Chantal E. Berman

Political SciencePrinceton University

Award Information

2016 IDRF Program

Political SciencePrinceton University

Bread, Freedom: Protest, Social Policy, and Political Regimes After the Arab Spring

Predominant theories of regime change and redistribution generate an expectation that in democratizing countries, redistributive interest groups — by virtue of electoral competition, enhanced political opportunity, and greater sensitivity of democratic elites to popular pressures — should be able to attain more favorable social and labor policies. Yet the parallel cases of Tunisia — which experienced popular revolution followed by political democratization in 2011 — and Morocco — which experienced mass mobilization during this same "wave" but did not democratize — present a confounding example. Since 2011, social movements concerned with distributive policies in Morocco have garnered more frequent and expansive concessions than have their counterparts in Tunisia. What factors explain this apparent reversal of social outcomes between successful and "failed" democratizing revolutions? More broadly, how do revolutions and regime transitions shape the success of redistributive movements in dependent-developing states? I argue that the distributive implications of democratizing revolutions must be explained in reference 1) to the sequencing of socioeconomic mobilization relative to the "moment" of democratic transition, 2) to political opportunity structures associated with different political regimes, and 3) to the evolving threat perceptions of post-revolutionary elites vis-à-vis protest. I test this argument using national-level protest event data (2006 – 2015) and case studies of three parallel movements in Tunisia and Morocco — the movement of unemployed graduates, the movement against extractive mining industries, and the movement against subsidy reduction. My dissertation intends to show that Tunisia and Morocco represent a conundrum of contemporary revolutionary movements: those forms of mobilization perhaps best suited to removing entrenched regimes are also those least enabled to "deepen" democracy by achieving distributive change.