Egypt, the Stalled Society

Egypt, the Stalled Society

Egypt, the Stalled Society

Egypt, the Stalled Society

Synopsis

This book presents new and original insights into the political, social, and economic development of today's Egypt. The case study of Kamshish, a small village in the heart of the Delta, sheds light on the recent social history of Egypt and the evolving relations between Egyptian rulers and people. Highlighted is the Kamshish Affair, during which the village appeared to be at the threshold of a socialist revolution destined to engulf the whole country, if not the entire region. Kamshish became the Mecca of the Left, to which such luminaries as Che Guevara, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir paid homage. When the expected revolution failed to materialize, the state stepped in with a new beginning, whose conservatism stands in sharp contrast to the radicalist trends of the 1960s."

Excerpt

A conservative wind was swept over the Middle East, sharply contrasting with the radical trends of the 1960s. In Egypt, the secular ideas underlying Pan-Arabism and socialism have given way to religious beliefs and sectarian attitudes. Order, stability, and legitimacy have assumed a higher priority than egalitarianism and redistribution. This manuscript examines the effects these ideological and policy changes have had on individuals and classes divided by a century of lopsided development in the social and economic sectors.

My source of inspiration lies in the Kamshish Affair, which gave fresh impetus to the radical trend of the 1960s. To the untutored mind, Kamshish—a small village in the heart of the Delta—appeared to be at the threshold of a socialist revolution that should have engulfed the whole country, if not the whole region. The village Kamshish became the Mecca of the left to which such luminaries as Che Guevara, Jean Paul Sartre, and Simon de Beauvoir paid personal homage. But the imminent revolution failed to materialize. The state, weary and exhausted by defeat and foreign adventures, turned off the socialist revolution just as it had started it. A new beginning was announced by President Sadat soon after he came to power in 1970. The new beginning meant, in essence, placating his predecessors' rightist victims while meeting out punishment to leftist elements.

Kamshish serves as a clue for understanding the social history of Egypt as well as the evolving relations between Egyptian rulers and the masses from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present. My main aim is to relate the events that took place in Kamshish to the larger social and economic history of Egypt, from which I derive conclusions on the effects of ideological changes on local community relations, the impact of social and economic transformations on political stability under successive regimes, the response of the peasantry towards limited reforms, and the more recent growth of Islamic militancy.

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