O’Neil describes three possible explanations for political violence: Institutional, Ideational and Individual explanations. Of these three explanations, the one that I find the most compelling is the institutional approach.
The institutional approach is based on “political institutions, such as states and regimes; economic institutions, such as capitalism or societal institutions, such as culture and religion.” (O’Neil pg. 211) It is not that the other arguments of individual or ideational explanations are not valid, but rather that they are not the direct cause but rather the indirect reactions of an existing institution. People’s violence and actions may be motivated by ideas or personal beliefs but are only able to realize that it is unfavorable to them when the institution has been in place. People’s ideologies or individual beliefs being suppressed and their consequent actions only come to life if their is a political institution in place to suppress them in the first place. O’Neil describes institutional explanations as being “a root source for violence, a necessary condition for violent action to take place, and a presumption that changes in the institutional structure would eliminate the motivation for this violence.” (O’Niel pg. 211) People facing religious persecution are most likely facing this discrimination as a result of a regime that is suppressing their individual beliefs. Therefore, they believe that the destruction of this institution will bring them change. Individual beliefs may be a cause of what allows them to have the motivation to act but the ultimate goal is the elimination of an unsatisfactory institution.
When analyzing the causes of the Arab spring, O’Neil describes “civil society in much of the region is weak and fragmented, a result of states repression and low levels of development.”(O’Neil pg. 220) The motivation behind the Arab spring was a push for democracy which is an institutional change. The regime that was existent was not supportive of the ideals of the people. Fortunately for Tunisia, the regime lacked the military force necessary to counter the actions of the people but people living under military rule in Egypt still vie for democracy.
As a more recent “Arab spring” occurs in Egypt, young citizens of the country are calling for a democratic rule. Bassem Yousef, a satirical comedian believes that democracy is still living in the hearts of the people. Sissi, the current president has become too powerful and continues to commit human rights violations. Yousef states that “as the repressive nature of the Sissi regime has become more clear, Youssef appears to be championing the same young, pro-democracy advocates who helped launch the 2011 uprisings in various countries in the Arab world.” It is clear that it is the change in political institutions that have caused the Arab spring and the more recent uprising in Egypt.
O’Neil, Patrick H. 2015. Essentials of Comparative Politics, 5th Edition. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.