Anarchist Philosophy, Civic Traditions and the Culture of Arab Revolutions

In: Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
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  • 1 University of Pittsburgh, USA

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An exploration of the most common theories and methods used in the ongoing Arab uprisings suggests that their roots lie in ordinary and familiar civic ethics, rather than in any conscious ideological project preceding the revolutions. This article explores the hypothesis that the revolutions have been facilitated most by long-standing traditions of self-organization that are usually ignored in scholarship of social movements as well as by organized social movements themselves. Both, after all, tend to see political mobilization as a result of either clear structures such as organizations or leaders, or as a function of explicit ideological commitments. Arguing against this way of seeing social movements and especially revolutionary processes, this paper explores the history of certain Arab civic traditions and popular propositions that possess what might be called anarchist features. These already familiar traditions and propositions came to the fore in the Arab revolutions. The article focuses on three of these broadly familiar anarchist styles of thinking and organizing that were central to the Arab revolutions: 1) the notion of the simplicity of truth; 2) the dialogic nature of the revolutionary process itself; and 3) the leaderless conception “the people.” All three features are argued to have emerged out of a merger between long-standing civic ethics and a more recent historical memory of previous revolutionary experiences.

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