The massive popular demonstrations, which signaled the Arab Spring since 2011 brought down several authoritarian regimes, but the hopes for a historical democratic transformation have remained largely unfulfilled. However, it has now become clear that the upheavals lead to a transformation of the post-Ottoman state system in the region: not only have borders been challenged by such trans-national organizations like the Islamic State, but the very existence of some of the countries established on a quasi-Westphalian model by European imperial powers, mainly Britain and France, is precarious today as the Middle East system of states is unraveling. The Political Salon with Prof. Avineri discussed causes and consequences of these developments and addressed the problematic heritage of Western-inspired ideas of secularism implemented in the region mainly by authoritarian rulers.
The current regional turmoil was situated in a wider comparative context of the collapse of centuries-old multi-ethnic empires. Some possible parallels to recent developments in the post-Soviet space were drawn, where borders are being challenged by resurgent Russian policies related to the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
Shlomo Avineri is Professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences (PAU). In Yitzhak Rabin’s government he served as Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in 1996 he received the Israel Prize, the country’s highest civilian award. He has held visiting appointments at numerous international universities and institutions. His scholarly works on Hegel, Marx, Zionism and Israeli-Palestinian relations have been translated into many languages. His latest book, Theodor Herzl and the Foundation of the Jewish State, is soon to appear in German with Suhrkamp Verlag.
Prof. Shlomo Avineri is a member of the IWM Academic Advisory Board.
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In cooperation with the Austrian Newspaper Die Presse and generously supported by EVN.