History slips sideways


Amid chaos and uncertainty, the Islamists alone offer a familiar, authentic vision for the future. They might fail or falter, but who will pick up the mantle? Liberal forces have a weak lineage, slim popular support, and hardly any organizational weight. Remnants of the old regime are familiar with the ways of power yet they seem drained and exhausted. If instability spreads, if economic distress deepens, they could benefit from a wave of nostalgia. But they face long odds, bereft of an argument other than that things used to be bad, but now are worse. That leaves an assortment of nationalists, anti-imperialists, old-fashioned leftists, and Nasserites. Theirs was the sole legitimate ideology in the Arab world, invoked by those who fought colonialism and by those who replaced the colonial powers. Similar ideas have been invoked too, unwittingly but unmistakably, by the demonstrators and protesters of these past months who spoke of dignity, independence, and social justice, and thus borrowed from the same ideological lexicon as those they eventually ousted.

more from Hussein Agha and Robert Malley at the LRB here.