In This Review

The State in North Africa: After the Arab Uprisings
The State in North Africa: After the Arab Uprisings
By Luis Martinez. Translated by Cynthia Schoch
Oxford University Press, 2020, 221 pp

Martinez, one of France’s most reliable analysts of North Africa, has crafted a succinct overview of politics on the Mediterranean’s southern shore since the uprisings that rattled the Arab world in 2010–11. He argues that many of the problems that afflict the region were already present when countries there gained independence. He also suggests that all of the region’s governments confront societies that are far more diverse economically, regionally, and ethnically than the official rhetoric would suggest. Deprived of the unity forged by anticolonial struggles elsewhere, North African regimes have had a hard time fashioning national identities that would sustain social cohesion, political legitimacy, and secure borders. In their own ways, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia have all fallen victim to a toxic mix of rapid population growth and high unemployment and have seen many of their citizens swayed by the Islamist promise that “Islam is the solution.” Martinez does not highlight the responsibility that the governments themselves bear in creating this poisonous atmosphere as much as he might; after all, elite corruption, incompetence, and delusions of grandeur play an important role in explaining popular discontent. Nonetheless, this is a good survey of the challenges confronting each of these countries today.