For judicial wonks out there, a superb piece on the past, present and future condition of the judiciary in Egypt has just been published by Nathan Brown at Carnegie. It's long, but here's an excerpt I want to comment on that deals with the judiciary getting increasing leverage over the state, and specifically the Supreme Constitutional Court but then expands into a wider point about the revival of corporatism more generally:
I think actually Nathan undershoots here — there is a strong corporatism to the nature of post-1952 Egypt, certainly in terms of political culture (just think of the relative strength of professional syndicates, even under autocracy, or that entire modern neighborhoods of Cairo have names like "Engineers" or "Journalists). Corporatism is deeply engrained in Egypt, and one of the main reason I have never been a cheerleader for the Judges' Club and its maximalist approach towards judges' independence (they want money from the state without accountability for instance, and the "judges' intifada" of 2006 was successfully shut down by the Ministry of Justice withdrawing corporatist favors like the payment of judges' mobile phone bills and the underwriting of the Club's loan facilities).
But pinpointing of the dangers towards an adapted, perhaps less authoritarian, corporatism is very astute. But the "balkanization" of the Egyptian state he discusses is real cause for concern for me, because the creation of corporatist islands of power working side to side is not really a transformation of the political fabric as the creation of privileged enclaves that continue forms of behavior where the distinction between the state (and its resources) and corporate interests is scant, where accountability is difficult to obtain outside these enclaves (i.e. they tend to be self-governing), and where everyone who is not in one of these enclaves will tend to become a less privileged citizen. Not to mention, of course, that the battle for control of these enclaves risks becoming the biggest stake of politics (rather than elections, etc.) and that elected officials have reduced power over these enclaves as a result.
A really great piece worth reading for its insight on the judiciary alone, but the final insight is a much more important point:
Much of the political focus in Egypt in the year after the January 25 revolution was on the tension between the military council and the Brotherhood; between Islamists and non-Islamists; between civilian political structures and the institutions of the security state; and between older authoritarian ways and newer more participatory ones. Such contests are vital and real. But they should not lead us to overlook another likely contest that is apt to grow even as the other ones diminish: between the forces of politics, popular sovereignty, and democracy on the one hand and bureaucracy, expertise, and professionalism on the other.
I would fear a rule of technocracies, bureaucracies and "corporations" just as much as the rule of the military — which is just one form of technocracy that specializes in violence, after all.