Working paper abstract


Pharaohs of the deep state: Social capital in an obstinate regime

Marijn Clevers & Zina Nimeh

The paper aims to analyse the process of 'democratisation' or lack thereof after the 2011 Egyptian Arab Spring uprisings in the context of 'social capital'. While popular demand for reform toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the transition period that followed showed the determination of regime remnants and the deep state, to preserve the underlying institutional structures of an entrenched authoritarian system. Mubarak's power base was grounded in a complicated system of interwoven relationships which entailed economic, social and political benefits. This social structure is analysed under the umbrella term 'social capital' to give an account of which network(s) pulled the cart in the pursuit of a contra democratic political agenda. A critical analysis of literature, relevant to the aim of the paper, is provided. Social capital is defined as the generalisation of norms and reciprocity which results from individuals' engagement in social networks. A general account on the most important social networks in Egypt is provided in the context of a military dominated social contract established after the 1952 military coup. This analysis concludes that the existing social capital network structure fostered and continues to foster the preservation of the authoritarian status quo. The transition period after the ousting of Mubarak presents a clear illustration of this. The well-embeddedness and the interdisciplinary nature of the deep in state in Egypt's power institutional structure were never eradicated, since the deep state restricted the interference of any 'non-conforming' entities in politics. The Egyptian deep state can be seen as self-sufficient, their penetration in every realm of society enables them to balance off adversaries when needed. The contribution of this paper is twofold. First, it attempts to show that authoritarianism is preserved when an elitists power network is established which thrives as a direct consequence of the underlying institutional structure. Secondly, it argues that social capital structures can produce an environment which is unfavourable to democratic development.

JEL Classification: I30, I38, O17, N40, N45