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Estudios de Asia y África

versión On-line ISSN 2448-654Xversión impresa ISSN 0185-0164


CUADRO, Mariela. Islam, Democracy and Neoliberalism: The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in Power. Estud. Asia Áfr. [online]. 2016, vol.51, n.3, pp.571-597. ISSN 2448-654X.

The paper’s general objective is to reflect on relations between political Islam, liberal democracy and economic neoliberalism. To this end, it studies the case of the organization of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood during its period in power, focusing on the economic dimension. This choice is explained, on the one hand, by the absence of the economic factor in the hegemonic reading of the “Arab Spring” and, on the other hand, by its strong presence in the international power centers’ discourses which claimed that the political reform (democracy) had to be accompanied by an economic one (establishment or deepening of the free market). To this end, first, it analyzes the concept of democracy, stating that the hegemonic conception of it is heavily indebted to liberal democracy. The latter is defined by three elements: the elective process as a technical one, the construction of individuals-citizens and economic neoliberalism. For the elucidation of the latter, the article’s bases are Michel Foucault’s analysis, stating that neoliberalism is based on the free market understood as competition and, therefore, inequality. Economic liberalism is framed in the European process of secularization, one of whose corollaries has been the separation between economics and politics, but also between economics and religion. The non-separation between economy and religion results in the argument followed by some authors that the axis of Islamic economics is social justice, defining it as a moral economy. The article analyzes the concept of Islamic economics and contrasts the latter reading with another that links political Islam with economic neoliberalism. In order to avoid essentialization and to analyze practices, the paper does not a priori adopt any of these perspectives. Instead, it addresses the issue in a contextualized way. After a brief historical review of neoliberalism in Egypt, it analyzes the section of the electoral platform of the Muslim Brothers which makes reference to its economic policy. Also, it does the same with the discourse on the Arab uprisings of both the G8 and the International Monetary Fund, with particular emphasis on the latter’s relationship with the government of the Muslim Brotherhood. It concludes that the Islamic political party sought a balance between neoliberal economic practices and those specific to a program that favors social justice, leaning toward the latter. Thus, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to act as a barrier to economic neoliberalism. This earned it the refusal by the International Monetary Fund of a loan that was considered necessary to encourage investment. This refusal, coupled with coordinated action by regional powers and local elites, led to the overthrow of the first democratically elected Egyptian government.

Palabras llave : Hermanos Musulmanes; neoliberalismo; democracia liberal; discurso; FMI.

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