Sharp changes are afoot throughout the globe. Demographics are shifting, technology is advancing at unprecedented rates, and these changes are being felt everywhere. How should we develop strategies to deal with this emerging new world? We can begin by understanding it. First, there is the changing composition of the world population, which will have a profound impact on societies. Developed countries are experiencing falling fertility rates and increasing life expectancy.
There are two lenses by which to view the political potential of Saudi Arabia’s large, tech-savvy youth generation. The first, optimistic perspective holds that given their social awareness, technological skillset, and creative potential, the Kingdom’s millions of young citizens will be the engine for constructive progress. That progress is defined by post-oil economic transformation, and hence renewed political stability and national unity under the House of Saud. This is the image invoked by Saudi Arabia’s grandiose Vision 2030 initiative, as well as its architect, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
While the so-called “Arab Spring” was an awakening for the region’s people and its powerholders, the events of 2010–2011 changed the trajectory of innovation and entrepreneurship only slightly and in specific, local contexts. This paper endeavors to compare Egypt, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with three major objectives in mind.
The last ten years have seen forms of political disruption within Egypt that were virtually unimaginable a decade ago—from the 2011 protest uprisings; the 2012 election of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi to the Egyptian presidency; the 2013 coup d’état which unseated Morsi; and the 2014 formal assumption of power by current Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt has witnessed a period of staggering political change. Few analysts would disagree with the statement that demographic circumstances and technological developments played a crucial role in sparking and sustaining the popular movement that set this chain of events into motion.
In the second decade of the 21st Century, the State of Israel is still engaged in the early stages of building political sovereignty for the Jewish people, for the first time in seventy generations. The discussion of contemporary Israel is based on this historical context, the absence of a tradition of responsibility for political sovereignty.
Turkey is a country of paradoxes. Ankara has been a NATO member since 1952 but is about to receive the S-400 air defense system from the transatlantic alliance’s main adversary, Russia, and consequently face sanctions from its longtime ally, the United States. Ankara has been undertaking accession negotiations with the European Union since 2005, but Turkish officials happen to be deeply Eurosceptic, frequently hurling insults at their European counterparts and targeting Western values.
For the last 150 years, Iran, like most countries in the industrializing world, has experienced the tumults of two epochal global revolutions—the industrial revolution that changed the nature of labor and now the advent of the “second Machine Age,”2 which is changing the nature of not just labor, but life and leisure, knowledge and information. In the same period, Iran has gone through the travails of two domestic revolutions—the first in 1905-07 when the country’s elite tried to introduce democracy and modernity to the country, and the second in 1979 when a democratic mass movement overthrew the monarchy but eventually begot the rise of a theocratic despotism keen on dismantling as much of modernity as possible.