Ellen Lust hypothesizes as to why the revolutions happened when they did:

I suggest the answer lies in shifting our focus from a search for immediate causal factors to a greater recognition of micro- and meso-level transitions—that is, gradual, interrelated changes in political, economic and social spheres that, like slowly moving tectonic plates, eventually create the conditions conducive to earth-shattering events. The point is not simply to recognize the incrementalism of change or unintended consequences of social, economic and political reforms that have often been implemented in the region, but to urge us to pay greater attention to the "shifting web of conditions that define the terrain on which new institutions and actors arise, old actors activate or change their claims, and all pursue iterative contests."[iv] Attention to these factors does not pinpoint precisely the emergence of uprisings across the Arab world, but it certainly makes them less surprising.