From War of Manoeuvre to War of Position
This paper builds on my previous work on democracy and authoritarianism in the Arab world, which conceptualises authoritarianism as a ‘hegemonic system’ which has historically developed in relation to the experiences of colonialism and the challenges of post-independence. The unprecedented actions of Egyptian citizens during the January 25 uprising of 2011 demonstrated the extent to which Egyptians no longer believed in the post-independence hegemony and no longer believed in the legitimacy of the regime to use coercion to enforce this hegemony. In the terminology of the Marxist theorist, Antonio Gramsci, the 25 January uprising constituted a war of manoeuvre against a deeply unpopular regime—that is, an attack on the edifices of Mubarak’s regime and its symbols.
However, Gramsci differentiated between a ‘war of manoeuvre’ and a ‘war of position’. The latter is an intellectual and cultural attack on hegemony. In the post-Mubarak era, there are competing wars of position being waged against authoritarianism. In this paper I identify key areas of practical and discursive struggle amongst different Egyptian actors in order to map out the wars of position and and their influence on the shaping of the future Egyptian polity and the construction of a new hegemony.