SUMMARY:This panel analyses the transformation of social mobilization and of state responses since the time of the Arab uprisings. While a considerable amount of work has been produced on the uprisings and their significance for Middle Eastern politics (Gerges 2014), less attention has been paid to the new forms of social mobilization and of authoritarian learning that have been generated by these events.
This panel brings together specialists of social movements and politics from below (and from outside) with specialists of regimes and institutional transformations to analyze the interactions between protest movements, modes of social mobilization, and the "surviving" authoritarian or transitional states of the region. The common thread between all the presentations is an interest in specifying the interactions between the longer-term mechanisms of 'authoritarian upgrading' (Hinnebusch 2012) and the mechanisms of social mobilization revealed during the Arab uprisings (Pearlman 2013).
The panel examines three processes of change in the region. First protest movements and social mobilization have commonly been assessed to be too weak to directly undermine the regimes in place (Wiktorowicz 2004, Bayat 2010). The panelists analyze recent mechanisms and processes to evaluate how they diverge from earlier forms mobilization. They consider if and how these uprisings have introduced new repertoires of collective action and how these have affected relations between state and society (Tarrow 1993).
Second, the panellists revisit the principal mechanisms and factors that underpinned the actions of authoritarian regimes in traditional protest situations (Brownlee 2007, Schlumberger 2008) to map the evolution of these practices in the aftermath of the uprisings. They analyze the short to medium-term adaptations of the regimes to the new forms of social mobilization and collective action of opposition actors in the post-uprisings period.
Third, the panellists reflect on the convergences between institutionalist and social movement approaches to Middle East politics that would be most useful to explore today (Goodwin 2012, Leenders 2013). An emerging research program is beginning to explore whether new forms of social mobilization - informal, non-hierarchical, spontaneous, and often rejecting formal institutionalization - challenge established understandings of how oppositions and resistance to authoritarianism affect the stability of embedded authoritarian regimes. Whether social movement frameworks can adequately capture and explain these forms of social mobilization and, if not, how to develop the analytical tools to understand their origins and dynamics, is a question of urgency for understanding the social and political trends unfolding in the Arab world today.