In This Review

Bread and Freedom: Egypt’s Revolutionary Situation
Bread and Freedom: Egypt’s Revolutionary Situation
By Mona El-Ghobashy
Stanford University Press, 2021, 392 pp

With an unusual command of detail and an uncommon facility with social science theory, El-Ghobashy recounts the years of upheaval in Egypt between the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak and the 2014 election of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. She argues against the twin temptations to uncover a definitive cause of the turmoil and to predict an obvious outcome. Instead, El-Ghobashy stresses the uncertainty of those years—the “revolutionary situation” of her subtitle—and insists on examining the “struggle to rearrange power within the state” as it happened. She analyzes protests, elections, and, perhaps most surprising, the courts as mechanisms of political contestation, emphasizing the volatility of collective action and the contingency of alliances. During those years, Egyptians of all persuasions resorted to litigation, and judges affirmed, struck down, rejected, and restored constitutional provisions, legislative rules, and government decrees with ingenuity and authority. As El-Ghobashy elegantly shows, it is small wonder that the politics of those years seemed so confusing and uncertain. They were, for actors and observers alike—and she provides much welcome clarity.