Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak

In This Review

Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak
By Tarek Osman
Yale University Press, 2011
304 pp. $20.00
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Published a short time before thousands of Egyptians began pouring into Cairo's Tahrir Square, Egypt on the Brink is a timely account of Egypt near the end of the 30-year Mubarak era. It is presented thematically, rather than chronologically, and one of the most intriguing themes is the notion that whereas Egypt in the age of liberal nationalism (the 1920s and 1930s) and the Nasser years (1952-70) had a regional standing and a sense of national purpose, Hosni Mubarak's regime lost both this standing and this purpose as it devolved into a dreary despotism. Yet Osman writes with neither nostalgia nor disdain. Separate chapters discuss the Islamists, the Christians, the rise of liberal capitalism, and Egypt's youth. Even the conclusion, which speculates on who and what regime would replace Mubarak, now overtaken by events, offers useful thoughts on Egypt's distinctive politics.