'Taming' Arab social movements: Exporting neoliberal governmentality

Halit Mustafa Tagma, Elif Kalaycioglu, Emel Akcali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


In the wake of the recent Arab revolutions, the European Union (EU) has sought to provide genuine and substantial support to a range of Arab social movements in the region's emerging polities. Yet the EU's recent democracy-promotion efforts represent a puzzle for earlier critical approaches to the relationship between Europe and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which argue for the existence of hegemonic patronage linkages. We argue, however, that the EU's attempts at democracy promotion in the MENA region may be understood through a governmentality framework, despite the limitations of such an approach. Specifically, the EU is actively promoting neoliberal policies in the aftermath of the Arab Spring in order to foster a mode of subjectivity that is conducive to the EU's own norms and interests. What we observe are not just innocent attempts at democracy promotion, but a form of politics and economics that seeks to subject the agency on the 'Arab street' to EU standards. We conclude by going over the radical plurality of the Arab street, and show how it was in fact earlier neoliberal reforms by their former regimes that created the conditions of possibility for the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-392
Number of pages18
JournalSecurity Dialogue
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Arab Spring
  • Egypt
  • European Union
  • Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
  • Tunisia
  • governmentality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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