Idealized Camaraderie: Understanding Intellectuals’ Arab Spring Politics between Idealist Commitments and Political Calculations

Muhammad Amasha, Yale University

While supporting most 2011 Arab Spring uprisings against authoritarian regimes, al-Qaradawi and al-Tayyib—two influential Egyptian clerics—took less sympathetic stances on other uprisings with the same characteristics. These contradictory stances are hardly explained merely by idealist (e.g., strong program) or interest-based (e.g., Bourdieu) accounts because these intellectuals sometimes contradicted their ideals and, at other times, took principled stances that jeopardized their self-interests. I argue that both intellectuals took these stances to protect their ideals, but not necessarily by following these ideals. Instead, they strategized to defend their ideals by safeguarding the field interests, not of themselves, but of their idealized comrades—their companions committed to the same ideals—because the ideal’s survival depended on their comrades’ survival. Using process tracing methods to analyze primary sources on both clerics’ politics, this article demonstrates how intellectuals’ idealized comrades can shape the former’s political deliberation and actions.

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 Presented in Session 125. Cultures of Calculation and Resistance