At the heart of the turmoil that continues to afflict Egypt lies the sharp ideological divide that separates liberals and Islamists. But ideology alone—differences of opinion over the role of religion, separation of powers and women’s rights, among other issues—does not explain the extent to which the renewed conflict has engulfed the country.
Ideology fires up the most die-hard activists on both sides, but something much more mundane mobilizes the masses: The economy is the thing for all but the most committed.
Personal privation—a decrease in living standards that has cut across much of Egyptian society—is what has produced the combustible fuel that allows the passions of the ideologues to ignite large segments of the population. That’s why the battle for the country’s future will continue to be fought on the lofty peaks of political philosophy, but will ultimately be won on the flat plains of bread-and-butter technocratic achievement.