One of the most momentous events in the Arab uprisings that swept across the Middle East in 2011 was the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. As dramatic and sudden as this seemed, it was only one further episode in an ongoing power struggle between the three components of Egypt’s authoritarian regime: the military, the security services, and the government. A detailed study of the interactions within this invidious triangle over six decades of war, conspiracy, and sociopolitical transformation, Soldiers, Spies, and Statesmen is the first systematic analysis of recent Egyptian history.
This paperback edition, updated to incorporate events in 2013, provides the background necessary to understanding how the military rebranded itself as the defender of democracy and ousted Mubarak’s successor, Muhammad Morsi. Impeccably researched and filled with intrigue, Soldiers, Spies, and Statesmen is an indispensable guide for anyone trying to fathom what this latest development means for Egypt’s future.
I will say once again that I think that the fundamental figure of contemporary oppression is finitude. The strategic axis of this seminar is to provide the means for a critique of the contemporary world by identifying something within its propaganda, activity etc. at whose centre is the imposition of finitude, that is to say, the exclusion of the infinite from humanity’s possible set of horizons. At each session, from now up until the end of the year, I want to give you an example of the way in which something taking place today, or some commonplace or constantly used category, can be represented as a figure or operation of reduction to finitude. As such, each of these things can be encapsulated in terms of the general oppressive vision of finitude.
Today I would like to take the example of Ukraine, the way in which the historic events in Ukraine serve the propagandist consensus that both constitutes and envelops it (at our next sessions I will address two connected notions, which are similarly hegemonic and bask in consensus: the notions of the republic and of secularism – and what I call false invariants: what is assumed to be an invariant, a commonplace of thought, and even a proof of what it is that unites us).
As tumultuous events in Egypt unfold at speed, with former President Morsi currently in custody, we present Verso's updated reading list of key titles and articles addressing the challenges facing Egypt and the Middle East.
Seamus Milne considers the current situation in Egypt in the context of the Arab Spring and its historical precedents in the "Spring of Nations" of 1848 in his latest article for the Guardian. His latest book, The Revenge of History, follows the events of the Arab Spring as they unfold, as well as providing a rich geopolitical context for the uprisings.
The Journey to Tahrir: Revolution, Protest, and Social Change in Egypt
Edited by Jeannie Sowers and Chris Toensing
The account of how it all began, this collection of reports from the region details the causes that underpinned the revolution before it amassed in scale. Starting with the eighteen days of protest in the lead up to Mubarak’s resignation, it is a first hand account of the collective dissent of workers, anti-war activists and campaigners for social change.
Soldiers, Spies and Statesmen: Egypt's Road to Revolt
by Hazem Kandil
When the military turned against Mubarak, so too did the revolt, from outbursts of protest to full on revolution. Hazem Kandil challenges the siding of the military with the people, instead documenting the power struggle between the three components of Egypt’s authoritarian regime: the military, the security services, and the political apparatus. Analysing what it means for Egypt to transition from military to police state, Kandil looks toward future revolution.
In an article in the Guardian on the recent events in Egypt, Kandil explains why liberal western critics can't simply say: "I told you so."
You can also read an interview with Kandil in New Left Review on the Egyptian revoution.
Kandil’s analysis of post-revolt politics here is grounded in the feeling that “it is clear that the uprising fell short of its declared goal of overthrowing the regime.” The deeply entrenched tripartite alliance between the military, security, and political institutions held a strong preventive grip on revolutionary movements before the revolt, and they remained in place in the post-revolt police state. Kandil then hones in on the various ways Egypt is witnessing a “moment that is neither a relapse to politics as usual nor the emergence of a new regime, but rather the reconstitution of the power balance within the ruling bloc.”
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