Like the paternalistic assumptions of Modernization theory with its categorical political goal, Rostow’s stages of growth theory implied that development entails diffusion emanating from the core (advanced capitalist countries) to the periphery (less developed); in other words, an endorsement of imperialism justified in the name of anti-Communism and a single path to development and democracy. Included in Rostow’s stages of economic growth and Huntington’s 'Third Wave' thesis is the transition from traditional society to democracy only in theory.
In reality, the transition has been from corrupt clientist authoritarian regimes to corrupt semi-democratic ones under integration into the US-dominated economic and geopolitical global framework. In all cases without exception, countries falling into the “Third Wave” and Modernization theory framework in their political institutions became even more thoroughly dependent economically. This is as true for Latin America under US hegemony since the Spanish-American War as for Africa, Asia and Eastern and southeastern Europe under northwest European dominant influence. Post-Cold War regional economic blocs have been dominated by the US, German-dominated Europe Union, and Japan and more recently China competing with the core countries in the world economy for spheres of influence and market share. (4)
If the 'Third Wave' did not result in the type of social justice that one would associate with a Norwegian model of democracy but rather with a Latin American one, why would the imaginary 'Fourth Wave' be any different taking place now in the Middle East, especially after the failed uprisings that NATO countries and regional players like Saudi Arabia subverted as part of a counter-revolution that followed? Furthermore, the suggestion that modernization can come solely or primarily as a result of diffusion of 'ideas' from the West to the rest of the world is in many respects a reflection of Western imperialism, merely another version of Kipling’s White Man’s Burden thesis.
The Arab Spring uprisings were heterogeneous in their ideological orientation, as much as the Iranian Revolution of 1979 that the Shiite clergy eventually dominated and used to create an Islamic Republic. Precisely because of the heterogeneous nature of opposition to authoritarian regimes in Islamic countries reflecting largely the urban-secular middle class vs. the rural and some urban traditional masses clinging to Islam as the unifying force in society it became easier for the armed forces as in Egypt or comprador bourgeois class linked to foreign interests to prevail over the disparate masses. The question for the advocates of Modernization theory is whether revolution inspired by Islam intended to bring about social justice to society fits the theory, a question that a number of scholars raise as they try to place Arab Spring into a theoretical framework. (14)
Accepting some of the theoretical assumptions of the Modernization theory, French-Moroccan author Rachid Benzine emerged in Europe as a representative of the Arab Spring generation to articulate the events and dynamics in North Africa and the Middle East in the early 21st century. Following a long-standing tradition started by Bernard Lewis, Fazlur Rahman, and Edward Said who was a critic of conventional scholarship, Benzine argued that the failure of the Arab world, and more widely the Islamic world, to undergo an intellectual revolution (Renaissance and Enlightenment like Europe), invariably linked to social development, owed to a 'misreading' of the Koran and in failing to recognize and respond to specific historical situations? (16)
Is Egypt and the entire Islamic world part of a 'Fourth Wave' toward democracy and development merely another dream designed for the convenience of those who want to make sense of events and be optimistic that the modernization theory works - equating modernization with Western concepts of bourgeois capitalism. 'Transformation policy' that the US began implementing after WWII as a means to integrate the rest of the world into the global system of capitalist institutions was inevitable not just for Egypt, but the entire Arab world, as the counterrevolutions proved once the dust settled and regime change took hold. (17)
In the absence of a regional (Middle Eastern-North African) economic bloc, in the absence of some revival of Nasser's dream for Afro-Arab solidarity with a multilateral foreign economic policy as leverage in the international arena, Egypt along with the rest of the Islamic world will remain thoroughly integrated into the capitalist system as it was under Mubarak who had set up his own fiefdom and made billions in the process. The only question is what leverage does Egypt or any Islamic countries have? As much the US, as the Europeans and Chinese demand that Islamic nations conform to the rules of the marketplace, to the IMF and World Bank, to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and that they observe all of its foreign treaty and other obligations; exactly as the US demanded from the Egyptian army under Sisi so that the foreign aid can continue pouring in under Obama, despite human rights violations.(18)
Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, and the entire Arab world, will remain Western dependencies in most cases worse off than before Arab Spring, with the possible exception of Tunisia despite more than 6000 Tunisians joining ISIS in a nation with about 16% unemployment rate and per capita GDP average of just under $11,400 or 65% of the world’s average in PPP terms. External dependency on the core countries entails few changes in the status quo throughout the Arab world; merely enough to satisfy those that have fought to end authoritarianism in some countries, while disappointing to the vast majority.
While it would be a great development to have greater social justice, more respect for women and broader observance of human rights in general, the trend for the Middle East is westernization through commercialism - consumer products and services, pop cultural influences, telecommunications, media and technology - which entails influencing the value system so that gradually Islamic countries becoming more like Turkey that seeks full membership in the European Union and Indonesia inviting foreign capital investment. This subtle form of infringement on Muslim sovereignty to which Arabs object for economic, political and cultural/religious reasons comes slowly, and it contributes to popular uprisings. Along with the broader recognition that the Muslim world is made up mostly of poor people, while the Christian West is prosperous, immersed in materialistic, hedonistic values and lifestyles, there needs to be a realization that the Christian West has been profiting off the Muslim Middle East since the Treaty of Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (1774). The closely integrated globalized economy entails withering cultural identities and that is the case in the Muslim world where just beneath the relative calm a new wave of social uprisings is brewing and will explode eventually.
Undermining Self-determination and Popular Sovereignty in Traditional Societies