprisings also seem to collectively share common goals and motives as well as individual ones pertaining to each country. Thirdly, it is an ongoing process in many affected countries and the precise effects of the Arab Spring are still unknown at this time.
To be able to examine the Egyptian revolution in a case study based environment it is useful to examine some of the historical, political and economic conditions unique to Egypt in the prelude to the 2011 revolution. Therefore, this chapter will look at some of the historical context and background causes behind the uprisings.
3.2 Historical context:
In recent times, Egypt has become a regional power within both North Africa and the Middle East. Since its freedom from British rule in 1922, it has consolidated its position as a leading force amongst the Arab nations. Initially its involvement in Pan-Arabism where it sought to unite Arab countries together in the mid twentieth century, its alliance with the Soviet Union as well as its opposition to Israel put it in direct opposition to the Western world. This culminated in the Suez Crisis of 1956 where Western and Israeli forces clashed militarily with a Soviet backed Egypt over the nationalization of the Suez Canal. However this reversed with the change in leadership from Gamal Abdel Nasser to Anwar Sadat. He rejected Pan-Arabism, severed ties with the Soviet Union and aligned the country closer to the West. This cooperation with the West would increase in time, to the extent that Egypt had become one of the Western world's closest allies within the region by the time of the Arab Spring. Sadat's foreign and economic policies were largely continued by his successor, Hosni Mubarak. However whilst Egypt may have developed positive external relations by the time of the 2011 revolution, there existed a myriad of internal problems and discord that would help to contribute towards the uprisings.
From the ascension of Nasser to the presidency to the onset of the Arab Spring, Egypt maintained an authoritarian political regime. This type of political system was a typical feature of many post-colonial Arab states including Iraq until the deposition of Saddam Hussein and Syria. Up until the revolution, Egypt was effectively a state headed by a president with unrivalled economic, social, military and political power. For much of his tenure as president, Mubarak used state of emergency laws to enforce his rule as he saw fit. The state explanation was that the state of emergency laws were being used to tackle Islamic militant groups within Egypt (Brownlee, 2002: 7). However, this excuse provided cover for Mubarak to 'deliberalize' the political system to systematically eliminate chances for opposition groups to gain any form of power within the country.
One notable aspect of the political system is that over time, the state did attempt to 'legitimize' authoritarianism through periodical liberalization measures such as the legalization of select opposition parties and groups (Blaydes, 2008). This allowed Mubarak to claim he was reforming the government towards what Brownlee (2002: 7) calls, 'democracy in doses.' In the late 1970s, Sadat introduced multi-party elections to Egypt that carried on into Hosni Mubarak's rule. However opposition parties had no real chance of taking power in these elections due to widespread electoral fraud and they also had little tangible power over legislative matters (Langhor, 2004). Blaydes (2008) notes that Mubarak secured seats in parliament for political allies. These allies would then reap economic benefits from their new parliamentary positions. This 'patronage' system would further solidify the strength of the regime (Koehler, 2008). Furthermore, up until the late 1990s Egypt's electoral laws were drafted with the purpose of keeping the opposition out of power. Prior to the year 2000, elections were rigged so designated unsavoury opposition groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood could not obtain seats despite their popular support (Brownlee, 2002: 8). Both Brownlee (2002: 9) and Blaydes (2008: 10) observe that voters for opposition candidates were often physically blocked from voting and intimidated by security forces. Even after elections were supposedly liberalized after 2000, Mubarak was still winning 88% of the votes in the 2005 presidential election on a 30% turnout.
Thus, whilst Mubarak and his predecessor Sadat may be seen as slightly more politically liberal than the uncompromising socialist dictatorship of Nasser, it is clear that dissatisfaction with the authoritarian political structure of Egypt was a defining factor in the tensions leading up to the revolution.
3.4 State repression:
Alongside the lack of proper democratic representation, Egypt's people were systematically and brutally oppressed by Mubarak's state apparatus. The emergency laws mentioned above were the regime's ultimate tool in obtaining control of the citizens of Egypt. Al-Sayyid (1993: 235) noted that under Mubarak's emergency laws the state could undertake the '...suspension of the constitutional rights of citizens' at any time. This allowed Mubarak to detain any suspected dissenter without charge for an indefinite period of time (Hibbard & Layton, 2011). These laws were often used to arrest and charge opposition leaders and other individuals perceived as a threat to state control. For instance, Ayman Nour, the runner up in the 2005 presidential election was arrested and jailed for three years on trumped up electoral fraud charges after he dared to suggest the election was rigged by Mubarak and his National Democratic Party (Associated Press, 2012). Kienle (2001: 102) notes that press and media restrictions were also heavily enforced by the state of emergency laws, further reducing freedom of speech and reportage. Mubarak's security forces, the State Security Investigations (SSI) were the state instrument used to carry out his repression. The SSI was notoriously brutal and carried out much extrajudicial abuse of power, summary beatings and even executions (Amnesty International, 2012). However, there is curiously little said about the security forces prior to the revolution in academic sources or the media.
3.5 Socio-economic problems:
Wealth inequality was also a substantial motive behind the eventual revolution. Like many authoritarian Arab regimes, wealth in Egypt was concentrated in the hands of the political elites. With the turn towards the West during Sadat's rule, Egypt began a process of economic liberalization and turned away from the centralized economic management of the Nasser administration. This helped to increase economic growth within the country but did little to alleviate poverty. In many cases, the gap between rich and poor increased. For instance, in the boom period of the early 1990s, the Mubarak regime was persuaded to increase spending in the private sector to the detriment of social spending to reduce inequalities (Hibbard & Layton, 2011). Also, after the involvement of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to speed up liberalization of the Egyptian economy, the number of individuals living below the poverty line in Egypt jumped from 16 percent to 28 percent from 1981 to 1991 (Kienle, 2001: 144). From Egyptian economic statistics taken just before the revolution began, over half the population lived on less than $2 a day (Reske, 2011). Thus, Egypt suffered from considerable economic injustice as a result of both authoritarian political rule and the expansion of Western style capitalism. Economic problems and mismanagement also contributed towards growing discontent. The country went through a number of different economic crises during its transition to a laissez-faire capitalist economy. In 1986, crises hit both the oil and tourism industries causing a slump in economic development (Jabber, 1986). By the early nineties the economy had recovered but it was inherently unstable. Despite some increases in foreign investment during the later Mubarak administration, rising inflation caused massive spikes in food and goods prices that affected the poor (Hinnebusch, 1993: 160). Anderson (2011) argues that over-investment in the private sector lead to a 'corroded' public sector featuring mass corruption, bribery of officials and underpaid public employees. The late 2000s global financial crisis also had a notable impact on the Egyptian economy and added to its already substantial problems. Reforms designed to bolster the economy were abandoned and foreign investment slowed down. Statistics taken before the revolution showed that unemployment in Egypt had risen to 9.7% (Reske, 2011). Combined with the previously mentioned social and political problems prevalent in Egyptian society, economic stagnation was yet another variable behind the impetus for revolution in 2011.
From this contextual background analysis it can be seen that Egypt under Mubarak was heading for disaster. The regime pushed its citizens to breaking point through denial of representation, repression, abuse of power, corruption and wealth inequality. This, coupled with Egypt's awful economic situation can be observed as catalysts for the protests of early 2011 that ended with Mubarak's fall. Now that the background to the 2011 Egyptian revolution has been clarified, this dissertation can move on to examining the revolution in greater depth whilst assessing the suitability of rationalist and reflectivist IR theories for this purpose.
The 2011 Egyptian revolution came as a surprise to many. Viewed externally, the Egyptian state looked stable. Hosni Mubarak's rule had never been seriously challenged before the Arab Spring. By the time of the revolution his rule had lasted 30 years with no major power struggles or notable revolutionary attempts. However, a closer look into Egypt's history reveals many crucial factors that seemingly pointed to the eventuality of Mubarak's fall. Before the revolution economic, social, political and religious tensions were coming together to create a storm of discontent within Egypt. Many of these factors have already been discussed in the previous section. They are only now being examined very tentatively by researchers in IR. This case study is interested in testing current IR theories to observe if they are actually able to account for the different variables and actors involved in the fall of the Mubarak regime. So far there has been almost no commentary from IR theorists on the Arab Spring, let alone on the Egyptian revolution as an individual event. Thus, this case study will use prior research from both rationalist and reflectivist theorists to assess if they are capable of providing theoretical explanations of the end of Mubarak's rule using different subject areas. It will firstly look at neorealist and neoliberal theory to observe if they can lend insight into the 'top-down' internal and external political policies of the regime and if they contributed to Mubarak's downfall. It will then investigate potential radical constructivist and post-modernist contributions towards investigating opposition groups and religion and their part in the uprisings.
4.2 Rationalist approaches towards the fall of the Mubarak regime:
4.2.1 Internal political policy of the Mubarak regime:
Both neorealist and neoliberal IR theory would hypothetically struggle to explain or account for the internal political policies of Mubarak's regime and how these policies eventually encouraged revolution. Rationalist IR theories see states in wholly external terms and for all terms and purposes they regard the state as a single homogenous entity (Baldwin, 1993). For many rationalists, as long as the state has a nominally working military and system of law, internal discord should not be a problem (Zakaria, 1992). Viewed externally prior to the 2011 revolution, Egypt seemed to be a strong and stable regional power that possessed an overall benign foreign policy. Thus, Egypt's internal political and economic policies would be ignored by the majority of rationalist theorists. This is unsurprising as both neorealist and neoliberal IR theorists would suggest that understanding Egypt's domestic politics prior to revolution is unnecessary for understanding external causational factors and implications of the revolution. The problem with this approach is that it unrealistically separates domestic and international politics. In doing so, the rationalists only have an incomplete picture of the causes behind the revolution. In contrast, Rose (1999) has highlighted a new movement of 'neoclassical realists' who restate the primacy of the structural based international view of international politics but also incorporate state and domestic based politics into their world view. This harkens back to the classical realism of Morgenthau and Aron that did not always readily discriminate between domestic and international politics (Hoffman, 1985). This means that both internal and external state based political and economic policies can be included in theoretical analysis, widening the neorealist perspective considerably. It is debatable whether neoclassical realists are actually neorealists at all given their debt to classical realism. However, neoclassical realism shows that by slightly breaking the rules of neorealism and neoliberalism to incorporate state level analyses and reduce the separation between domestic and international politics, some of the limitations of rationalist theories could be circumvented.
Unlike rationalist IR theorists, comparative political theorists and less theoretically inclined IR writers have been producing research and discussion on the internal political policies of Egypt under Mubarak for a substantial period of time. The insights produced by this research are much more useful than rationalist approaches for building up knowledge of the internal political mismanagement that helped facilitate the fall of the regime. For instance, Osman (2011), believes that Mubarak lacked the dynamism and leadership qualities of his predecessors and took a more pragmatic approach to the presidency. When corruption, repression and stagnation began to settle in, he argues that Mubarak could not command the same enthusiasm from the population as his forbearers (Osman, 2011: 11). Koelher (2008) investigated the political patronage system that allowed Mubarak to place trusted allies in power using rigged elections. This allowed Mubarak to consolidate his grip over his subordinates whilst keeping the opposition as a part of the formal electoral process. However rather than just giving false legitimacy to the political process it aggravated the opposition more and made them more determined to challenge his rule when the opportunity in 2011 arose. A further example is Karawan's (2012) study on Mubarak's relationship with the military and its role in his eventual downfall. He notes the close ties between the military and presidency have existed since Nasser's regime but this relationship changed when the uprisings began. Karawan suggests that the army decided stability and the countries future was more important than Mubarak's grip on power and this is reflected in the army's decision not to fire on civilians during the uprisings. All of this research provides persuasive causal explanations behind the internal political decline of Mubarak's regime from a top down IR perspective without the use of theory. This again highlights the gap between theory and practice in IR. It suggests that rationalist top-down theories need to integrate both domestic and international perspectives into their analyses to do this.
4.2.3 External political policy of the Mubarak regime:
To a large extent, rationalist IR theories are unable to contend with internal analyses of Mubarak's political policies and the role they played in hastening the regime's end. However, there are two different dimensions to Mubarak's policies, the external and the internal. Both neorealism and neoliberalism are in theory, better at dealing with the external dimensions of Mubarak's political and economic policies. Alterman (2005: 357) argues that the external foreign political policy of the regime, leant: "...towards the United States, economic opening and peace". In this way, Mubarak's foreign policy builds upon that of his predecessor, Sadat. For a major power in the Middle East, both Sadat and Mubarak's policies seem surprisingly low key. Stability, rather than dominance seemed to be their aim as they both maintained key alliances and relationships with Western nations whilst doing little to upset the balance of power (Alterman, 2005: 357-358). However, it is important to ask which out of the two rationalist approaches provides the more convincing explanation of Mubarak's foreign policy. For neorealists, Egypt's actions would seem illogical by their principles. It makes little strategic or geopolitical sense for Egypt to align with the West, given the closer proximity of other powers to balance with such as China and Russia (Mearsheimer, 2002). In contrast neoliberalism seems to provide a much more satisfying answer. Through neoliberal theory, it could be argued that Egypt noted the absolute gains that it would make from economic cooperation with Western states (Baldwin, 1993) It is undeniable that Egypt as a whole has benefited substantially from increased aid and investment by the West and this seems to be the major influence on both Sadat and Mubarak's foreign policy (Alterman, 2005).
At the same time, whilst neoliberal theory may be able to provide an explanation for Mubarak's foreign policy prior to the outbreak of revolution, neither rationalist theory is apt at accounting for how this external policy could of contributed to the end of the regime. To be able to do this, understanding issues of identity and historical context are essential. To many in Egypt, the close relationship Sadat and Mubarak fostered with the West was abhorrent for a number of reasons. Firstly, cooperation with Western powers meant allying with Britain, Egypt's former colonial rulers. Secondly, under both Sadat and Mubarak Egypt opened up diplomatic relations with Israel. Given Egypt's previous solidarity with the Palestinian cause, it is unsurprising that public opinion was less tolerant of this development (Howeidy, 2011). Thirdly, despite increases in wealth that Egypt gained due to its cooperation with the West, the gap between rich and poor grew and income distribution became increasingly skewed in favour of Mubarak and the political elite (Hibbard & Layton, 2011). Neither of the rationalist IR theories can account for any of these complexities as they do not take issues of identity or historical context into consideration.
4.3 Reflectivist approaches towards the fall of the Mubarak regime:
4.3.1 The opposition and its role in the end of Mubarak's regime:
It has been previously established that rationalist approaches to IR theory are strictly top-down affairs. They focus on actors such as states and in neoliberalism's case, other non-state institutions. However, in order to gain a better understanding of the fundamental causes behind the end of Mubarak's rule in Egypt, it is necessary to move away from these actors. Unlike rationalists, reflectivist IR theorists have a greater capability to investigate the organizations and individuals involved in the 2011 Egyptian revolution and their role in forcing Mubarak from power. For instance, by using radical constructivist theory it is possible to apply language based analyses of rules and norms to dissect the actions and motives of opposition groups during the revolution. The work of Fierke (2002; 2003) has been the most notable contribution of language based theory to constructivism. Unlike rationalists and mainstream constructivists she sees language as an important variable that should be noted, particularly in interactions between different actors. In her article 'Links Across the Abyss: Language and Logic in International Relations' she introduces the concept of 'speech acts', where analysis of the statements, rhetoric and dialogue by and between political actors can help determine the contextual and representational dimensions of their actions (Fierke, 2002: 347). This type of analysis could be applied to the political opposition during the revolution. It is particularly useful with regards the Muslim Brotherhood, the most visible organized political group in Egypt during the revolution. For example, it is notable how the organization's statements changed with the rapid progress of the revolution. During initial protests on the 25th of January they stated that:
"The regime in Egypt must comply with the wills of the people and conduct the required reforms, abandon the policy of intransigence and oppose the demands of the people, take serious, immediate and effective measures to achieve the required reform in all fields, stop harming protestors and release all those detained in these events and the ones before." (Muslim Brotherhood, 2011)
This statement is a clear protest for reform directed towards the Mubarak regime but it stops short of calling for regime change. Contrast this with a later statement just three days later:
"Mubarak must step down. It is time for the military to intervene and save the country." (BBC, 2011)
This statement can be seen as a response to escalating events, particularly the growing violence against protestors. Calls for reform from opposition groups turned to calls for Mubarak to resign from power as these groups recognized that the regime had no interest in change. The sudden change in rhetoric also hints at the Muslim Brotherhood seriously considering the opportunity to take power in the event of Mubarak's resignation. This foreshadows their eventual rise to power in the post-revolutionary elections.
Even a small example like this can show how radical constructivist language theory could hypothetically contribute towards a greater contextual understanding of the motives of actors in events such as the Egyptian revolution.
Much has been written about the role of larger political organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood in the revolution. However, there has been little written about smaller 'grassroots' organizational groups and individuals directly involved in the protests. As previously mentioned, some post-modernist IR theorists such as Walker (2006) have advocated for researchers to investigate these actors more closely as they often become ignored. Ashley and Walker (1990) have also argued that theoretical narratives concerning marginal actors are mostly conceived without their knowledge or input. This results in theory detached from the subject matter. The influence of Spivak's (1988) idea of the 'subaltern' is clearly felt here. She argues that Western scholars often try to write about cultural issues unfamiliar to them without consulting the actors involved in that culture or 'subaltern' themselves. Whilst Spivak was writing from a postcolonial standpoint there are evident similarities between her approach and post-modernist IR theorists. It is inevitable that the plight of individual participants of the Egyptian revolution will be consigned to sociological/social anthropological research. What post-modernist IR theorists are proposing is to integrate these individual level studies into IR using an interdisciplinary approach. Thus, cross pollination between social science disciplines is an easy way for IR theorists to integrate individual actors into wider national and international based studies.
4.3.3 The role of religion in Mubarak's demise:
Religion has been a historical source of conflict within Egypt for many years, going back to Nasser's presidency. Thus, it should be seen as a contextual factor on the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Islam is the dominant faith in Egypt but many Egyptians feel that their religion has often been repressed by secularism. Whilst Mubarak himself is a Muslim, few Egyptians saw his presidency as offering a truly Islamic society. Religion also had a direct influence on the motives of resistance based actors working within the Egyptian revolution. Major religious-political organizations that were marginalized by the Mubarak regime such as the Muslim Brotherhood became crucial actors during and after the revolution. Religion is rightly a fruitful area of study for theorists wanting to gain a better understanding of the Egyptian revolution. Given its commitment to identity, representation and culture as important investigative factors, reflectivist IR theory should have a considerable amount to say about religion in and its role during the end of Mubarak's regime. In reality, its record on discussing religion is rather poor. Post-modernist IR theorists have said very little about religion and how it can be incorporated into theory. This is striking given the amount of post-modern theory dedicated to religion outside of IR (Lyons, 2000). This is not to say that post-modernist theory does not have the capability of integrating religion into its theoretical framework in the future as, unlike rationalist theory it could do so relatively easily. Similarly there is little commitment to religion by radical constructivists. In 1998, constructivist theorist Ted Hopf (1998: 193) hoped that constructivist IR theory would be able to incorporate identity politics such as nationalism and religion into its research. So far this does not seem to have happened.
Further investigation yields extensive IR studies on religion in Egypt. However, they all operate from a distinctly non-theoretical perspective. Many of these studies show a nuance that IR theory often lacks. McCallum (2008) draws attention to the plight of the Coptic Christians who have an often fractious relationship with the Islamic population. She argues that Mubarak tried to offer both Muslims and Copts benefits to placate them. The problem with this approach is that it incensed Islamists who already felt underrepresented by the Mubarak regime. Barraclough (1998: 236) deals with the Mubarak regime's use of the Muslim institution 'Al-Azhar' to gain 'religious legitimacy' for its policies whilst also deal with radical Islamic groups. For the general population of Egypt, Mubarak's attempts to Islamify his nominally secular regime seemed like a hollow exercise in maintaining power in the face of increases in religious popularity. Both of these studies give substantial insight into a regime that could never please the religious majority in Egypt with this contributing wholesale to Mubarak's fall in the revolution. They also highlight the failure of reflectivist theories to account for religion effectively.
The findings of the case study suggests that rationalist IR theories are generally unsuitable for top-down analysis of the Mubarak regime's internal and external political policies. In contrast, reflectivist IR theories provide a decent framework for bottom-up analysis of opposition groups and their role in the uprisings. However, both reflectivist theories fail to account for religious factors which compromises their ability to deal with religions. All of these findings support both parts of the thesis.
The previous case study above has shown that reflectivist IR theories are more relevant and useful than rationalist theories when investigating the end of Mubarak's rule following the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Developing on this, the present case study will attempt to chart whether rationalist and reflectivist IR theories can account for the crucial role of information technology during the revolution. It is clear that the rapid advances in technology during the late 20th century to the present day have opened up new frontiers for those participating in civil and political resistance. The Arab Spring as a whole has demonstrated how this technology can be harnessed to spread and share resistance between active participants and also with the rest of the world. In particular, the participants in the Egyptian revolution have been noted in the media for their revolutionary use of information technology such as the internet and social media to further their cause and eventually triumph over the Mubarak regime. The use of this technology in recent acts of resistance poses many potentially interesting angles and questions for debate and investigation for IR theorists including surrounding globalization, censorship and power. This case study will firstly investigate the role of information technology in the revolution as a development of globalization using both rationalist and reflectivist theories. It will then examine the importance of social media as an instrument of power and resistance for participants during the revolution using reflectivist theories before summarizing overall findings.
5.2 'Technological globalization', resistance and the 2011 Egyptian revolution:
5.2.1 'Technological globalization' information technology in the 2011 Egyptian revolution:
To a certain degree, the use of information technology in the 2011 Egyptian revolution can be seen as a cornerstone within the narrative of 'technological globalization'. This is a concept highlighted by the post-modernist theorist Peter Marcuse (2000: 23-24) that specifically relates to the close relationship between developing information technology and the wider process of globalization. Globalization has undoubtedly been a driving force behind the increased political, economic and social connectivity between different areas of world. These connected processes are heavily reliant on information technology for their development and expansion. Technological globalization has made it easier for states, MNC's, IGO's and other institutions to operate on a global scale. More importantly for this case study, it has also immensely benefited resistance movements who can now easily spread their message globally. The internet is the centrepiece of technological globalization and the advent of 'Web 2.0' has had wide implications for the organization, coordination and promotion of civil, social and political resistance. Web 2.0 sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Tumblr and other web blogs allow resistance groups to share their experiences with the world via audio, video or text and obtain instant feedback. Most, if not all of the individual uprisings that have compromised the Arab Spring have utilized these web tools to one extent or another (Khondker, 2012). However the Egyptian revolution has arguably displayed this on a much larger scale than the other uprisings constituting the Arab Spring. Hundreds of blogs and Twitter accounts can be found on internet archives chronicling the revolution at its every stage (Archive-IT, 2013). Similarly, a search for 'Egyptian Revolution 2011' on Youtube yields hundred of thousands of uploaded videos, many clearly showing audio-visual eyewitness documentation of the revolution (Youtube, 2011). This shows that methods of resistance are changing and perhaps this democratization of information helped contribute to the rapid progression and success of the revolution.
5.2.2 'Technological globalization' and IR theory - Ignorance and struggle:
The 2011 Egyptian revolution shows the rising importance of new information technologies in acts of resistance as a development of globalization. Despite this, most IR theory either ignores technological globalization or struggles to account for it in a meaningful way. Neorealism is the most notable offender in this regard as it fails to engage with any form of globalization at all. Waltz (1999) sees all forms of globalization as a 'fad' and argues that they have little overall bearing on the actions of states or the constitution of the international system. This opinion is widely shared with other neorealists including Gilpin (1984) and Mearsheimer (2002). This attitude towards globalization highlights the tendency of neorealists to overlook any actors or concepts that do not fit with their narrow parameters. Unlike neorealism, neoliberalism can account for globalization and technological development to a certain extent. The idea of increasingly interconnected global information networks fits well with Keohane and Nye's (2001) idea of complex interdependence. At the same time, neoliberalism only really pays lip service towards globalization theory and their theorists do not make convincing attempts to actively engage with empirical examples. For instance, Kay (2004) has attempted to integrate globalization properly into neoliberal theory but only on a international/institutional based level and he has not engaged with the technological or resistance based aspects relevant to this case study.
Radical constructivism has also had surprisingly little to say regarding technology and globalization. Out of the main theorists working within radical constructivism, only Risse (2004) in his article 'Social Constructivism Meets Globalization' has engaged fully with globalization as a notable topic of investigation. Using radical constructivist theory he deconstructs the stereotypical idea of globalization as an all encompassing 'anonymous' universal force and reveals many of the contradictions and generalizations of the concept. For instance, he notes that globalization is a much more interactive process than given credit for and different actors help to 'remake' globalization through social action (Risse, 2004: 14-15). However, he has little to say about the impact of globalization on civil or political resistance. Like rationalist theorists he seems to only concentrate on noticeable international actors such as states, IGO's and MNC's. Thus, Risse falls into the same trap as rationalists in concentrating on the wider international scale whilst ignoring smaller actors such as resistance groups. Finally, he also omits discussion on technological globalization as he only discusses the concept of globalization as a whole.
5.2.3 Post-modernism, 'technological globalization' and 'virtual politics':
From the above discussion it could be argued that neorealism, neoliberalism and radical constructivism will not engage satisfactorily with the idea of technological globalization. On the other hand, post-modernist IR theorists have much to say on this subject. Technology, resistance and globalization are commonly discussed topics within current post-modernist literature. It could even be argued that much of this theorizing has foreshadowed the impact of technological globalization on events such as the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Post-modernist theorists such as Langman and Morris (2002) and Poster (1997) have developed a subfield of post-modernist IR, political and sociological theory named 'virtual politics' that discusses the impact of globalized technological advancement on politics and resistance. Poster (1997: 215) argues that the internet could allow for resistance groups and movements to become decoupled from existing political institutions due to its decentralized nature. He predicts that the internet would allow those who have never had a voice before in politics to gain one and it allows participants in resistance to speak beyond political structures (Poster, 1997: 215-216). This is definitely true in the case of the Egyptian revolution. Many groups and individuals not linked to specific political organizations used the internet as a tool for mobilization and organization. An example of these groups include the 'We Are Khaled Said' movement that was formed by the Google worker Wael Ghonim on Facebook in protest to the unlawful extra-judicial killing of a man named Khaled Said by police in Alexandria (Ghonim, 2012). Any Egyptian with access to Facebook could join the group, view and share information and voice their own opinions. By the end of the revolution, We Are Khaled Said defined the revolution as much as organized political groups such as Mohamed ElBaradei's National Association for Change (NAC) or the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore, post-modernist theorists have predicted the impact of technological globalization on events such as the Egyptian Revolution substantially ahead of their time.
5.3 Social media as an instrument of power and resistance during the 2011 Egyptian revolution:
5.3.1 Social media in the Egyptian revolution - A brief summary:
One of the major success stories of the 2011 Egyptian revolution was the use of social media. Whilst touched upon in the previous section, it deserves greater analyses and investigation, especially as it has been the intense focus of both media reports and the small amount of available academic research on the Arab Spring. How and why did social media become such a large focal point during the revolution? Before applying theory to look at this question a brief summary of the impact of social media on the revolution should be made. A look at the American University of Cairo's web archive of blogs, Twitter feeds and websites pertaining to the revolution shows how connected the uprisings were to social media and the internet (Archive-IT, 2013). Arguably at the forefront of this wave of social media were web blogs allowing ordinary Egyptians to keep online diaries of the events of the revolution to share with the world. Prominent examples of blogs include Arabawy.org (2011) run by Hossam el-Hamalawy who gained a substantial following as well as being mentioned by mainstream news sources such as the Guardian (2012). The blog, 1000 Memories of Egypt (2011) is also notable in that it kept note of protestors killed by the government during the uprisings using photos and descriptions of their deaths where available. Whilst blogs may have been the most cohesive way for Egyptians to keep the world updated about the revolution, Youtube, Twitter and Facebook allowed up to the minute eyewitness coverage of events through audio, video and text. As well as this, these social media sites provided a clearer set of networked hubs for Egyptian activists to keep connected with each other during the course of the revolution (Khondker, 2012). As previously mentioned, the highly influential We Are Khaled Said movement began as a Facebook group ran by Wael Ghonim, a marketing manager for Google Egypt. Ghonim (2012) would become one of the most visible activists and eyewitnesses to what happened in the revolution, with his book 'Revolution 2.0' bringing the events of the revolution to a much wider worldwide audience.
5.3.2 Foucauldian resistance and social media in the 2011 Egyptian revolution:
What can IR theory say about the role of social media in the Egyptian revolution? Unsurprisingly, most IR theories have very little to offer in this area as it requires individual and group levels of analysis that cannot be reconciled with their theoretical limitations. Helpfully, post-modernist IR theory does have the potential to investigate social media in Egypt. Much of this theory is heavily steeped in the work of the post-structuralist philosopher Michel Foucault. One of Foucault's main contributions to post-structuralist/post-modernist thought are his theories concerning power and resistance. Using Foucauldian theory it is possible to see the role of social media in the revolution as an instrument of power for civil and political activists against the current power structures within Egypt. Foucault himself too a rather pessimistic view of resistance. He saw resistance to power structures as largely futile due to the hardwired strength of those structures whether they be state governments or Western neoliberal economic and political hegemony (Pickett, 1996; Walker, 1999). Thus, he did not believe that social movements could succeed on a wide scale. As Walker (1999: 136) puts it social movements are viewed as 'mosquitoes' against dominant power structures and are an irritant at best. He did note that power structures can be challenged and subverted by resistance movements to win small but still significant victories (Foucault, 1999). Foucault's main point still stands that resistance cannot have a significant impact on embedded power structures.
However, it is important to remember that Foucault was writing in the 1960's and 1970's when easy access to media was very seldom available for ordinary protestors at this time. Of course, protests in those decades were successful in gaining attention and publicity for their causes but there was a lack of visibility for everyday acts of resistance particularly away from organized mass protests. In this age of social media this trend seems to have changed as social media and the internet have democratized networks of resistance. The internet cannot be policed the same way as Tahir Square in Cairo or the streets of Alexandria. Uploads and posts to social media sites can be seen around the world and archived in a matter of seconds after they are published. The 'everyday' activist is also represented through social media better than any television or news print media. A Youtube video from the 27th of January 2011 shows a montage of the uprisings in action, activists speaking out and violence against protestors by police and security forces crudely set to music (Youtube, 2011). It has been viewed over two and a half million times and has featured over 17,000 comments. This shows how a simple upload to a social media site by an individual activist can have a wide global exposure. It could be argued that through social media, the Egyptian revolution has transcended the Foucauldian view of resistance.
5.3.3 'Virtual' post-modernist IR theory, government censorship and social media in the 2011 Egyptian revolution:
The work of post-modernist IR theorist James Der Derian (1990, 2009) is also particularly useful in examining the role of social media on the Egyptian revolution and framing it in a wider context. He is a scholar of the American virtual theorist and sociologist Paul Virilio and his integrated many of Virilio's ideas into an IR theoretical framework. Der Derian's (2000: 776) article 'Virtuous War/Virtual Theory' asks, "Is virtualization, not globalization turning the virtual tide?" His studies centre around US military hegemony and the use of technology such as drones, computer guided missiles and other non-combatant methods to conduct wars. However he also believes that the technological control of information is just as important as advances in military capability in conflict. In his book 'Virtuous War' he argues that information technology is a vital support of power structures for hegemonic powers including states and cultural hegemonic blocs (Der Derian, 2009). He expands the idea of Foucault's power nexus by incorporating the importance of technology and media as another tool for states to maintain their power. His case is compelling when looking at some empirical evidence. For instance, the 'Great Firewall of China' helps to maintain authoritarian control in China via filtering out unsuitable material on the internet. In Western nations, Der Derian (2005) argues that images of terror and violence are used by TV, newspaper and internet media to maintain a culture of fear amongst the population. Controlling the flow of information is thus another network of power that allows states to maintain control over their citizens.
How do Der Derian's theories fit with the role of social media in the 2011 Egyptian revolution? One answer is that there is much evidence to suggest that the government actively tried to censor social media during the revolution. Dunn (2012) notes that the Mubarak government's strategy first included blocking access to Facebook and Twitter and deleted blogs that criticized the government. Further on in the revolution's timeline, they tried to limit internet connections and mobile phone access altogether in order to stop activists organizing and mobilizing using social media (Dunn, 2012: 20-21). This shows how desperate Mubarak was to control the flow of information in Egypt. At the same time, the regime could easily dictate the content of traditional media such as TV, newsprint and radio but the power of social media in the hands of the people was unstoppable. Many found ways to circumvent the limitations placed on them by the government through proxy connections and web archives (Ghonim, 2012). This all poses a question for Der Derian's theory - how governments can police the internet in order to control resistance? Whilst he believes that states can also use the internet to supply information that fits their own agendas, the internet itself is beyond the scope of complete government control. A full monopoly on the internet can only be achieved in completely isolated societies such as North Korea. Furthermore, social media has made state attempts to censor even more futile as Web 2.0 sites allow interactivity and projection to much larger audiences than earlier websites. In conclusion, Der Derian's theory clearly matches the strategy of the Egyptian government during the revolution but vitally ignores the inability of states to maintain control over the internet and social media.
Information technology and its impact on the 2011 Egyptian revolution is a topic that challenges both rationalist and reflectivist IR theories to their limits. Neorealism, neoliberalism and radical constructivism could not or would not face the subject at all. However, post-modernist IR theory managed to engage with the role of information technology in the Egyptian revolution including both the concept of 'technological globalization' and the use of social media in the uprisings.
The 2011 Egyptian revolution was
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