The Egyptians: A Radical History of Egypt’s Unfinished Revolution

In This Review

The Egyptians: A Radical History of Egypt’s Unfinished Revolution
By Jack Shenker
New Press, 2016
560 pp.

This is not remotely a history, but it is a lively account full of vignettes that capture a good deal of contemporary Egypt. Shenker, a former correspondent for The Guardian, sees the country as locked in a struggle between neoliberal reforms and the revolutionary impulses of ordinary people ground down by international capitalism and its agents in the deep state. He issues quite a few Olympian judgments that brook no dissent, as when he declares that “neoliberalism is a political project and its implementation always involves a mass transfer from the poor to the rich.” But Shenker is also an eloquent witness to several of Egypt’s beleaguered communities—peasants, factory workers, bloggers, women, gays—who were momentarily liberated by the uprising of 2011. Only one Islamist, a jovial Salafist, slips into the narrative. Shenker seems to view Islamism as one of the many guises that the oppressed don to face their oppressors. His main message is that the forces of revolution are loose in the land: the movement that toppled Hosni Mubarak was only the opening salvo.