Blog Post

Understanding Egyptian politics beyond “authoritarianism and democracy" - Nathan Brown and Amr Adly on statehood in Egypt

March 2022

On March 31st, 2022, the Middle East Initiative hosted Professor Nathan Brown, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at The George Washington University and Professor Amr Adly, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the American University in Cairo. Moderated by MEI Faculty Director Tarek Masoud, Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Governance at Harvard Kennedy School, the event featured a discussion on Brown and Adly’s new book, Lumbering State, Restless Society, Egypt in the Modern Era (Columbia University Press 2021). 

The authors discussed their efforts to trace the “overarching story... and history of state-building in Egypt” by addressing the “disconnect” between conceptual tools applied by the state and what citizens actually received as a result of the Egyptian political process. Brown focused not just on state-society, but also state-regime relations to better understand how a “regime manages a state apparatus” after the 2011 Arab Spring in Egypt. He wanted to grasp Egyptian politics beyond the typical lenses “authoritarianism and democracy.” 

Adly explored “market transformation... in Egypt from a sociological perspective, bottom-up process.” He focused on how the “state formally and informally [shaped] the market” by “favoring politically connected actors in private and public sectors.” This process of market creation by the state is vital as it contributes to our understanding of “private accumulation and sectorial bases where social actors could react to market opportunities made available by rolling back of state in regulation.” Finally, the authors’ analysis traces the accumulation made by Islamists business families since the 1980s.  

Overall, the book provides new insights and approaches to understanding the literature on Egypt’s state formation. Brown and Adly described the book as an “invitation to reconceptualize the assumptions, findings, and conclusions that have been taken for granted.”

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Understanding Egyptian politics beyond “authoritarianism and democracy" - Nathan Brown and Amr Adly on statehood in Egypt.” MEI Minute, March 2022,