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Learner Reviews & Feedback for After the Arab Spring – Democratic Aspirations and State Failure by University of Copenhagen

519 ratings

About the Course

Learn why the hope and excitement of the Arab Spring is gone, why so many Arab states are falling apart, why the youth are so frustrated, why there are so many refugees, and what can be done about it. The so-called Arab Spring appeared to end decades of exceptionalism and bring the Arab world back into the mainstream of global developments. The rebellions promised the return of politics and the reassertion of popular sovereignty against their corrupt and geriatric leaders. Much hope and flowery language greeted the young men and women who deposed their leaders and tried to build new, better societies. Today, the Arab world is in deep crisis. Of the 22 member states of the Arab League, at least five have essentially collapsed: Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Syria exist only in name today, as their territories have fallen to competing, murderous armed groups. In the remaining countries, the old autocracies have reasserted themselves. The repression at home is now worsened by regional conflict on an unprecedented scale, and the resulting frustration has led to the biggest refugee flows in recent memory. What went wrong? This course offers an overview of the structural shortcomings of Arab states and societies, which help us understand why the democratic awakening did not happen but instead “has given way to civil wars, ethnic, sectarian and regional divisions and the reassertion of absolutism.” This raises the obvious and renewed question whether there is something inherent in the Arab, and by analogy Muslim, condition that makes them special. Does this condition make this part of the world impervious to generally observable trends towards greater accountability, popular participation in political decision-making, greater generation and fairer division of economic wealth? Join this course to find out!...

Top reviews


Apr 14, 2020

Provides a fascinating and important approach to studying this topic. The professor's framework and intellectual depth enriched my understanding of this important and enduring problem.


Oct 12, 2018

An eye opening experience. I really hope this becomes a mandated course among anyone participating in any diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East and the Arabic world.

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1 - 25 of 150 Reviews for After the Arab Spring – Democratic Aspirations and State Failure

By Leon K

Oct 13, 2018

An eye opening experience. I really hope this becomes a mandated course among anyone participating in any diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East and the Arabic world.

By Catherine V

Dec 18, 2017

This course is Coursera's hidden gem of neo colonial discourse and that is what makes it worthy of attention. It's not so easy today to find an academic institution which members openly support cultural imperialism and teach in a way like Edward Said never existed. And I really like those subtle details when white majority make people of colour voice this kind of content. If a white person would have to say something like "members of underperforming socieities", that would be racism. But like now it can be safely named "diversity"!

By Kumar V

Oct 25, 2020

I understand that any course is a mix of the professor's views and facts. However, the balance needs to be right to ensure that students get the most knowledge and insight out of it, not just the professor's personal beliefs and points of view. In this course, I felt that the balance was not right, and skewed towards the professor trying to state and reinforce his point of view. This course was 60% hectoring of the existing set-up in the Arabic states, 30% about the Arab Spring and 10% on why it didn't succeed. The course would also have been more useful if it had tried to use frameworks to compare the Arab set-up with other regions and things that can be done to improve. Instead the course started with the implicit belief that the Arab set-up is the worst, the "Denmark" system the best and then a continuous talking down to call out that the Arab set-up has failed. Students know that the Arab set-up has failed and are coming to this class to intellectually analyse a framework based analysis which also, atleast in a classroom, show ways of reaching these better versions and ultimately "Denmark". This course didn't even attempt to do that.

By Shereen N

Aug 5, 2020

I was looking for a course with balanced content that tackles politics and its different dimensions in the Arab region, but unfortunately found out that this course has inaccurate, biased content. You will see that it's subjective and one-sided; quoting specific journalists and activists, giving you a poor view on a scene taken from one lens while ignoring the whole spectrum that its many views are needed to archive a wide, accurate view.

It's hard for me not to notice that it seems packed with certain agenda, unfortunately!

By Hannah E

Feb 12, 2018

Not a very objective outlook on the Middle East after the Arab Spring. Quite disappointed to be honest as the University of Copenhagen is well known, and I expected their courses to be more informative instead of highly subjective.

By John Y

Apr 15, 2020

Provides a fascinating and important approach to studying this topic. The professor's framework and intellectual depth enriched my understanding of this important and enduring problem.

By Boris E

Sep 4, 2017

That is the second class I am taking with Professor Afsah and would love to take more. The class is interesting, engaging and relevant. Highly recommended!

By John H

Jun 10, 2020

Some students have complained that Dr. Afsah ignores the effect of external factors on the current state of Middle East societies. This is largely true, but he is intentionally focusing on what the citizens of those countries can change for themselves, which would also change the power differential between them and external actors. His analysis of what has gone wrong is outstanding. Now the people of those nations must develop plans to fix it. It can't be a solution from outside, although we should help as we can and as we are permitted to.

By Gigi p

Jun 19, 2019

Nice format to measure one's understanding of each subject matter. The course is thoughtfully intersectional; and its comprehensive in making good use of western political theories and concepts and how these idea have failed to develop or take root in Arab political history.

By Beatriz m d

Feb 28, 2020

Ha sido un gran curso.

By Stephen L

Feb 6, 2021

Very good presentation and structure. Whilst I mostly agreed with Dr. Afsah's views, these are oftentimes presented as fact, and I would have liked to have had more of a sense of the debates over key issues. I would also have liked to have a more nuanced dissagregation of the Arab world at times, even along Cammett et. al.'s RRLA, RRLP, RPLA categories. The Gulf states have got vastly different levels of state capacity, and even though I do not think the overall arguments about the Arab world's failure to adopt a fuller modernity would be threatened by considering the Gulf states more carefully, I think it would give value to the course.

By Joy S

Oct 26, 2017

2nd course I have taken from this instructor. This one was thankfully much shorter. Good info, would have rated it higher, but the last quiz was made overly difficult. They keep switching the positions of the answers. I watched the week 6 video twice but could not pass after 6 attempts.

By Zuhar A

Aug 15, 2021

I watched through part of the first week and decided not to continue. The instructor is biased toward the eurocentric perspectives. They ignore for example the impact of the west starting from the Sykes-Picot Agreement, western mandates and modern innovations and occupations. One can not assess such a complex situation just by relating back to these "Arabic and Islamic exceptions" as it seems to be a lack of understanding of cultural differences by intellectuals who have no background in the richness of philosophical approaches to analysis and only look at reality from the lens of enlightenmet and rational whereas reality is more complex than that. I deem the course racist and harmful and I hope that other more sophisticated cultural thinkers would write a piece on this.

By asli z c

Apr 3, 2023

a very colonialistic and un-critical take of the arab religious, cultural and political issues.

By Ralph S

Nov 18, 2020

Fantastic course. Unlike some of the others I've taken on Coursera, this is not an introductory survey. Nor is it a simple event-by-event history of the Arab Spring. Instead, it's a focused and searching investigation of the chronic conditions which led to the uprisings. Professor Afsah makes compelling arguments about the causes and future consequences of the Arab Spring and Arab state difficulties more generally. In doing so, he takes a multi-disciplinary approach, drawing widely from political science, philosophy, economics, sociology, literature, law, and personal experience. The assigned readings and the quotations sprinkled throughout the lectures provide a wealth of resources for further research. Thank you for a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening experience.

By Nicky J

Jun 3, 2021

I loved this course. It was very informative and the Professor was so acknowledgeable. I would love to take another course that he is teaching. I learned a lot.

By May d p

May 18, 2020

very insightful course for me. Learning the facts of the failure and significance of the Arab world is so fascinating and new subject for me. Thank you very much.

By Noor

Dec 24, 2018

Very informative and eye opting for an Arab trying to understand why we r behind other countries and to realize how to go about it

By Mohammed A A

Nov 19, 2018

thank you very very match

By William W

Dec 10, 2021

Orientalist giberish amounting to nothing intelectual and nothing constructive.

By Janet H

Mar 25, 2021

Thoughtful insights steeped in research and very well presented, thank you! Poignant that some of the very same issues with high youth unemployment and little hope for a secure future for the average citizen will continue almost indefinitely. Especially sad having worked during the Arab Spring and for years following with lovely folks who I still keep in touch with who continue to reside in some of these countries. Yes, life was difficult before the Arab Spring but has significantly worsened and sad that the abysmal conditions will continue for years to come. The bright point is, they are still the same lovely people I first met, always hopeful, yet inshallah remains their go to belief, and maybe, just maybe, inshallah will sustain them until they finally realize positive cultural and other changes. Again, thank you.

By S M H s

Jan 6, 2019

Arab world systematically failed to produce the society which can yearn for the true democratic aspirations. The So-called "Arab Spring was absolutely clueless and leaderless. The leaders of Arab nations tried to mitigate the effect of uprisings by just giving them temporary comfort rather than installing democratic and sustainable economic system. Above all the "Political Islam" added insult to the injury which is most often misinterpreted in terms of bringing prosperity and justice in society. Consequently , producing vacuum for the group like "ISIS". Similarly, the purchased achievements in academia miserably led to rely on the family system nepotism. To sum up, It can be observed that pessimism seems to prevail in coming future for the democratic system in the future.


Nov 12, 2021

I was positively surprised about the content and the way the subjects were discussed. As a turkish citizen, I found many similarities in politics and social lives in arab countries and Turkey. Something similar, something better here but our new tendency towards arab thinking frustrated me Youth bulk, unemployement, not taking responsiblity of acts, authocratic ruler, the lack of voice of youth....these are all subjects we do experience here in Turkey. I loved the content of the education, tried to read the materials even though I found some (especially economy based papers) very difficult to follow. I feel that this course has tought me a lot. Planning to take some others now and read the books the teacher has quoted. Thanks!

By Kathy C

Dec 29, 2022

A fascinating course, very insightful, and thought-provoking.

It's now December 2022, and I've now listened to Week 6 several times. While I had originally started the course out of general interest in the Middle East political situation, and to increase my understanding of world Events, Week 6 in particular has made a huge impact.

Prof Afsah, what you say in Week 6 doesn't apply to issues in the Arab States, but in Trump-USA, in Russia re: Ukraine, in Iran, Afghanistan's Taliban, etc--anyplace or any segment of society that is very conservative, seems to always resist change, and will resist violently. Thank you for this course, it was fascinating, and changed how I see the world right now.


By Conor L

May 25, 2020

Excellent course on the philosophies of the Arab world. It is important to understand the region's modern history to be able to make wise decisions on its future. Without being an indoctrination of any of the ideals, the professor wisely lays out the pathway for a better life in the Arab world while demonstrating what failures should be corrected to achieve that goal. I walked away from this course with an enlightened sense of both western and eastern philosophy as well as a better recollection of the recent turmoil in the region. I would absolutely recommend this course to anyone looking to gain further insight into both the philosophy and politics of the Arab world.