When the Arab revolutions erupted in early 2011, social justice was one of the core direct demands, as well as an indirect demand through the use of slogans such as “dignity” and “freedom”. These two demands are basically associated with social justice in one way or the other. Thus, we cannot underestimate the role of the economic conditions that lack social justice in the outbreak of these revolutions. If we look at Tunisia and Egypt, we find that there are many similarities on this level. The two countries have adopted open market policies and integration into the global economy. The economic policies of the two countries were always praised by international institutions, but growth in Tunisia and Egypt was coupled with complex and unbalanced development. This means that the dividends were not distributed equitably among the different groups of the society, especially among the masses of producers and among the different regions.
We cannot overlook that the first spark of these revolutions was the incident of Mohammed Bouazizi, an incident in which the economic conditions of poverty and unemployment became associated with the concept of rights: dignity and freedom, and an incident which shows how the concept of social justice is not an issue merely linked to quantitative economics – which is based on numbers and equations – but rather a concept, essentially linked with the conditions of people and communities. As said by Thomas Piketty in his book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century “democracy will never be supplanted by a republic of experts.”
This book tries to tackle the concept of social justice from this logic using background papers on the complexities of this concept, the relationship between this concept and the changes that took, and are still taking, place in our Arab region and the role of foreign factors, as represented by EU policies. It then presents three case studies, which tackle previous studies in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. It also contains a number of parallel articles to these studies in an attempt to provide different perspectives on issues and countries covered by these studies.