Coups and Revolutions: Mass Mobilization, the Egyptian Military, and the United States from Mubarak to Sisi

A Conversation with Dr. Amy Austin Holmes and Dr. Mark Beissinger

IMES Coups and Revolutions

In 2011, Egypt witnessed more protests than any other country in the world. Counter to the received narrative, Amy Austin Holmes argues that the ousting of Mubarak in 2011 did not represent the culmination of a revolution or the beginning of a transition period, but rather the beginning of a revolutionary process that would unfold in three waves, followed by two waves of counterrevolution. This book offers the first analysis of both the revolution and counterrevolution in Egypt from January 2011 until June 2018.

The period of revolutionary upheaval played out in three uprisings against three distinct forms of authoritarian rule: the Mubarak regime and the police state that protected it, the unelected military junta known as the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, and the religious authoritarianism of the Muslim Brotherhood. The counterrevolution occurred over two periods: the first under Adly Mansour as interim president and the second after El Sisi was elected president. While the regime imprisoned or killed the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood and many secular activists during the first wave of the counterrevolution, it turned against civil society at large during the second: NGOs, charities, media, academia, and minority groups.

In addition to providing new and unprecedented empirical data, Coups and Revolutions makes two theoretical contributions. First, it presents a new framework for analyzing the state apparatus in Egypt based on four pillars of regime support that can either prop up or press upon whoever is in power. These are the Egyptian military, the business elite, the United States, and the multi-headed opposition. Secondly, the book brings together the literature on bottom-up revolutionary movements and top-down military coups, and it introduces the concept of a coup from below in contrast to the revolution from above that took place under Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Amy Austin Holmes is currently a Public Policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She has a PhD from Johns Hopkins University, with expertise on US security relations and contentious politics in Europe and the Middle East.  Dr. Holmes previously served as a tenured Associate Professor at the American University in Cairo, and has held Visiting Scholar positions at Harvard University and Brown University. A former Fulbright scholar in Germany, she is the author of Coups and Revolutions: Mass Mobilization, the Egyptian Military, and the United States from Mubarak to SisiOpens in a new window (Oxford University Press 2019) and Social Unrest and American Military Bases in Turkey and Germany since 1945Opens in a new window (Cambridge University Press 2014). Having spent a decade living in the Middle East, she has published numerous articles on Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, and Bahrain. Professor Holmes is the first person to have conducted a field survey of the Syrian Democratic ForcesOpens in a new window (SDF) based on numerous trips to all six provinces of Northeast Syria between 2015-2020. Her current research is about governance challenges of the semi-autonomous Kurdish-led region of northern Syria.

Mark R. Beissinger is Henry W. Putnam Professor in the Department of Politics at Princeton University. His main fields of interest are social movements, revolutions, nationalism, state-building, and imperialism, with special reference to the Soviet Union and the post-Soviet states. In addition to numerous articles and book chapters, Beissinger is author or editor of five books: Scientific Management, Socialist Discipline, and Soviet Power (Harvard University Press, 1988); The Nationalities Factor in Soviet Politics and Society (Westview, 1988); Beyond State Crisis? Post-Colonial Africa and Post-Soviet Eurasia Compared (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002); Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State (Cambridge University Press, 2002); and Historical Legacies of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2014). He is currently writing a book (tentatively entitled The Urban Advantage in Revolution) examining how urbanization and the global shift of power to cities has affected the incidence, practice, and consequences of revolutions around the world over the last century.