In This Review

The Arab Winter: A Tragedy
The Arab Winter: A Tragedy
By Noah Feldman
Princeton University Press, 2020, 216 pp.

Feldman, a legal scholar, analyzes the events of the 2010–11 Arab Spring and its aftermath at a high level of abstraction. In his view, the revolts represented the first time Arabs rose up against their leaders, replacing the unity of Arab states with the unity of Arab peoples. But it’s not entirely clear whom he’s referring to when he writes about “the Arab people.” In one brief aside, Feldman describes “the people” as the intelligentsia and “the ordinary middle class” who led the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere. But many other groups were involved in the movements that toppled governments in 2011. Feldman misconstrues the dynamics of the social contract in Arab autocracies, claims that the Syrian uprising was inherently violent even though it was initially peaceful, and insists that the Egyptian people invited the armed forces to topple the democratically elected government of the Muslim Brotherhood in June 2013. But the book is still worthwhile because Feldman challenges readers to rethink what happened in 2011.