Recent popular protests in Algeria and Sudan have resurrected debate over the Arab Spring. In 2011, the crux of that debate was neatly summed up in the title of an article that appeared in these pages: “Whither the Arab Spring? 1989 or 1848?” (Springborg 2011).
In other words, were these citizen protests the harbingers of thoroughgoing political transformations in the region akin to the civic revolutions in 1989 that brought democracy and market-based economies to Central and Eastern Europe? Or were they more like 1848, one-off popular expressions of dissatisfaction with autocratic rule that would be quickly extinguished by counter-revolutionary forces intent on restoring the status quo? Was the Arab Spring transformative or premature?