Sunday, July 26, 2020

Egalitarianism and Anti-Secularism Decline, Redux


My native Egypt went through a very strange transformation in the first decade of the century. At the turn of the century, a clear supermajority was tolerant of greater inequality in order to provide incentives for enterprise and hardworking. The decade ended in revolt, as we know, with a huge jump in attitudes -- flipping to supermajority favoring greater equality. 

This trend was reversed during the second decade of the century, most recent data still showing a weak majority favoring more equal distribution, but attitudes in 2018 were essentially back to where they had been a decade earlier in 2008. This is quite puzzling

It is especially puzzling when we compare it to the trend in attitudes in my adopted homeland of USA, which have continued to favor greater equality even since the Financial Crisis that precipitated the Great Recession. While a majority in the U.S. favored greater inequality in 2006, the increase in pro-egalitarian sentiments has been continuing monotonically, most recently showing a majority that favors greater equality, which was not the cases during the first six years of the century.


On a different but related note, I had found that "the revolutionary moment" in Egypt and other countries of the Arab Spring occurred during a confluence of high anti-secular and egalitarian attitudes (see "Bread (Rawls) + Freedom (Sen) = Social Justice? Religion and Economics in the Egyptian Spring"). The precipitous decline in Egyptians' pro-egalitarian attitudes has been accompanied by a precipitous decline in anti-secular attitudes (is it essential for a democracy that "religious authorities interpret the law"). In 2008, a clear supermajority favored democratic anti-secularism (whatever that means), and a decade later a clear majority was against it. This is no doubt a consequence of MB's failure to govern, and the populace recognizing that they merely wanted to replace one set of oligarchs with another, but even as casually as I have followed Egyptian pop culture, it is clear that the level of formulaic and over religiosity that was present at the turn of the century has lost its allure.

Interestingly, the decline in anti-secularism is not unique to Egypt. The pattern also holds in Pakistan, Jordan, Turkey, and Tunisia, albeit not as striking in those countries as it was in Egypt (and mostly the change in those latter countries occurs in the middle of response distributions, whereas the Egyptian one is across the board). All countries have switched over the past decade to a majority who do not subscribe to anti-secular views (measured by the top half of responses on religious authorities interpreting the law). Qatar is a bit of an exception, but we do not have a time series for the country, and data is not available for Saudi Arabia for this question (on the World Values Survey, which I have been mining since the onset of the Arab Spring nearly a decade ago).

Interestingly, attitudes in Jordan and Tunisia have also turned less egalitarian in recent years:
This is all consistent with my earlier work, also, which suggested that Muslim societies' preferences have been generally trending in a pro-capitalist direction, c.f. "Pro-Capitalist Trends in Muslim Attitudes: A Change-in-Change Analysis".


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