Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East

Article excerpt

The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East. By Juan Cole. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014. 368 pp. $26.

This new book by the evercontroversial Cole of the University of Michigan is yet another example of his scholarship and prognostications about a Middle East that just will not stay pegged to standard leftist tropes. In this case, Cole attempts to capture the significance of the so-called Arab spring, which he believes to be an earth-shattering phenomenon. But his theories have been decisively overtaken by events.

Cole presents a personal travelogue through the upheavals that began in late 2010 by way of leading "millennial" figures with a focus on "Internet activism" and social media. His thesis is that the youth, along with an amorphous "New Left," led the way during these uprisings and that together they forever changed the Arab and Muslim worlds, a dubious assessment.

Cole's first failing is through his highly selective approach to social media, quoting Facebook posts, blogs, and tweets he finds informative. But rather than take a quantitative approach that would actually measure large-scale social and intellectual trends, his method is traditional and impressionistic. Relying on informants and observations during his travels in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, he focuses on select individuals whom he believes important, whether or not they represent anything or anyone beyond themselves. …

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