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Thinking About Revolution and Democracy in the Middle East: A Symposium


Beginning with the protests in Tunisia that toppled the regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January of this year, revolution has spread across North Africa and the Middle East with such velocity that predicting exactly what will happen next is probably a fool's errand. Elsewhere in this issue, our authors and reviewers discuss what these events may mean for Israel, particularly but not only in its relations with a post-Mubarak Egypt. Here, we have asked seven writers to return to their bookshelves and tell us what books, authors, and arguments they find helpful in thinking through the causes and implications of these surprising events.

Our symposiasts are an extraordinarily distinguished and eclectic group of scholars, diplomats, theorists, and activists. Having reached across the board for help, we weren't surprised when their answers were all over the map. Edmund Burke's name came up, but so did that of Karl Marx and the much more recent theorist Michael Doyle. We were directed to the works of venerable students of Middle Eastern affairs like Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami, but also to less famous scholars like Houchang Chehabi and Juan J. Linz, the editors of the wonderfully titled Sultanistic Regimes. There are novels on our reading list too, including those of Egyptian writers Najib Mahfuz, Alaa al-Aswany, and Gamal al-Ghithani. Finally, for the extraordinary reader who has already read everything mentioned, there is one to which you can still look forward: Steven Cook's soon-to-be-published history of Egypt.

                                                                                                            -The Editors, March 29, 2011

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