A sharp jab at the neoliberal economics adopted by Egypt over the last decades, which ultimately spurred grass-roots revolt.
Was it actually revolution, or was it a convulsive moment buried now in the status quo? In his debut book, London- and Cairo-based British journalist Shenker, the former Egypt correspondent for the Guardian, gets at the deep economic forces that allowed Egyptian dictators from Anwar Sadat to Hosni Mubarak to transfer resources from the poor to the rich and essentially become “a land of minority accumulation and majority degradation.” While Gamal Abdel Nasser attempted to instill reform by defeating feudalism and imperialism, the pact he sealed with the people ensured their exclusion from politics. His successor, Sadat, introduced liberalizing reform that fit “neatly with a global trend away from state oversight of the economy and toward a model in which capital would be free to move without regulation”—what essentially became the neoliberalism propounded by Milton Friedman and implemented disastrously in Chile and other Latin American countries. Shenker skillfully breaks it all down, showing how the move toward privatization created a highly centralized, undemocratic system of governance aided by the global financial community, offering little accountability and allowing a few “nepotistic clusters” to get rich while leaving the rest struggling and impoverished—conditions ripe for revolution. Yet the military now rules again in Egypt and has driven the revolution underground and invisible—or so it would seem. Shenker provocatively explores ways and places (“tenuous little zones”) where the ancien regime has no more legitimacy and where cracks of resistance grow larger—e.g., villages demanding self-mastery, women pushing back against sexual violence, laborers striking for fair wages, graffiti artists and emerging writers working against the state, and, overall, a bold refusal to give in to fear of the state police.
A troubling yet highly engaging catch-up on the state of incomplete revolution in Egypt.