One does not need to be a scientist or a philosopher to discover that the social conflict in Egypt has reached an unprecedented peak since the formation of the modern social order during the 19th century. Yet it may be noted that some aspects of this conflict generate effects that could be commensurate with the repercussions of social conflicts at an earlier stage.
An example of these effects is what we may get if we compare the phenomenon of industrial monopoly now and the large feudal estates (or the agricultural monopoly) before the 1952 revolution.
Egyptians are currently divided into increasingly divergent categories. This differs from the divisions which naturally occur due to the presence of different social groups whose interests contradict from the top to the bottom of the social hierarchy.
Studies have extensively described the details of the Egyptian social map before 1952 when the landlords (also called feudatories) were at the top of the social hierarchy.
Marxists in particular have found it difficult to analyze this map in the socialist phase and have disagreed on the nature of the upper class, whether it is the big or medium bourgeoisie or the bureaucracy.
The new division we are witnessing today is coupled with a communal disintegration and discriminative policies and patterns of relationships between individuals. It is also linked to an unprecedented degradation of moral values despite the unconventional tidal wave of formal ritual piety Egypt has never seen before.
A feature of this new division has a physical characteristic, for, in spite of the fact that all social groups are separate from each other, each category is divided into increasingly divergent small units despite the communication revolution.
This is the greatest danger facing any society, especially during a transitional period. This transition stirs fears if it heads to the unknown.
The problem is not only in the abysmal gap between the higher social classes emanating from different and contradictory roots, and the bottom and marginalized sectors of society, but also in the wide gaps within each social group.
This was evidenced by the conflict which occurred a few weeks ago between two industrial tycoons, one of which is a government minister (the Minister of Industry and Trade) and the second is an influential figure in the ruling party, over the issue of monopoly.
Although they have agreed on the legalization of monopoly in principle, the former has tried to deter grave monopolistic practices while the latter sought to reduce this deterrence in the amendment the parliament has recently introduced to the anti-monopoly law.
The new version of this law was promulgated without setting proper limits to avoid monopoly. It also made no mention of the most important text in deterring monopolistic practices, that is, the leniency clause which was supposed to exempt an informer of punishment.
Thus, the trend which is keen on the interest of the ruling regime as a whole has failed, while the trend which expresses individual interests has won.
Therefore, the regime could pay the price for these individual interests.
If monopoly is confirmed to be manipulated by a number of business tycoons the regime could become the biggest loser.
In this case monopoly will likely become a historic stalemate to the regime, leading to further weakness and a continuing deterioration in its popularity.
The failure of the regime to put an end to industrial monopoly could be similar to the failure of the monarchy in the late 1940s and early 1950s to reduce agricultural monopoly because of its rejection of agrarian reform.
The dramatic increase in the influence of senior industrialists now could be equivalent to the clout of landlords before the 1952 Revolution.
This does not necessarily mean that industrial monopoly may cause a change of the same kind that has resulted from agricultural monopoly before, but it will inevitably lead to further social tension, which opens the door to a change the features of which are not clear so far.
Dr Waheed Abdel Meguid is an expert at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.