In December 2010, the whole Arab world was changed when a desperate Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire after local police officers in the peripheral rural town of Sidi Bouzid had mistreated him and confiscated his wares. The young man died after a few days but his act sparked the Arab revolutions, which swept across Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Morocco, Syria and other Arab countries. The unprecedented popular movements had toppled, though in different ways, authoritarian leaders including Zine El Abidine Bin Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, and Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya.
In this article, I review the causal factors of the Arab Spring as perceived by scholars who applied qualitative methods (Weyland, 2013; Travis, 2012) or quantitative methods (García-Rivero, 2013; Archilov, 2013).
Qualitative approach to unterstand the Arab Spring
This section will summarize two articles that applied qualitative methods to analyze the causes of the Arab Spring. The first article uses a heuristic case study to explain the parallel between the Arab Spring movement and the 1848 “Springtime of the Peoples” in Europe, and to demonstrate the process of decision-making among participants in social movements within suppressed societies (Weyland, 2013). The second article uses a comparative approach that contrasts the socio-economic conditions in different states in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with a far-reaching focus on security issues and the responsibility of the UN to prevent potential genocides (Travis, 2012).
The Arab Spring: Why the Surprising Similarities with the Revolutionary Wave of 1848?
Kurt Weyland (2013) analyzes causal mechanisms that help to demonstrate the surprising similarities between the Arab Spring of 2011 and the "Springtime of the Peoples" in 1848. The author uses a heuristic case study to draw generalizable relations out of the similarities between the two waves, which share important features especially the dramatic speed, the swift diffusion across the whole regions and the disappointing outcomes. The author contends that the conventional frameworks are not fully adequate to study the parallels between 1848 and 2011. In order to elucidate the reason for applying cognitive heuristics as a methodological approach, Weyland reveals the weakness of three conventional approaches that have been applied by other scholars to analyze the causal factors of the Arab Spring in 2011. The first approach emphasizes the crucial role of common causes, such as the critical level of youth unemployment, economic crises that resulted from the liberalization of social economy and its impact over the social classes, and the...