When we think about the long term impact of the Arab Spring what comes to mind first is failure and disaster. With the notable exception of Tunisia, every uprising ended in bloodshed or renewed authoritarianism — or both.
But that is not the full story.
In his new book The Arab Winter: A Tragedy, Noah Feldman maps some of the enduring political consequences of the Arab Spring. He argues that it abruptly ended some long term trends that had shaped the history of the region in the decades prior.
For one, the Arab Spring signaled the end of experiments in various Arab nationalisms in the region. For example, “Libyan” is no longer a particularly relevant political identity today. Noah Feldman also argues that it ended what is known as “political Islam” or “Islamism” as a driving force in the region. This is the idea that Islam should be the key organizing principle for political decision making and be integrated directly into regular politics. That idea, argues Noah Feldman, died with the end of the Arab Spring and the coming of the Arab Winter.
We discuss all these trends and more in this conversation.
Noah Feldman is an author and constitutional scholar who is the Felix Frankfurter professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He also hosts the Deep Background Podcast.