The revolutionary wave that swept the Middle East in 2011 was marked by spectacular mobilization, spreading within and between countries with extraordinary speed. Several years on, however, it has caused limited shifts in structures of power, leaving much of the old political and social order intact. In this book, noted author Asef Bayat—whose Life as Politics anticipated the Arab Spring—uncovers why this occurred, and what made these uprisings so distinct from those that came before.
Revolution without Revolutionaries is both a history of the Arab Spring and a history of revolution writ broadly. Setting the 2011 uprisings side by side with the revolutions of the 1970s, particularly the Iranian Revolution, Bayat reveals a profound global shift in the nature of protest: as acceptance of neoliberal policy has spread, radical revolutionary impulses have diminished. Protestors call for reform rather than fundamental transformation. By tracing the contours and illuminating the meaning of the 2011 uprisings, Bayat gives us the book needed to explain and understand our post–Arab Spring world.
About the author
Asef Bayat is the Catherine and Bruce Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies and Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East (Stanford, 2009, 2013) and Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn (Stanford, 2007).
"An astute analyst of the Middle East, Asef Bayat is one of the very few researchers equipped to historicize the region's contemporary uprisings. In Revolution without Revolutionaries, he deftly and sympathetically employs his own observations of Iran, immediately before and after the 1979 revolution, to reflect on the epochal shifts that have re-worked the political regimes, economic structures, and revolutionary imaginaries across the region today."
—Arang Keshavarzian, New York University
"Asef Bayat is in the vanguard of a subtle and original theorization of social movements and social change in the Middle East. His attention to the lives of the urban poor, his extensive field work in very different countries within the region, and his ability to see over the horizon of current paradigms make his work essential reading."
—Juan Cole, University of Michigan
"Asef Bayat provocatively questions the Arab Spring's apparent moderation, tracing its softness to decades of neoliberalism that have undermined the national state and discarded old-fashioned forms of revolutionary violence. This groundbreaking book is not an obituary for the Arab Spring but a hopeful glimpse at its future."
—Olivier Roy, author of The Failure of Political Islam
"[T]his is a serious book that compares and explains the differences between previous Middle East and global revolutions and those of the last decade. A good scholarly contribution. Recommended"
—J. P. Dunn, Choice
"Asef Bayat's impressive Revolution Without Revolutionaries tries to explain why nearly all the exhilarating uprisings in the Middle East eventually failed...Bayat is not the first scholar to tackle this issue, the field of Middle East studies having offered up its share of autopsies, but his lucid and readable account does provide the most plausible explanation. In the end, revolutions cannot succeed without leaders who have spent decades in oppositional politics honing their ideology and sharpening their strategy."
"Asef Bayat, famed for his Life as Politics (2010, 2013), presents us with a rich theoretical and empirical study of the 2011 revolutions colloquially known as the "Arab Spring" in Revolution without Revolutionaries...Bayat, an Iran-born, US-based sociologist from a working-class background who has a deep observational capacity to see and remember things as they unfolded in his own - first village - and then in the working-class Tehran neighbourhood where he grew up...The book would be of great value to scholars interested in revolutions, social movements, graduate students, and researchers of the Middle East politics."
—Habibul Haque Khondker, Canadian Journal of Sociology
"...[T]his book not only provides a persuasive account of the Arab Spring and its aftermath, but it demonstrates the trajectory of social movements and activism under neoliberal hegemony on a global scale. It is an accessible and engaging read, one that will benefit activists as well as social movement scholars."
—Simin Fadaee, Social Movement Studies
"This is the kind of book that gives you an appetite to read it from cover to cover on a park bench or a beach. Revolutions without Revolutionaries deals with regions of the world that continue to dominate news headlines of major news outlets and which politicians build careers demonizing. The author brings an unprecedented, distinct perspective to elucidate and analyze the misconstrued perceptions and representations of these largely unknown Middle East and North Africa (MENA) states. He is a keen observer of the social and political life in its complexities and dynamism."
—Sam Cherribi, Social Forces