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The Arab Winter

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The Arab Winter

A Tragedy

Princeton UP,

15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Learn why the Arab Spring failed – and why it matters anyway.

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Engaging


The Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 electrified the world, but their aftermath – bloodshed, war and a return to autocracy – horrified onlookers. In this thought-provoking text, legal scholar Noah Feldman reflects on the movement’s successes and failures, delivering fresh insights and lucid arguments for the historical and moral significance of the Arab Spring. Readers may disagree with some of his interpretations and conclusions, but those who wish to understand the modern history of the Arab world or the risks of struggles for self-determination will find Feldman’s book essential reading. 


During the Arab Spring, Arab peoples sought to exercise political power outside an imperial context for the first time.

In early 2011, a movement for self-determination began to spread across the Arab-speaking world. It began in Tunisia after a street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, immolated himself, igniting widespread protests against police abuse and economic hardship. The action then leaped to Egypt, Syria and Libya, and its effects rippled across Yemen, Bahrain and other countries of the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia. The uprising did not spread to Turkey, Iran or other non-Arabic-speaking countries. Hence, the movement’s title – the Arab Spring – reflects well its nature as a phenomenon of the Arab world.

Before the Arab Spring, uprisings in the Arab-speaking world took place within an imperial framework. They represented revolts against colonial rulers, or against monarchs. In the Arab Spring, Tunisians protested against the Ben Ali regime, while Egyptians rose up against Hosni Mubarak; Syrians sought to end Bashar al-Assad’s rule. For the first time, Arab-speaking peoples took action and made political choices within a primarily Arab framework...

About the Author

Noah Feldman is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He has written many books, including The Three Lives of James Madison, The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State and What We Owe Iraq, and is the host of the podcast Deep Background.

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