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More than two years after the January 25 revolution in Egypt people are still waiting for the change they thought would follow, after the ousting of former dictator Hosni Mubarak. Despite the changes brought about by the revolution, which first-and-foremost included the so-called fall of Mubarak’s military regime, the real change is still to be seen. The fall of Mubarak’s regime was followed by a range of democratic elections, where both women and youth remarkably went to the voting polls in big numbers. And a new president was voted into office. However, the world, not least the Egyptians themselves, is still left to see a change in the social structures of the Egyptian society. Changes, which can complete the revolution that became world-famous as its role in the Arab spring.
Theda Skocpol once remarked that revolutionary social changes does not primarily occur as a consequence of individuals’ actions but because of major, significant changes within the social structure. In other words, according to Skocpol, the revolution does not take place before a modification on a basic level, related to the overall condition of the society, such as economy and class structures, can be identified. This will only happen, she argues, when something happens to the structures themselves. And as most of us know, that is still to be witnessed in Egypt, where the amount of people living below the poverty rate has increased; the gap between rich and poor has not declined, the unemployment rate is higher than ever; the economy is continuously getting more challenged and human rights are still not to be found on the ruling party’s agenda.
Thus even though the Egyptians have put an incredible effort into keeping the revolution alive by continuously demonstrating to show their disappointment and lacking support to the new ruling party, consisting of Islamists with the Muslim Brotherhood in the leading position, obtaining its major support from the Salafi party, Al Nour, they can only be part of a major change as members of a structured social position.
That, however, seems disheartening, as the opposition, which could be the basis for such a ‘structured social position’, appears to be everything but structured. From such a perspective a lot of Egyptians do not have the surplus energy to unite and create alternative groups that potentially could fulfil the role as this structured social position, which possibly could challenge the current social structures with the aim to complete the revolution. They simply have enough anxieties worrying about bread feeding children and other family members, that nothing is left to focus on how to change the social structures.
Consequently, several youths are revolting in a savage attempt to show their resistance towards Egypt’s new regime. Nevertheless it must be stressed that far from all Egyptians show their frustration in this way: Some are depressed to an extent that they believe nothing can ever change their miserable situation, for which reason migration seems as the most appealing solution:
“The political situation [was] the main drive for them to go [to emigrate] because they feel that there is no hope. There is no change,”
- one man said, in an interview conducted for my MA thesis, about his friends who have migrated to Canada after the 25 January revolution. Others are trying their best to find stability within the structures of a country that currently comes across as very instable and chaotic, not leaving much hope for the vast majority of the citizens. Yet others do not really feel a difference between the time under Mubarak and this ‘new Egypt’.
All this shows the reality of the social structures related to socio-economical class relationships that can be found in every society, and in Egypt to a great extent. These class structures indicate how the social opportunities, such as income and other sources associated with wealth, are divided between different groups of the society. Thus the access to such sources seems to be frightening linked to the social position of the group one belongs to. In this way the social structures are often maintained by the poor and marginalised too, as they often tend to believe that they do not have other chances in life than what is their current status quo.
Meanwhile the people, who are rich and privileged, and benefiting from the corruption and inequality, seem likely not to be that eager for major changes in the social structures, as one of the respondents for my research remarked:
“I feel bad when I get advantage of anything like this [the corruption]. (…) for my job it is hard because we have a lot of connections so I can get use of that but I feel bad about it. I don’t want to use it [his connections], I want to go as a normal citizen and get my rights. That’s it! (…) but my chance or my force; I am forced to do this [use his connections] because suppose I am going to do something, maybe that would waist a lot of my time, I don’t want to waist my time, so I have to use my influence so they [his connections] can help me out with this.”
Frustrations derived from the feeling that the hope for a different, better, future, most Egyptians saw two years ago, are slipping away. Egyptians take to the streets, if not for the change they long for, then at least in an unsuccessful attempt to gain a minimum of respect with the idea: “If I cannot succeed in this system, I can at least leave my mark, trying to tier down the system that made me the failure I am!”
In conclusion, it can be highlighted that for the revolution to be finalised successfully, Skocpol suggests we need the opposition to form the structured social position that can take on a leading role in the fight for changes within the social structures of the Egyptian society. On that note, it can only be hoped that the parties and individuals represented in the opposition make their greatest effort in organising themselves better for the upcoming parliamentary elections than what have been the alarming case so far.
The article’s theoretical approach has been inspired by: Lemert, Charles. Social Forhold – En indføring i det sociologiske liv (pp. 128-142). Translated by Annika Dahl Ebert. Narayana Press. Denmark. 1997-2004.
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