There is a risk that the Arab spring meets the same fat as revolutions elsewhere have in the past. That is, they can often result in a greater continuity than change. The recent literature on political economy offers a convincing reason for such institutional persistence. Revolutionary upheavals can often lead more quickly to de jure change in political institutions, without necessarily altering the underlying distribution of economic power. Whether it is the abolition of slavery and apartheid or the granting of voting and property rights, the underlying lesson is usually the same: de jure reforms do not automatically result in effective change.


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