Arab workers participated prominently in the popular uprisings of 2011. They shared the outrage of many of their compatriots over daily abuse by internal security forces, widespread corruption, and foreign policies subservient to U.S. interests. Their participation in those uprisings was also informed by struggles against the neoliberal economic restructuring of the region since the 1970s, which resulted in an indecent chasm between rich and poor, deteriorating working conditions and public social services, and high youth unemployment.
Egypt experienced a strike wave of unprecedented magnitude in the 2000s. Tunisia, with one exception, experienced less intense contestation by workers and others. Egyptian workers’ have had very limited influence on national politics in the post-Mubarak era. Democratic development seems unlikely in the near future. The Tunisian national trade union federation and its affiliates were the central force in installing procedural democracy. The nature of workers’ social movements in the 2000s partially explains these divergent outcomes.
Joel Beinin is the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History and Professor of Middle East History. He received his A.B. from Princeton University in 1970, his M.A. from Harvard University in 1974, and his A.M.L.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1978 and 1982. He also studied at the American University of Cairo and and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He lived in Egypt in 1969, 1980-81, 1985, 1986, 1994, 2004-05, and 2006-08 and in Israel in 1965-66, 1970-73, 1987, 1988, 1993, and 1993. He has taught Middle East history at Stanford University since 1983. From 2006 to 2008 he served as Director of Middle East Studies and Professor of History at the American University in Cairo. His research and writing focuses on workers, peasants, and minorities in the modern Middle East and on Israel, Palestine, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Beinin has written or edited nine books, most recently Social Movements, Mobilization, and Contestation in the Middle East and North Africa; co-edited with Frédéric Vairel (Stanford University Press, 2011) and The Struggle for Worker Rights in Egypt (Solidarity Center, 2010). His articles have been published in leading scholarly journals as well as The Nation, Middle East Report, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Le Monde Diplomatique, and others. He has appeared on Al-Jazeera TV, BBC radio, National Public Radio, and many other TV and radio programs throughout North America, and in France, Egypt, Singapore, and Australia, and has given frequent interviews to the global media. In 2002 he served as President of the Middle East Studies Association of North America.
This event is co-sponsored by the Arab Studies Institute.