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Why did the Egyptian Middle Class March to Tahrir Square?

Pages 197-215
Published online: 18 Jul 2012

Building on the extensive literature on relations between the state and social classes, this article examines the reasons leading important sectors of the middle class to revolt against Egypt's Mubarak regime. The role of the middle class in the Egyptian uprising is both crucial and somewhat paradoxical. It is crucial because it was the middle class that overwhelmingly mobilized against Mubarak, with workers and peasants remaining, at least initially, on the sidelines. It is also paradoxical because the Mubarak regime had courted the middle class for a long time and the latter did benefit from its privileged relations with the regime. However, the neo-liberal reforms undertaken more recently undermined many of the material and political achievements of the middle class, favouring instead a new class of tycoon capitalists linked to the regime. This created extensive dissatisfaction within the middle class, which seized on the opportunity provided by the circumstances of the Arab Spring to demand political change.


1 On the eve of the revolt the military perceived itself as the least privileged partner within Egypt's tripartite ruling bloc, and saw the revolt as an opportunity to outmanoeuvre the political and security apparatuses and re-establish its long-lost dominance.

2 Several businessmen and ministers escaped during the revolt to London, Madrid and Dubai, and many attempted to and were arrested at the airport.

3 These reasons included his belief that only the US could pressure Israel to sign a binding peace treaty with Egypt, as well as his conviction that the Soviets (his only other option at the time) had strong links within the military and Egypt's leftist opposition, and could destabilize his regime at will.

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