Fourteen chapters tackle different topics. Amin starts and ends with the more formal material. He argues that the major driving force in Egyptian social change has been social mobility, driven by economic liberalization, education, the rise of the military, foreign employers, migrant workers, and inflation. He links this to religious fanaticism and westernization. And he finishes with a twenty page history of Egyptian economics and, following Karl Polanyi, a look at the spread of market society into all aspects of Egyptian life.
In between Amin tackles a range of topics in everyday life: masters and servants and the increasing cost of domestic labour, the status of women, the decline in status of government jobs with respect to the private sector, the "decline" of the Arabic language, migration, private cars as status symbols, weddings, summer vacations, and the cinema. Most of this relies on personal observation: Amin illustrates changes in the status of women, for example, by describing differences in the lives of his mother and his daughters/nieces.
Amin's own prejudices are fairly obviously those of an aging Western-educated academic. So he's happy to link "unproductive activities" with "irrational habits of thought" and the "rentier economy" with "religious fanaticism". And his rant about language decline, poor grammar, and foreign words and neologisms seems almost identical to conservative complaints about changes in English (or French), making it hard to know if there really is something different about Eygptian Arabic in this regard.
Whatever Happened to the Egyptians? was published in 2000 but it covers trends over fifty years and is not particularly dated. So it offers a perspective on the underlying social tensions and stresses behind recent upheavals.
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