A topic of renewed relevance amidst increasing partisanship, resurfacing of old loyalties, and neo-colonial interests by Western nations is treated in this contribution by Libyan historian Ali Ahmida to a special issue on North African revolutions: “Libya, Social Origins of Dictatorship, and the Challenge for Democracy.” Journal of the Middle East and Africa 3 (2012), 70–81.
The abstract is as follows:
This article analyzes the 2011 revolution in Libya by focusing on three elements: the Qaddafi regime’s failure to address the question of political reform and its subsequent alienation of important elite groups within the country; the impact of demography, urbaniza- tion, and global social media on the progress of the revolution; and the success of an enterprising revolutionary leadership within Libya that was able to obtain critical diplomatic and military sup- port from the United Nations, the Arab League, and NATO. The main thesis of this article is that the regime’s inability to make serious political reforms appropriate to changes occurring in the economy, education, and society eventually led to conflict between a dynamic social structure and a rigid political system that was unable to meet the demands and grievances of new social forces, especially unemployed youth. The gap between the Libyan youth and the ruling elite undermined the gains achieved by the regime during the 1970s and eventually led to the formation of an alie- nated revolutionary coalition. Had Muammar Qaddafi responded with openness to the calls for reform and not overreacted to the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, the urban elite in Libya might have been placated and the violent rebellion might have been avoided.