Book Review: Revolution without Revolutionaries: Making Sense of the Arab Spring, by Asef Bayat

Published date01 June 2019
Date01 June 2019
Subject MatterBook Reviews
418 Political Theory 47(3)
the far egalitarian edges of a liberal position. Few follow this logic as far and
effectively as Chambers does. Those of a certain liberal bent will be troubled
by what they see. But Chambers makes a very compelling case that feminists
and comprehensive liberals need to follow her lead. If she’s right, then the
questions about how, if at all, state action in defense of equality might be lim-
ited and, ultimately, what conception of equality she—we—endorse become
especially pressing. If, for example, we take the demand for structural equality
seriously, can we hang onto the sovereign agent, the priority of choice, and the
distinction between public and private, politics and society at the heart of the
liberal tradition?
Chambers leads us to these questions by bringing us to the edge of the
liberal feminist frontier. This alone would make Against Marriage a distinct
and important contribution. But, of course, Chambers does more. She offers
a compelling vision of why and how to move beyond marriage and points us
in the direction of work that needs to be done. All with the grace and gra-
ciousness of an analytical philosopher running at full throttle.
Revolution without Revolutionaries: Making Sense of the Arab Spring, by Asef Bayat.
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2017. 312 pp.
Reviewed by: Arash Davari, Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA, USA
DOI: 10.1177/0090591718771084
Becoming a poet has become a common practice in Iran. People, without
knowing anything about the rules of poetry, put words together abruptly and,
using weird thoughts, believe they are creating poetry. . . . [T]o cover their own
illiteracy, some poets claim that the grammatical conventions in poetry are
nonsense and have to be discarded altogether. Is this desire to throw out the old
the reason why millions of people poured into the streets and kicked the Shah
out without understanding what could happen next?1
In Shahrnush Parsipur’s 1989 novella, Women Without Men, four women find
refuge in a villa on the outskirts of Iran’s capital in the midst of 1953’s coup
d’état, a villa where a fifth woman has planted herself as a tree. Almost to the
letter, the story recalls Michel Foucault’s reference to “traditional Persian
gardens” as a sort of heterotopia—“happy and universalizing” sites located
between myth and reality, at a remove from society, where “the whole world
comes to enact its symbolic perfection.”2 But Parsipur is less hopeful of the
possibilities afforded by “other spaces.” The villa belongs to Farrokhlaqa

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