“We Are All Egypt”
This chapter introduces the problematic of the book via a reading of Western media responses to the Arab Spring. On the one hand, commentators read the protests in terms of commonality: either as evidence that protestors shared a common goal, or as evidence that they lacked the cohesion to sustain democratic institutions. On the other hand, commentators read the protests in terms of political freedom: as expressions of the human capacity to shape the world we share together. These interpretations of the Arab Spring correspond to two different ways of seeing democracy. The first view presumes that democracy requires that the people share something in common. While democratic theorists are predominantly oriented towards commonality, this book will argue instead for emphasizing political freedom. On this latter view, democracy emerges through the interactions between plural persons who do not know whether or what they have in common. The protests in Tahrir Square in 2011 are, therefore, paradigmatic of democracy: the protestors acted together without knowing whether others would join with them, without knowing whether they could agree about their aims, and without knowing whether they would succeed. Yet they acted anyhow, and so expressed their political freedom.
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