The Systemic Disintegration of Mubarak’s Neo-liberal Authoritarianism

Stream: Panel 20 - Comparative Politics: Authoritarian Politics in the Modern World 
Date: Monday, 26 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


The fall of Mubarak’s regime in the Arab Spring of 2011 was the combined effect of neo-liberal economic reform and the politics of authoritarian survival. In contrast to the Washington Consensus expectation, however, his ousting was not the result of marketisation provoking popular political demands, but, as I argue in this paper, of causing contention between state institutions, in three systemic stages. First, marketisation favoured a foreign-capital intensive service sector over a labour intensive manufacturing industry. As a result, unemployment frustrated middle class aspirations, sending many into an informal economy inhabited by a burgeoning class of urban poor. Second, Mubarak awarded the new comprador business elite political power as exclusive regime clients, while policing the urban poor to suppress collective economic and political claims. Consequently, the interior ministry’s state security grew to unprecedented size. Third, the troika of business, security, and politics deprived the armed forces of the domestic political power it had previously enjoyed. Relying again on the market, Mubarak placated the military by conferring commercial opportunities to it. This set the military against the state security-business coalition, while making it a self-sufficient autonomous state institution, to which the president ultimately became dispensable. When the urban poor class was big enough, it naturally had a partner in the armed forces to unseat Mubarak’s troika. However, as this paper will argue, as long as the market remains slanted in favour of a new clientelist business elite, no just and free society on the Nile will come from the Arab Spring.


Gijs Verbossen (Presenter), La Trobe University
Gijs Verbossen is a PhD candidate and lecturer in the department of politics and international relations of La Trobe University, Melbourne. His research focusses on the relation between the political economy, institutionalisation of power, and social contract in Middle Eastern authoritarian states.