The Islamist nature behind much of the Arab Spring and a deep understanding of Popular Front tactics in many ways makes me a pesimist ... but ... could demographics help explain what is going on here?
SPIEGEL: Monsieur Todd, in the middle of the Cold War, in the days of Leonid Brezhnev, you predicted the collapse of the Soviet system. In 2002, you described the economic and imperial erosion of the United States, a global superpower. And, four years ago, you and your colleague Youssef Courbage predicted the unavoidable revolution in the Arab world. Are you clairvoyant?
Todd: The academic as fortune-teller -- a tempting idea. But Courbage and I merely analyzed the reasons for a possible -- or let's say likely -- revolution in the Arab world, an inexorable change, which could also have unfolded as a gradual evolution. Our work was like that of geologists who compile the signs of an imminent earthquake or volcanic eruption. But when exactly the eruption takes place, and its form and severity -- these things cannot be predicted in an exact way.
SPIEGEL: On what indicators do you base your probability calculation?
Todd: Mainly on three factors: the rapid increase in literacy, particularly among women, a falling birthrate and a significant decline in the widespread custom of endogamy, or marriage between first cousins. This shows that the Arab societies were on a path toward cultural and mental modernization, in the course of which the individual becomes much more important as an autonomous entity.
SPIEGEL: And what is the consequence?
Todd: That this development ends with the transformation of the political system, a spreading wave of democratization and the conversion of subjects into citizens. Although this follows a global trend, it can take some time.