Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Conflict Analysis & Resolution


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Dustin Berna

Second Advisor

Neil Katz

Third Advisor

Judith McKay


Arab Spring, Arab World, Middle East, Popular revolution, Revolutionary action, Revolution theory


This dissertation employs a qualitative case study approach to investigate the 2010-2012 Arab Spring. It addresses two research questions: 1) what are the Arab Spring events instances of, and 2) what gave rise to the variation across the Arab Spring outcomes? The ultimate objective of this research is to go beyond theorizing the Arab Spring to advance a typological theory on popular revolution. To that end, the study reviews several bodies of literature in the social sciences, and employs a structured, focused comparison approach to analyze variance across six Arab Spring cases: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain. As a result, four theoretical types of revolutionary action have been identified: elite-imposed popular evolution (EIPR), foreign-imposed popular revolution (FIPR), foreign-blocked abortive revolution (FBAR), and elite-blocked abortive revolution (EBAR). In addition, the research found EIPR to have been the case in Tunisia and Egypt, FIPR in Libya and Yemen, and FBAR in Syria and Bahrain; EBAR was an empty cell in the Arab Spring. Furthermore, the study proposes that cases of EIPR are likely to culminate in a quasi-coup by autonomous elites; FIPR in a foreign-imposed regime change (FIRC) by international intervention; FBAR in a foreign-imposed regime maintenance (FIRM) by foreign patrons; and EBAR in an elite-imposed regime maintenance (EIRM) by subservient elites. The contingent generalizations offered by this theory should help scholars and policy makers approximate the trajectory of future revolutionary events by tracing them to the above theoretical types. This should help them improve their overall response to recent and ongoing revolutionary events, especially in the area of conflict resolution.

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