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Compare and contrast

By Michael J. Smith on Friday February 4, 2011 09:44 PM

So which one is Tehran 2009, which one is Cairo yesterday? Anybody who can actually read Arabic and/or Farsi is disqualified from the competition.

Okay, okay, so I cherrypicked a bit. So shoot me.

It's a little surprising how few comparisons have been made -- though there have been some -- between Tehran two years ago and Egypt now. You'd think it would be a liberal-schmiberal's dream: the masses everywhere want Democracy, like we have here.

There actually are some points of similarity, I think. The Tehranis, or some of them, were bothered, among other things, by corruption and cronyism in the government, and by economic stagnation -- golly, I hate slinging these hollow booming abstractions around; I sound like Yggy Wiggles:

The Egyptians are bothered by these things too, by all accounts. Not the abstractions, or Yggy, of whom they have blessedly never heard, but by the concrete realities of making a living and buying food and shelter in the early 21st century, after the neoliberals put an end to history. Or thought they did.

Still, it seems difficult to escape the conclusion that what we're seeing in Egypt has a considerably broader social base than what we saw in Iran.

One obvious point of dissimilarity is that the Iranian regime still has considerable (though of course not universal) popular support; whereas nobody who isn't actually on the payroll has a good word to say for Mubarak & Co.

I also wonder whether perhaps neoliberalism has actually hit Egypt harder, since its regime is so much more integrated into the world the central banks made. Oh sure, Iran certainly hasn't escaped, and there are plenty of people there -- including a good many of the 2009 enragés -- who would like to see it brought even more into that Friedmanite world. (I mean Tom, not Milton, though Milton would be proud.)

I'm such a shallow person -- browsing through Google Images for the tendentious two I showed above, I was very struck by how much better dressed the rock-throwing Iranians were two years ago, than their Egyptian (putative) counterparts are today; and the Persians' haircuts were to die for, which the Egyptians' mostly are not.

I've never had a good haircut in my life, so naturally I identify more with the Egyptians. I just got the usual bad haircut today, so this is a sore spot. I look like a cross between Ahmadinejad and Samuel Beckett.

Surely there are readers here better informed than I am about this topic -- economics in Iran and Egypt, I mean, not haircuts. If so, let's hear from you.

Of course, comments about the haircuts are welcome too.

Comments (9)


Apparently comments were inadvertently blocked on this post when it went up. Sorry! Fixed now, I think.


You might find the Iranian take on things interesting. They don't seem too concerned about events in N Africa spreading to their own backyard and indeed are actively supporting the protestors. I wouldn't agree with their interpretation of these events as "Islamic" in nature but the rest is spot on.


With the Tehran protests, the demonstrators were largely middle class and as much concerned with the cost of subsidies to the poor as with the election they were led to believe was stolen. There seems to be a lot more class solidarity in Egypt, if only due to the universal hatred of Hosni.

David H:

Hey now, Beckett had cool hair. You may look more stylish than you imagine.


I don't know as much as I should about either of their economies. The Middle East is a real blind spot for me.

The main thing seems to be that Iran has highly subsidized energy and a lot of social programs. They do seem to spread the wealth around a bit. It actually reminds me of Quebec in a lot of ways. IIRC they had just expanded their healthcare system before the 2009 protests and that was one of the reasons that the working class supported (or at least didn't turn against) the government.

The other thing is that the Iranian protesters were more or less just being whiners after they lost an election. Now, they didn't lose it fair and square, of course, but the margins were quite large. From what I've read, even in a best case scenario in a fair election, they were nowhere near knocking off Mahmoud.


The contrasts are to provocative to dance with for long i..in the big public media

U either have to tap out all sorts of stupid abstractions only a liberal and anarchist could love
Or end up exposing
the bogus and utterly
Bourgeois-globalist core of all real color revs

Nice job mjs
The proper parallel is of course
Iran 1979

Btw Blum bomber makes the c and c m
Between Portugal in 1974 75 76
And today's Egypt
Another poor parallel
Unless you prefer the one's where the revolution fails
Mjs did you really feel compelled to say the Iranian outfit
Still has a popular base
And not mention it fights uncle instead of sucking his dick

I trust this is not a result of too much exposure to those free thinking
Marxicans at Lou proyects ranch

The trot class analysis
Peeping thru


Wanna know about the two economies fb

They both stink
But in wondrously different ways
By which I mean decoding the Islamic revs mature institutions of commerce ownership and finance is a study in hypocrisy worthy of a long view at the Vatican if run by a turbaned Jerry falwell

Huh? There's some difference between Milt and Tom?

News to me.


Quicky -

To extent GDP is meaningful, Egyptian GDP has been on an upswing until, perhaps, last year.
This has also been the case for GDP per capita though the attached leads me to think the growth numbers are off** or have been accompanied by substantial redistribution and radicalized urban middle classes.

"Data from the Pew Global Attitudes Project confirms a disconnect between the rise in GDP per capita and perceptions of the Egyptian economy during this time. In their Egyptian survey, the proportion of respondents reporting that the country's economic situation was "good" dropped from 53 percent to 20 percent of respondents between 2007 and 2010. Pew also found a dramatic drop in the percentage of Egyptians satisfied with the direction of their country between 2006 and 2010, from 55 percent to 28 percent."

Little like a different version of Bhagwati's immizerising growth

As most here know, middle classes under economic pressure tend to the political right; this time perhaps not but I've the sense a civilian facade and military rule might satisfy - reminds me of Latin America [or may be bias].

**Credit Agricole report released yesterday:
"said the crisis is costing Egypt at least $310 million per day. The bank also revised down its forecast for 2011 GDP growth to 3.7 percent from 5.3 percent and said the Egyptian pound could see a depreciation of up to 20 percent.
"Unemployment is officially pegged at around 10 percent, but believed to be more than double that — particularly among the youth. Food inflation has hovered at about 17 percent per year, raising the cost of living for millions."

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