Crises of Capital, Populist Politics

The social movements field of scholarship no longer holds strain and breakdown theories in high regard when attempting to understand and explain mobilization emergence. However, as micromobilization theorist Aldon Morris explained in Frontiers in Social Movement Theory, collective action and social movement consciousness must be located within the systems of domination that oppress actors in a myriad of ways. It might be possible then to think of crises of capitalism and heightened periods of economic exploitation as an underlying factor that inflames simmering racial tensions and popular protests over scarce resources. Continue reading

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The Fast and The Furious: protest impact

Are protests effective? This straightforward question interests both scholars and lay observers of protest. Whereas scholars most frequently answer the question with a nuanced ‘it depends’ and start narrating about contingencies; citizens and especially journalists most often simply want to hear impressive stories. Not the historical cases everybody is familiar with, but preferably more recent ones. Tales of contemporary struggles that truly show the potency of protest.

In the last few months, several examples of protest and success covered in international media caught my attention. These protests were noteworthy because, contrary to what much scholarly work suggests—that is, that protest is especially effective in the long run—these actions succeeded extremely quickly, in a matter of days. Their success seemed to be as sudden as their emergence. Continue reading

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The Arab Spring Six Years On

Six years ago, after starting with the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a wave of protests in the Arabian Middle East toppled several governments and gave voice to a new generation of activists. Mobilizing Ideas marks this anniversary with a dialogue entitled, “Movement Trajectories: The Arab Spring Six Years On.” We ask our contributors to consider the pathways of movements after the period of mass mobilization, specifically looking at the countries of the Arab Spring.

Many thanks to our fantastic group of contributors.

James M. Dorsey, Nanyang Technological University (essay)
Charles Kurzman, University of North Carolina (essay)
Anne PriceHelen RizzoChelsea MartyKatherine Meyer (essay)
Atef Said, University of Illinois-Chicago, (essay)

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo

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Was the Arab Spring Worth It?

By Charles Kurzman

You risked your life for freedom, dignity, justice, and equality. You took days and weeks from other responsibilities – from your family, your school, your work — in order to serve your nation. You convinced yourself that you were building a better future. Now you ask yourself, was it worth it? Continue reading

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Three Lessons For Social Movement Research From the Egyptian Revolution

By Atef Said

Jack Goldstone famously argued that revolutions are like earthquakes: unpredictable. Once an earthquake happens, however, we study it to learn something new (Goldstone 1991: 59, 149). In the same vein, sociologists Mohamed Bamyeh and Sari Hanafi recently stated “Revolutions, therefore, are opportunities to learn something new. The worst analytical insult to a revolution is to use it as an opportunity to apply mechanically an existing theory or model.” (Bamyeh and Hanafi 2015: 343) What can we learn from the Arab Spring today, 6 years later? A general Google search brings up 11,700,000 entries that roughly have some version of “Lessons from the Arab spring” in the title. These lessons/conclusions vary from blaming some actors (such as the political Islamists, or the “revolutionary youth”) or forces of the old regimes (such as the military or the security apparatuses), or the elite (intellectual or the political elite, which varies from liberal, nationalists to Marxist leftists) or discussing the problem of a lack of organization or leadership. And there is a multitude of lessons to be learned, depending on the perspective of the scholar or observer. Continue reading

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The Arab Spring and Women’s Continued Mobilization in the Region

By Anne PriceHelen RizzoChelsea MartyKatherine Meyer

What does the Arab Spring uprisings’ effect on women in the MENA region tell us about the broader outcomes of the Arab Spring? In this piece, we discuss: 1) women’s status as a key indicator of the potential for democracy in the region, 2) changes in women’s status since the Arab Spring, and 3) the ways in which women’s increased mobilization as a result of the Arab Spring has been—and can continue to be—a pathway to improvements in women’s status. We give particular attention to the case of Egypt. Continue reading

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The Post-2011 Arab World: Change is the Name of the game

By James M. Dorsey

Common wisdom has it that ultimately failed or troubled popular revolts in 2011 in the Middle East and North Africa have sparked bloody civil wars and violent extremism, and given autocracy a new lease on life.

Indeed, there is no denying that a brutal civil war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands and dislocated millions. Iraq, like Syria, is seeking to defeat the Islamic State (IS), the most vicious jihadist movement in recent history. Sectarianism and religious supremacism is ripping apart the fabric of societies in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond.

Yet, the legacy of the 2011 revolts is not simply massive violence, brutal jihadism, and choking repression. In fact, the revolts kicked off an era of change, one that is ugly, destabilizing, violent and unpredictable, and that may not lead any time soon to more liberal, let alone democratic rule. Continue reading

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