Understanding Peasant Resistance: Tunisia, Egypt and Libya

“MOST SUBORDINATE CLASSES throughout most of history have rarely been afforded the luxury of open, organized, political activity. Or, better stated, such activity was dangerous, if not suicidal. … For all their importance when they do occur, peasant rebellions–let alone revolutions–are few and far between. The vast majority are crushed unceremoniously.  … For these reasons it seemed to me more important to understand what we might call everyday forms of peasant resistance-the prosaic but constant struggle between the peasantry and those who seek to extract labor, food, taxes, rents, and interest from them. Most forms of this struggle stop well short of outright collective defiance. Here I have in mind the ordinary weapons of relatively powerless groups: foot dragging, dissimulation, desertion, false compliance, pilfering, feigned ignorance, slander, arson, sabotage, and so on. These forms of class struggle require little or no coordination or planning; they make use of implicit understandings and informal networks; they often represent a form of individual self-help; they typically avoid any direct, symbolic confrontation with authority. … When such stratagems are abandoned in favor of more quixotic action, it is usually a sign of great desperation.”
James c. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 1985)

Understanding this insightful excerpt can make us an expert on the recent events and magnitude of different factors and political forces in the uprising in one country after another.  Emphasis is on the observation, “Peasant rebellions–let alone revolutions–are few and far between,” when we see revolution in one country after another in quick succession, the conclusion is inevitable that when humpty dumpty had a fall, he was pushed!

Categories: Egypt, Libya

1 reply

  1. Unfotunately the people of Egypt now send the wrong message to the region. By demanding that President Mubarak be prosecuted for alleged corruption the message they send to Col. Ghaddafi and the Presidents of Algeria, Yemen, Syria and possibly some Kings in the region also, is: you need to fight to the death, because there is no ‘peaceful retirement for you and your families’. My personal view is that President Mubarak should have been permitted to leave the country with his family, just like King Farouk was permitted to do. It is not only his fault that he kept the power so long. The people could have matured earlier. Just a thought ….

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