Redrawing state-society boundaries : Egypt's dynamic social contract
Most LDC regimes, especially those with a colonial past, suffer from a deficit in legitimacy. Basing their rule on the personality and achievements of one person, these regimes have failed to pass on their legitimacy to their successors, or sometimes even secure legitimacy for the state. They have drawn up a social contract with their populations that entailed obligations to achieve objectives such as industrialisation, national and economic independence, and welfare of their societies. In return, their populations were expected to support their regimes, and surrender their political rights and liberties. In this research, we focus on the social contract in Egypt, as an example of an LDC state where the regime has suffered from a lack of legitimacy since the country gained its independence in 1952. Over the last five decades, Egyptian regimes have forged a social contract with their populations in order to legitimise their rule. The social contract encompassed achieving objectives adopted by the regime on the domestic and international level according to their visions. The formula of the social contract has been modified by the regime in response to changes in domestic and international factors. One of the main obligations that the regime has committed itself to since 1952 has been welfare provision by the state. The commitment of the regime to provide welfare for the population has been an effective tool to generate legitimacy. Thus, the maintenance of a 'welfare state' has constituted a central component of the social contract since 1952. However, a social contract based on welfare provision has not been durable; this type of contract has secured the regime legitimacy only as long as it has been able to deliver welfare products. As industrialisation failed to take off, Egyptian regimes found it difficult to sustain the welfare state. Their attempts to withdraw from welfare provision, without compromising their legitimacy, have been unsuccessful. This is because the regime has marketed welfare provision by the state as a right of the public based on citizenship; the populace has proved resilient in defending this right. Hence, the regime had to rely upon aid and or external borrowing to postpone the crisis; and modify the social contract by introducing some measures of political liberalisation.