Attempting to understand the complexities of the Arab Spring is a challenge both methodologically and evidentially. Over a three year period we evolved a problem-driven attempt at theory building and came to see historically rooted structural factors as more satisfying explanatory variables than some of the more proximate arguments proposed to explain the causes and consequences of the Arab Spring. We found that antecedent variables could account for the contrast between countries that experienced successful uprisings and those countries that experienced no uprising at all or an unsuccessful uprising. We found two variables provided significant explanatory leverage. The first was the extent of non-tax hydrocarbon (mainly oil) rents, the second, the nature of the ruling elite and whether the incumbent had inherited power.
Jason Brownlee“Portents of Pluralism: How Hybrid Regimes Affect Democratic Transitions,”American Journal of Political Science53 no. 3 (2009): 515–532 519. This operationalization derives from Barbara Geddes “Authoritarian Breakdown: Empirical Test of a Game Theoretic Argument” (paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association Atlanta ga September 2–5 1999).