Angst Springs Eternal: Dangerous Times and the Dangers of Timing the “Arab Spring”

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Various reflections on the ‘Arab Spring’ evince a common view of the relationship between change and time that imbues events with a sense of intrinsic peril. Based on a framework developed from Norbert Elias’s concept of timing, this article elaborates the relationship between time and the ‘Arab Spring’ by unpacking and explaining three rhetorical tropes prevalent in academic responses to the revolts. The first two construct a problem to which the third proffers a solution. First, analysts treat time itself as a problematic force confounding stability and progress. Second, they deploy fluvial metaphors to present dynamic events as inherently insecure. Third, they use temporal Othering to retrofit the ‘Arab Spring’ to the familiar arc of liberal democracy, which renders the revolts intelligible and amenable to external intervention. These moves prioritize certainty and order over other considerations and constrain open-ended transformations within a familiar rubric of political progress. They also constitute an active timing effort based on a conservative standard, with important implications for our understanding of security and for scholarly reflexivity. The article concludes with three temporal alternatives for engaging novel changes like the ‘Arab Spring’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-83
JournalSecurity Dialogue
Issue number2
Early online date19 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


  • Arab Spring
  • fluvial metaphors
  • open time
  • problem of time
  • temporal Othering
  • timing
  • security studies


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