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Political Change in the Middle East and North AfricaAfter the Arab Spring$
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Inmaculada Szmolka

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474415286

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474415286.001.0001

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The Arab Spring changes under the prism of international relations theory

The Arab Spring changes under the prism of international relations theory

(p.38) Chapter 2 The Arab Spring changes under the prism of international relations theory
Political Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Rafael Bustos

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter analyses what the political transformations following the Arab Spring mean from the perspective of different International Relations theories: neo-realism, institutionalism, social constructivism and critical theories.  The chapter first points to the direct effects of foreign policy intervention in transitions to democracy worldwide, including the MENA region, notwithstanding the traditional support some non-democratic or aggressive regimes have received from consolidated democracies.   Second, the chapter reviews the work of a number of prestigious International Relations’ scholars on the Arab Spring and reviews how leading International Relations journals of different theoretical leaning have treated the Arab Spring in the period 2011-15. The chapter illustrates how similar topics are treated in each theory in rather inverted ways. While neo-realists do not focus on the Arab Spring itself but rather on the possible threats that derive from it and their consequences, critical theorists reverse the analysis and locate it in the economic causes and implications of armed interventions as well as the excessive processes of vigilance and control. If liberals engage in a debate on the defence of the R2P doctrine, constructivists are more aware of the contradictory effects of democratic diffusion and cognitive uncertainty. Finally, the chapter concludes on the prospects and need within International Relations for further theoretical development on the Arab Spring.

Keywords:   Political change, International Relations theories, Neo-Realism, Institutionalism, Social Constructivism, Decolonial studies, Arab Spring, Institutional liberalism, Democratisation waves, Regional rivalry

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