Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

The Arab Spring: A Quantitative Analysis

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

The Arab Spring: A Quantitative Analysis

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

The goals of this research is to contribute to the development of methodological tools for the assessment and forecasting of sociopolitical instability level in the Arab world, as well as for the assessment of the effectiveness of measures to reduce social tensions in the Arab countries.

The specific tasks of the research are as follows:

Selection of main factors of sociopolitical destabilization;

Quantitative assessment of importance of destabilization factors;

Development of a specialized index to assess the current state and forecast social instability levels in the Arab world.

This is mainly an exploratory analysis.1 The purposes of exploratory analysis are as follows: the maximum "penetration" into the data, identification of major structures, choice of the most important variables, detection of deviations, verification of main hypotheses, and development of initial models.2 In this regard, it is important to note that the preliminary study of data is only the first step in the process of analysis, since the results should be confirmed in other samples or independent sets of data.

Methodological Issues

We would like to start our assessment of the methodological issues with an analysis of the research results produced by the Political Instability Task Force-a research project that was created in 1994 with the support of the US government. The main aim of its work was to create a database of key internal conflicts that could have lead to state failure, and analysis of political instability indicators from 1955 to 2005. Over time, the working group began to study not only the cases of "failed states," but also ethnic conflicts, the facts of genocide, and radical regime changes and issues of democratic transition modeling. The explanatory variables used in the project include the following: economic indicators (gross domestic product (GDP), inflation, foreign trade, etc., as well as indicators related to the environment), social and demographic (population growth, mortality, etc.), and political (ethnic discrimination, the level of democracy, etc.) variables. Thus, one of the experts' conclusions is the assertion that partial democracies with low involvement in international trade and high infant mortality are the most prone to sociopolitical upheavals and regime change.3 In this framework, a few interesting fundings were made and some predictive models (in particular, the Global Model for Forecasting Political Instability by Jack Goldstone) were developed.

Jack Goldstone, the Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University, and a group of his colleagues, analyzing the emergence of political instability in various countries around the world from 1955 to 2003, have developed a model for forecasting political instability, which, according to the authors, makes it possible to predict destabilization with two years lead time and 80 percent accuracy.4 Goldstone notes that previous quantitative approaches to the study of civil wars causes (Fearon, Laitin, Regan, Norton et al.) have focused mainly on the economic resources available for government and insurgents: in particular, P. Collier and A. Hoeffler stressed that the insurgents are able to provide themselves with necessary resources by looting; J. Fearon and D. Laitin considered the ability of states to finance an army in comparison with the possibility of insurgents to take an advantage of much of the population, rough terrain, and the situation of political instability. Some researchers (Ross, Dunning, etc.) have focused on the state control of natural resources. Recent trends in the study of revolutions have moved in a different direction adopting, however, a state-centered approach that focuses on the political structures and elite relationships as the most important factors in determining the time and place of the revolution.

Goldstone's model includes just four independent variables: the type of regime that defines the models present in the process of executive recruitment and competitiveness of participation in the political life of the country; infant mortality, which is logged and normalized to the global average in the year of observation; and conflict-ridden neighborhood, an indicator showing whether there are cases of four or more bordering states with major armed civil or ethnic conflict, as well as a binary measure of State-Led Discrimination. …

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