Unemployment, Developmental Legacies, and the Arab Spring

I’m currently working on an essay that catalogs the limits of Indonesia’s transition as a model for the on-going transitions in Egypt and Tunisia—a topic which has been discussed by Thomas Carothers and John Sidel, among others. In particular, I want to explore the social and economic problems that motivated animated anti-incumbent mobilization, not just during the Arab Spring but in the decades preceding it. I can’t stop looking at this figure.

Employment rate as a percent of national population ages 15+. Data from the World Development Indicators online database.

I can’t think of a better way to capture the striking differences between the development record of Indonesia’s New Order, on one hand, and Mubarak’s Egypt and Ben Ali’s Tunisia, on the other. Call Indonesia’s New Order the archetype of corrupt development, and Egypt and Tunisia the exemplars of corrupted development.

This has important implications, not only for mobilization under authoritarianism but also for the basic challenges of policymaking in the post-authoritarian periods. More on this in the coming months, I hope.