Islamists’ momentum in Arab countries has often been explained by their capacity to offer an alternative path of development, based on a religious vision and on a ‘shadow and parallel welfare system […] with a profound ideological impact on society’ (Bibars, 2001, 107), through which they challenged post-independence developmentalist states (Sullivan and Abed-Kotob, 1999). In Egypt, which has been considered a model for both state developmentalism and Islamism, members of the Muslim Brotherhood (mb) used to be analysed
The sudden rise and fall of the Muslim Brothers in the course of the Egyptian revolution has given a new actuality to this debate. The mb’s dramatic trajectory began with their victory in the parliamentary and presidential elections of 2011/2012 and, after one year in office, ended in the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi by the then General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s military coup, following mass mobilisations in June-July 2013. This fall has been variously interpreted as the result of the structural polarisation opposing the mb to the elites of the former regime (including the military), or as the breakdown of the long-standing coalition between them.
This chapter aims to contribute to this debate, exploring the tension between the conflictual challenge and the authoritarian coproduction that the mb at once embodied under Mubarak’s rule. The chapter also elaborates an interpretative framework with which to understand the mb’s trajectory during the current revolutionary process. Rather than postulating any structural polarisation, or—in contrast—any simplistic coalition, I argue that conflict and cooperation were deeply intertwined in the relationships between Mubarak’s regime and the mb, and that the vision of two models of development opposing one another unravels when we move from abstract approaches towards empirical studies. On the ground, both the mb and the former regime elites shared similar beliefs and practices with which to develop society. They participated in what I call the politics of ‘goodness’ (khayr), which I define as a conflictual consensus built on entrenched welfare networks, and on an imaginary matrix mixing various discursive repertoires of state developmentalism and religious welfare. The politics of goodness was therefore a competitive, yet common, ground for the mb’s vision of a ‘virtuous society’ and for the Egyptian state’s mythical representation as the main agent of social development.
First, I will show how the myth of state developmentalism has been transformed in the course of the neo-liberal period, and how it has been relocated in different welfare practices. Second, building on an ethnographic study
2 The Paradoxical Imaginary of State Developmentalism in Neo-Liberal Times
Central to Western societies, where it was born and consolidated, the belief in development has strongly shaped the political economy of Middle Eastern societies—and how they have been studied. As Myriam Catusse points out, the emergence of the ‘developmentalist scheme’ in the 1950s framed ‘the formation of Arab states and their organisation around a model of auto-centered development, designed as a tool for decolonisation and for state (and nation) construction’ (Catusse, 2006, 218, author’s transl.). The state was conceived as the ‘architect of structural transformation’ (Richards and Waterbury, 1996, 234), whose purpose was to reshape society and fight the multiple features of ‘backwardness’, hence closely binding economic, social, cultural and political issues as facets of a same fundamental problem. Nasser’s Egypt (1952–70) was emblematic of this state-led model of development, for the newly independent regime engaged in well-known socio-economic reforms (agrarian redistribution, import-substituting industrialisation, growth of the public sector, enlarged access to education …). Yet, neither Sadat’s infitah policies of economic liberalisation (1970–81), nor the neo-liberal turn witnessed during Mubarak’s era (1981–2011), in the post-Washington Consensus context, came to terms with the representation of the state as being charged with the development of society—in spite of the economic shift from the public to the private sector from the 1990s onwards, cutbacks in state expenditure and declining state welfare provision (Harrigan and El Said, 2009; Abdelrahman, 2015).
The imaginary of state developmentalism, together with the ongoing perception of Arab countries through the lens of the ‘developmentalist scheme’ (see for example Achcar, 2013; Farah, 2009), actually survived the progressive
Both factors explain why the myth of state developmentalism was still vivid in spite of the neo-liberal turn induced by twenty years of the International Monetary Fund-sponsored Structural Adjustment Program. As shown by the nhp example, a third factor must be underscored, though it is too often ignored by studies in political economy. Nasser’s model of the state as an architect of development also redefined the notion of politics. In 1952, the dissolution of all political parties and voluntary associations was not only aimed at containing any kind of opposition; it also related to the vision of politics as a divisive threat to the nation, a threat that had to be replaced by the direct and fusional relationship between the leader and the nation, the corporatist and functional organisation of society, and the active role of the army in national protection and social modernisation (Waterbury, 1983; Bianchi, 1989; Fahmy, 2002). In this context, political institutions, such as the parliament, were subsumed by the developmentalist mission of the state. Former political elites, most of whom were notables and big landowners, were partly deprived of access to elected assemblies, and new strata of state bourgeoisie were promoted as Members of Parliament. Yet, rather than being political representatives of the nation—which the supreme leader alone was entitled to be—they were defined as middlemen between the state and society, their role being to redistribute public resources among local populations (Ben Néfissa and Arafat, 2005). Hence, the notion of politics was both broadened—the state and political institutions would now belong to the whole nation—and dissolved in the idea of public ‘services’ (khidma pl. khadamat).
Since then, the definition of the good representative—a member either of parliament or of the local council—as ‘the one who serves people’ (elli beyekhdem al-nas) has been strongly anchored in the political imaginary. While this can be classically described as a clientelistic pattern of political exchanges, not unique to Egypt, the public and collective dimension of these exchanges seems quite specific and compliant. mps are expected to deliver, above all, services that will benefit a whole community, and not just individuals (building
Far from being a detail, this micro-level spirit of services framed, for large parts of the population, their everyday relationships with the state, which they encountered in the form of elected representatives, perceived as administration intermediaries and agents of the state’s developmentalist mission. The perception of ‘who serves’ (beyekhdem) and ‘who does not serve’ (mabeyekhdemsh) stood as a determining criterion in the popular judgement of political elites. These judgments were often expressed in the moral terms of goodness (khayr), which the regime encouraged as it boiled down politics to public work, service, and even charity—a breeding ground for deconflictualisation and for responsibility discharge onto the local state intermediaries. The politics of goodness thus appears as the low-cost version of the developmentalist myth: keeping alive, through these local encounters, the image of a state in charge of development, while effectively ‘relocating welfare’ (Ismail, 2006) in charitable actions and individualised relationships.
In this process of welfare relocation, the network of Islamic social institutions largely intertwined with the regime’s own networks. While the Muslim Brothers mobilised Islamic values to promote a model of ‘virtuous society’ through their welfare practices, this model did not stand as a counter-project of development. It was embedded in a matrix of mixed imaginaries to which the regime largely contributed.
3 The Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘Virtuous Society’: A Pious Road Inside the State3
The entrenchment of mb and regime networks first relates to the historical conditions of the Brotherhood’s re-emergence starting from the 1970s, when its leaders were gradually released from jail after Nasser’s era of repression.4 How Sadat’s policies contributed to this re-emergence, incidentally or not, is well documented. While the mb never recovered its legal status as an organisation, it was informally granted margins of tolerance within which to redevelop its activities. Drawing from the register of religious legitimacy, the regime encouraged the expansion of Islamic social institutions to alleviate the effects of economic liberalisation. Egyptian entrepreneurs who had migrated and made a fortune in the Gulf, some of whom were Muslim Brothers,5 were urged to invest in the country, especially in real estate. They were granted tax privileges provided they reserved parts of buildings they constructed for the creation of private mosques, run by charitable associations and often hosting social, health and education services. Such large ‘Islamic complexes’ multiplied exponentially (Ben Néfissa, 1995). mb businessmen coming back from Gulf countries relied on the support of important ‘brokers’6 inside ruling economic circles.7 Pro-MB brokers were found, as well, inside the prestigious institution of al-Azhar, comprising the major mosque in Egypt, a large university, and several other bodies that exert authority on religious affairs. While this institution represents state Islam, some of its influential ulama profited from Sadat’s emphasis on religion
The Islamic social sector was thus anything but detached from the state: it lay at the centre of the regime’s economic and political policies of welfare relocation. While the mb’s implantation into this entrenched Islamic sector was effective, this does not mean that the regime’s supporters were not also present there. Many pious local ndp notables founded and ran Islamic charitable associations, or ran the boards of mosques, zakat committees and so on. Moreover, a large number of charitable organisations or government-affiliated community development associations (cdas), although not centred on a mosque or not claiming explicit religious motivations, would offer Islamic activities such as readings from the Koran. In fact, religious activities permeated many spaces: for example, every administrative unit or public company would have its own zakat committee or pilgrimage association. Conversely, my fieldwork among the lower- and middle-ranked members of the Brotherhood showed that many of them were active inside state-sponsored public work structures, such as youth centres, cdas or solidarity cooperatives in the workplace. This was especially the case of the mb candidates in elections, in line with the spirit of services defining the role of the elected representative (Vannetzel, 2016).
During their 2005–2010 mandate, the mb Members of Parliament promoted as their motto: ‘Together, we bring goodness to Egypt’ (ma‘an, nahammal al-khayr li-Misr). This encapsulated both the mb’s compliance to the idea of the spirit of services defining the role of Members of Parliament, in line with the regime’s strategies, and the pivotal role of religion in the politics of goodness, hence showing how the imaginary of state developmentalism was, in its turn, influenced by the mb’s discursive repertoire.
Paradoxically, these constraints furthered the entrenchment of local social networks. As long as the mb’s presence was not that visible, it was tolerated—although the margin of visibility allowed varied in time and space. mb activists would then participate as mere members with no leading responsibilities, in ‘normal’ associations (i.e., those not obviously affiliated to the mb), explicitly Islamic or not. In some cases, they reportedly acted as informal leaders alongside associations’ official boards run by non-MB individuals who could be sympathisers, friends, relatives or simply neighbours. Boards could also include, among their ‘non-mb’ members, low-profile activists, not known to be Muslim Brothers by either the security services or by the people around them. Another strategy consisted in setting up charitable endeavours without a legal framework, such as ‘medical caravans’ (groups of physicians present in an area for a day or two and providing medical consultations for free in the rooms of a friendly association, mosque, or school …) food distribution programmes during religious festivities, the provision of clothing or school supplies, or collecting zakat in the neighbourhood, outside of any formal structure.
All of these activities were implemented without explicit mention of the term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’. Only very rarely did activists declare that they were mb members. Usually, they were active in such structures without being directly identified as Muslim Brothers by the people they worked with (even if the security services knew of their affiliations, they would let them work as long as they kept a low profile). This enabled the mb to connect with many local figures who were also active in the charitable sector, including figures who might happen to be ndp members. They could then, for example, participate together, as colleagues, in the zakat committee or pilgrimage association of
The sector of khayr was, then, a diffused network of blurred identities and crossed cleavages.8 However, it was clearly not immune from conflicts, which we can analyse through two patterns: repression by uncertainty on the one hand, and imputation struggles on the other. Apart from episodes of direct violence, such as the 1992–95 and 2006–08 waves of arrests, repression was usually exerted through indirect, non-systematic and unclear means, as is often the case in authoritarian contexts (Hibou, 2006). The margin of tolerance granted to the mb was continuously renegotiated at national and local levels alike. For example, submitting associations, whether linked to the Muslim Brothers or not, to a ‘pending registration’ status for many years was a well-known means to prevent them from securing their activities: it gave authorities the legal right to dissolve them at any time. In spite of their legal position as elected representatives, mb deputies were themselves confronted with uncertainty on a daily basis when they organised social activities in public: ‘Sometimes the state security forces come at the last minute and take away all the chairs and the material we have set up in order to prevent the event from happening’, explained one member of a local team, ‘then we have to quickly find another solution, like using the deputy’s office, even if it is too small’.9 Punctual detentions also constituted a permanent and arbitrary threat: I recall how the son of a deputy was arrested in the street, just in front of his father’s office, for no obvious reason, while the latter was left to freely do his job—even if parliamentary immunity could easily be removed. In summer 2007, two mb deputies had their parliamentary immunity rescinded and were indicted for trying to reconstitute
Two cases illustrate perfectly the various combinatorial modalities of the conflictual consensus framing the politics of goodness. The first is the Islamic Medical Association (ima), founded in 1977 by certain well-known Brothers, which ran 22 hospitals and several specialised medical centres, considered as khayri because low-cost fees or even a policy of free care were applied for low-income patients. While the association was obviously affiliated with the mb, it was spared dissolution because the government could not afford to deprive the population of such a range of medical services. However, in spite of the tolerance granted at the national level, the mb were eager, at the local level, to include many who were not mb members as members of staff or of the boards of the hospitals and health units. In al-Hadi hospital of Helwan, in a southern suburb of Cairo, only 5 per cent of the staff were Brothers, some doctors were ndp members, and the board included non-Brothers, according to its director: ‘This is because the Brothers don’t just want to mix with each other; on the contrary they want to cooperate with all the elements of society […] There is nothing inside the hospital that would suggest it belongs to the Brothers. But people know this doctor or that is a leader of the Brothers, because they saw him during the elections’.10 Hence, the ima was both a vector of entrenchment and of gratitude imputation for the mb. The second case is that of the Sharia Association (Gam‘iyya al-Shar‘iyya, gs), one of the oldest and biggest Islamic charitable associations and active throughout Egypt. Sarah Ben Néfissa shows how, under Sadat’s regime, this association had become a para-public organisation and how the regime instrumentalised it in order to implement ‘the new social policy [of] charity “on behalf” of Islam’ (Ben Néfissa, 2003, 222, authors’
The gs example is also illustrative of the second argument I would like to make here: namely, that the mb’s model of ‘virtuous society’ is embedded in an imaginary matrix of faith-based developmentalism to which other groups and institutions, including elements of the state, contribute. The relationship between the visions of development promoted by the mb on the one hand and the regime on the other should, then, not be analysed being as extraneous, but as being ‘intertextual’ (Bayart, 1985, 355).
4 The Intertextuality of Faith-Based Developmentalism
One of the most famous programmes run by the gs, which accounts for much of its popularity, was established under the leadership of the Muslim Brothers: the ‘Orphan project’ (Kafalat al-Yatim). It consists in identifying people (‘godfathers’) who wish to sponsor one or more orphans in their neighbourhood. The ‘godfather’ pays a monthly sum to the gs, which passes it on to the mother or guardian of the child, who must know nothing of the sponsorship. As Ben Néfissa explains, quoting from internal documents of the association: ‘This sponsorship is a form of contract between the [gs] and the godfather […]. The aim is “to correct the relationship between the orphan and his or her entourage. Instead of having relationships with individuals who assist him, he must have a relationship with Muslim society at large, which becomes directly responsible for him”. The unknown godfather is therefore a kind of “symbol” or representative of this Muslim society’ (Ben Néfissa, 2003, 244, author’s transl.). To complement this sponsorship, the gs also contacts members of the local community, asking craftsmen, merchants, doctors of all specialisms, pharmacists, bakers, hairdressers, butchers, etc. to provide—according to their means—food, care, medicines, school supplies, clothes, etc. to the orphans. The project’s presentation document states that ‘the project is in itself an act of preaching, a link between members of society, rich and poor, and a vitalisation of solidarity and mutual aid as explained by Islam […] the project’s goal is not
A similar pattern was at work in other charitable projects run by the Muslim Brothers, such as ‘medical caravans’ or collective weddings for poor or orphaned youths who could not afford to marry. Local physicians, citizens and merchants were solicited to help with gifts and services, according to their means and to ‘their conscience and conviction’ (Ben Néfissa, 2003, 245, author’s transl.). In these three examples, the gs and the mb sought to act as the organisers of local mutual aid, solidarity and individual conscious involvement, which should define—from their perspective—‘virtuous Muslim society’ (al-mugtama‘ al-muslim al-salih). In this model, conveyed through daily practice and talks, which I observed during my fieldwork, the individual is defined by his inner moral ‘positivity’ (igabiyya), which is latent in each person of faith. Every Muslim will possess—because of his or her faith—the seeds of positivity, which may grow. The individual is responsible for developing this latent disposition to virtue through the accomplishment of virtuous acts (a‘mal saliha). Virtuous acts are the product of this inner strength, but it is also by engaging in virtuous acts that one manages to develop this strength. This personal striving for moral transformation is seen as the cornerstone of social reform and development. The role of the mb is therefore to detect individuals and encourage them to become positive elements in society. Programmes like the ‘Orphan project’, ‘medical caravans’ or collective weddings are not only aimed at relieving poverty, they also urge individuals to fulfil their roles as ‘virtuous citizens’ (muwatinin salihin), responsible for the social, economic and political order. This was, ultimately, the meaning of the traditional slogan of the Brotherhood, ‘Islam is the solution’.
This model of ‘virtuous society’ is, of course, directly inspired by the mb’s ideological corpus. According to Hasan al-Banna’s text of reference, quoted at length by the activists and in the Brotherhood’s publications even today, the ‘mb method’ (al-minhag) consists in shaping the Muslim individual, then the Muslim family, then Muslim society and finally the Islamic government, state, caliphate and nation (umma). This method, referred to as the ‘guidance of society’ (irshad al-mugtama‘), assumes that the moral transformation of the self, thanks to faith and piety, is instrumental in building a good, sound and strong society, which, in turn, ensures the moral preservation of human souls. Hence, it is claimed to be a method for successful social development, to be applied in every domain of human life, with a focus on both individual behaviours and collective, institutional frames (Utvik, 2006).
If this model of development owes much to Hasan al-Banna’s heritage, the idea of ‘virtuous society’ should not be isolated from other discursive
‘The Muslim Brothers seek for goodness (khayr) and I love khayr, I strive for khayr. They are virtuous citizens, and I hope to be a virtuous citizen as well. I am not a member of the Brotherhood, but I am just like them, I love Islam and I understand Islam like them. […] Since primary school, I was in the Azhari system. And al-Azhar’s thought is the same as the mb’s thought. We have learnt the correct comprehension of Islam. Islam, religion, is a behavior (mu‘amala).’11
The emphasis on virtuous behaviour has also found a new and powerful formulation since the late 1990s. Indeed, the mantra of ‘Development through faith’ has been praised by Egyptian preaching ‘superstar’ Amr Khaled,12 and his association ‘Life Makers’ (Sunna’ al-Hayat), which has dramatically spread throughout Egypt and across the mena region. Calling on ‘Muslims to become pious and entrepreneurial subjects’, Khaled ‘uses management science and self-help rhetoric to promote entrepreneurial activities as religious, with an emphasis on the role that voluntary work plays’ (Atia, 2012, 809). Khaled’s vision has built likewise on the idea of piety as a source of social positivity,
As such, despite its various formulations by state Islam’s official institution (al-Azhar) and by the neo-liberal wing of the ndp, the discourse on ‘virtuous individuals’ exhibiting ‘good behaviour’ as a positive element for khayr and the development of society could be interpreted as a counter-narrative to the state developmentalist myth. However, it was actually close to a model that had been actively promoted by Mubarak’s regime as part of the politics of goodness: the model of ‘al-maghud al-dhati’—literally, ‘effort on oneself’. It was propagated from the 1980s onwards, when the state began cutting social service provision. This was also the time when international development agencies were shifting their focus to poverty alleviation, which was embodied, in Egypt, by the establishment of the Social Fund for Development in 1991: the fund embraced microlending as a main strategy, behind which ‘stands the supposition that devolving development down to “the people” is not only a good thing but also a moral imperative’ (Elyachar, 2002). In 1988, the notion of ‘al-maghud al-dhati’ was introduced into law through a reform of the state local-level administration (Law No. 145 of 1988): in order to compensate for weak local taxes and a decrease in budget allocation, the law indicates that administrative units have to appeal to the ‘spontaneous’ efforts of local populations in order to fund public projects, such as the building or repairing of post offices, police stations, medical centres, youth centres, public parks, and the state’s local service departments, etc. (Ben Néfissa, 2009). Local communities often have no choice but to participate in such endeavours. Hence, the maghud al-dhati appears as a constraining ‘spontaneous’ effort, closely organised and controlled by the state. In fact, the Muslim Brothers directly referred to this notion as well, when they were charged with political mandates as Members of Parliament or while sitting on local councils. It was actually coupled with the notion of ‘virtuous society’, and reframed as a faithful endeavour in which the mb would be in charge of organising ‘positive efforts’, not against the state but, more often than not, in tacit cooperation with it.
In Helwan, there were many examples of cooperation between the mb Member of Parliament and local administrative units, for the funding of certain projects in the name of al-maghud al-dhati. These examples illustrate how imaginaries—from al-maghud al-dhati to virtuous participation as in the
The officials of the Ministry of Education came to see us to ask if we would finance the furnishing of a new office space they were given. As a teacher, I know them a little so I was in charge of the case. I suggested that the deputy could make an official request to the governor, but they refused. They didn’t want it to be so visible—they wanted hidden cooperation, they wanted us to find them private donors, using our network as members of the Brothers. I will help them because I can’t let them sit on the floor, they don’t even have chairs! We will go to see the furniture merchants we know, ask for some chairs from one, shelves from another … They will give them to me if they can, because they know I am not doing this for myself; it is voluntary work, and they may want to make a donation. Normally though, there should be a budget for this, since it is not always possible to count on the maghud al-dhati …
‘Doing khayr’ is supposed to be an act that one is engaged in for moral motives, for the service of the people, and for the development of the country, not for political reasons. Politics were burdened with the delegitimising picture sketched by Nasser’s regime. It was considered a potential source of instability. The combination of khayr, development (tanmiyya) and stability (istiqrar) was central to the regime’s rhetoric for limiting political opposition (Makram-Ebeid, 2012). However, it was also nurtured by the mb itself. The activists I met insisted that their aim was that, ‘services be provided and good actions done,
Our role is to give them ideas so they can find solutions to problems. Our goal is to cooperate in helping to reform the country, because it is our duty, according to Islam, to our morality, and to our love for the nation. […] What is important is that work be done. Maybe we, as Muslim Brothers, won’t benefit from this work; but it is done and it serves people, and this is part of our religion. Serving people is like praying and loving God. Our prophet (Prayer of God be upon him and peace) said that if on the Day of the Last Judgement you find a seed, you must plant it. This is a core value of Islam.13
Therefore, the politics of goodness distanced itself from clashes and favoured a steady but subtle battle to put forward one’s ability to be of service and one’s moral exemplarity. While political conflicts were regarded as damaging to development and stability, moral distinction was understood, by the mb and the regime alike, as a ‘positive’ way of achieving goodness. This euphemistic form of politics was heavily undermined during the 2011–2013 period.
5 ‘Goodness’ in Dire Straits: The Breakdown of Local Politics and the Radicalisation of Conflicts
The politics of goodness under Mubarak’s rule had, to summarise, three defining features. It was, first, a relocation of the state developmentalist myth into the micro-level of the spirit of services, placed on the shoulders of local elites. Second, it was a configuration made of overlapping networks of public work and charities, in which political identities were often blurred. Lastly, it was a conflictual consensus in which political antagonisms were understated. My argument is that the three components of this politics of goodness were challenged after Mubarak’s overthrow in February 2011. Although such an argument does not account, alone, for all the dynamics of conflictual radicalisation that the period 2011–2013 witnessed, I will begin by focusing on the local level, which has been less commented upon.
The foundations of local politics were upset by the revolutionary turmoil. Parliament and local councils were dissolved, as was the ndp, following an order issued by the Supreme Administrative Court in April 2011. The reach of these dissolutions went far beyond the spectacular burning of the former governing party’s headquarters in downtown Cairo. In concrete terms, it meant that tens of thousands of local elites were deprived of their positions. Many of them, fearing prosecution, also suspended their public work activities and
It came as no surprise when the Muslim Brotherhood, followed by the Salafis, both perceived as being able to meet these expectations (Masoud, 2014), won the 2011 parliamentary elections, while those parties that embodied the spirit of the revolution did not do well. However, it seems that mb Members of Parliament turned their backs on local services and charities, and—rather—tried to dedicate themselves to legislative work: work that most of them were not used to conducting and for which they certainly lacked the requisite competences. Moreover, the chamber was caught up in an institutional battle, as the High Constitutional Court, supported by the interim military government, threatened to dissolve it—eventually succeeding. Anticipating this dissolution, mb deputies were eager to pass laws securing their presence in the Constitutive Assembly that was to be formed. They also focused on passing the Political Isolation Law, which banned officials who had served in top posts under Mubarak from running for election. Although the law was eventually suppressed when the chamber was dissolved, a related article was later included in the Constitution that Morsi introduced in late 2012.
This move from khidma to legislation allegedly led to much disgruntlement among voters, who deplored the mb’s neglect of local demands. It also sparked anger among former ndp notables who considered the Political Isolation Law a potential threat, while many expected the mb to be as cooperative as it had showed itself to be towards the military and high-ranking businessmen of the Mubarak era. A fear of the ‘Brotherhoodisation’ of all institutions—whether reasonable or not—became rampant. Former ndp notables worried especially about local councils—which used to be their sanctuaries—the elections for which were constantly postponed while parliament drafted a new law with which to govern them. Many believed this to be a sign of mb manipulation, an effort to assert complete hegemony, and began mobilising against the Brotherhood (Hamdy and Vannetzel, 2014). Hence, the blurred local environment of overlapping networks and identities unravelled and gave way to sharpening
The breakdown of former local politics—that is to say, the rupture of patronage and the increasing dissociation and conflictualisation of political identities and cleavages—intersected with several national and international dynamics and temporalities of radicalisation. Among them, two contributed to undermining the legitimacy both of the politics of goodness and of the Muslim Brotherhood.
First, the 2011 uprising, and before and after it the thousands of social protests that have spread throughout Egypt in the last decade or more, indicate that khayr is contextually not enough to sustain the paradox of ‘state developmentalism without a developmentalist state’. More precisely, though these protests are not a mere consequence of a so-called lack of development, they are moments in which the politics of goodness is variously questioned, criticised, and reinterpreted, and—at least partially—rejected. Protests shed a crude light on the contradiction between the developmentalism myth and the deregulation of social protection, and have made that contradiction, in Egypt as elsewhere (Catusse et al., 2010; Allal and Bennafla, 2011), obvious and unbearable for a growing proportion of the population. The last decade, indeed, has seen the conjunction of endless protests, the wide scale privatisation of public companies, a rapid rise in the precariousness of labour (even in what remains of the public sector) (Makram-Ebeid, 2012), and the vertiginous rise of food prices due to the international financial crisis that began in 2008 (for which abovementioned state subsidies were not enough to compensate). Meanwhile, the vocal, neo-liberal wing of the ndp, gathered around Gamal Mubarak whose longing to become president has caused much resentment (Hassabo, 2012) and has given a new face to the regime; a face that clearly fails to fit the image of the protective state, and thus has unmasked the aforementioned paradox. The relocation of welfare into goodness is thus strongly put in question, in these times of rising demand for genuine social justice (‘adala igtima‘iyya) and for radical change in distributional policies.
6 Conclusion. Conflicts and Consensus of Development in al-Sisi’s Egypt
To conclude, what is at issue in post-Mubarak Egypt goes far beyond the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood. Neither can it be defined as a clash between two opposite models of society—that is to say, the Islamist model versus the legacy of Nasser’s state. The common vision of a conflict of development in which Islamists would oppose regime incumbents, and would be relegated to a separate field of religious philanthropy, has been deconstructed. State- and faith-based discourses, beliefs and practices, aimed to ‘develop’ society, used to be deeply entangled. The biggest contradictory tension was to be found between the survival of the imaginary of state developmentalism and the effectiveness of neo-liberalisation. In the space created by this tension, the politics of goodness was deployed, involving actors from the former regime and the
The radicalisation of conflicts during the revolutionary period has highlighted the contradiction of neo-liberal state developmentalism and, in the course of time, altered the equation of conflict and development. In emic and academic discourses alike, open conflict has widely been seen as a hindrance to stability, and stability has consensually been linked to development. Throughout 2011–2012, recurrent street demonstrations, organised by groups of young revolutionaries, were thus harshly dismissed by the political elites—the military, the mb, and all the so-called civil political parties—by the media, and by large parts of the population tired by a lack of security (infilat amni) and by economic paralysis. Demonstrations, seen as chaotic expressions of conflict, were more and more seen as damaging to the ‘wheels of production’ (‘agalat al-intag), a metaphor which became an overwhelming and formidable weapon that could be used to discredit anyone. Once elected, members of the mb were soon decried as the spanner in those wheels. While the struggle against incumbents to occupy positions of power intensified, they were accused of, and seen as, hurting the state itself, and consequently seen as breaking the motor of development from within. The revolt against Morsi, framed as a positive conflict with the goal of saving the state and relaunching the ‘wheels of production’, had the strong effect of refocusing expectations with regard to welfare on the state at the national level—away from local khayr practices.
The new consensus that emerged around al-Sisi was largely a consensus around this announced relocation of development to the state itself, with the army as guarantor. However, two years after Marshal al-Sisi’s election as president, it is clear that the new regime has advanced neo-liberalisation further by cutting energy subsidies and has relocated the economy, rather than development, into the military, rather than into the public, sector. Military holding companies now monopolise the benefits of al-Sisi’s policy of ‘grandiose projects’, causing much anger, both among private businessmen and among the working classes, who see no improvement in their conditions. Even the attempt to revive the glorious myth of state developmentalism with the pharaonic construction
AllalA. and K.Bennafla (2011) ‘Les mouvements protestataires de Gafsa (Tunisie) et Sidi Ifni (Maroc) de 2005 à 2009. Des mobilisations en faveur du réengagement de l’Etat ou contre l’ordre politique ?’Tiers Monde Hors-série pp. 27–46 DOI: .
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)| false ( and Allal A. K. Bennafla 2011) ‘ Les mouvements protestataires de Gafsa (Tunisie) et Sidi Ifni (Maroc) de 2005 à 2009. Des mobilisations en faveur du réengagement de l’Etat ou contre l’ordre politique ?’, Hors-série, pp. 27– 46, DOI: 10.3917/rtm.hs01.0027.
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2014 (28 May) Marshal al-Sisi elected President.
2013 (3 July) The military headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousts President Morsi from power.
2013 (30 June) Massive demonstrations all over Egypt demand Morsi’s departure one year after he takes office.
2012 (17 June): Muslim Brother Mohamed Morsi wins the presidential election while parliament is dissolved on the order of the High Constitutional Court.
2011 (December–January 2012) Parliamentary elections the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party wins around 47 per cent of seats.
2011 (March) The Supreme Council of Armed Forces in its role at the head of the interim government organises a referendum on constitutional amendments with the support of the Muslim Brotherhood.
2011 (25 January) Beginning of the uprising on Tahrir Square and in other places in Egypt leading to President Mubarak’s resignation on 11 February.
2005 In the context of an increasing number of social and political protests and international pressure Mubarak authorises the country’s first direct and multi-candidate presidential election (and in August is re-elected); the Muslim Brotherhood wins 20 per cent of seats in relatively transparent legislative elections in November.
2003 A broad programme for privatising public companies is launched.
1992 Wave of repression against the Muslim Brotherhood. Implementation of the IMF Structural Adjustment Program begins.
1981 Hosni Mubarak becomes President following Sadat’s assassination by a jihadi group tolerating the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation in legislative elections.
1973 President Anwar al-Sadat allows margins of tolerance for the Muslim Brotherhood releasing its leaders from jail. Economic liberalisation begins; a multiparty system is allowed from 1978 onwards.
1952–1970 Nasser and the Free Officers seize power from the monarchy establish important social reforms nationalise most of the economy and dissolve all parties and associations. Harsh repression targets the Muslim Brotherhood from 1954 on.