Departures Podcast with Noah Feldman

Only a few years after the Arab Spring failed to convert Middle Eastern dictatorships into democracies (with the exception of Tunisia), many scholars and analysts stopped talking about it entirely, as if to pretend these events never took place. Harvard law professor and constitutional scholar Noah Feldman set out to change that with his latest book, “The Arab Winter: A Tragedy.

“Why not try to think through what was good about it, what went wrong in its aftermath, and try to draw some lessons before we just end up in world where it’s as though there just never was an Arab Spring,” Feldman says.

In his analysis of why for many states democracy failed to take root following these massive public uprisings and cries for self-determination, Feldman argues that most were unprepared for the management of deep divisions in the society.

“The biggest challenges in the aftermath of a democratic transition are how to manage deep social division,” Feldman says. “In Egypt, all of the parties were looking for outside actors, to Saudi Arabia, to the United States, and ultimately, the army, having allowed a takeover of a democratic government, changed its mind, and with the collusion of the public, got rid of the democratic government which had been elected.”

Amsterdam and Feldman also take the opportunity to discuss the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the politically fraught prospects for the Republican nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett with just weeks to go before the elections.