Life as politics: how ordinary people change the Middle East In this eye- opening book, Asef Bayat reveals how under the shadow of the authoritarian rule . PDF | This document is a short summary of Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East by Asef Bayat, using USAID guidelines. Life as Politics is a collection of essays and fieldwork articles originally published by Asef Bayat in a range of academic outlets between the.

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Bayat successfully contributes to scholarship that situates the Arab Middle East in relation to its own specific social contexts, but also in intimate connection to world history and politics. In demonstrating how the region’s people are already inducing and impelling change within the authoritarian social structures that shape their societies, Bayat neither absolves local citizens of the necessity to practice progressive politics nor fails to place appropriate attention to the externally driven economic imperatives that both hinder and help regional possibilities for such political action.

Finally, in elucidating how local political agency and social change take their own shape and logic, Life as Politics provides an informed and hopeful voice for the position that sociopolitical alternatives to silence and violence in the Middle East will be initiated and increasingly practiced by ordinary active citizenries of the region or they will risk failing to take root at all.

Mahdi, CHOICE “If we are serious about meaningful change in the Middle East, we need to be aware of the ways people come together, share, and support each other in poor, urban Middle Eastern neighborhoods. In this pioneering book, Bayat forces us to see things from the ground up. Rather than focus on conflict, he highlights the unseen, ordinary ways people deprived of rights and avenues of protest continue to create opportunities.

It will definitely force a major rethinking of conventional understandings of Muslim-Christian relations, Islamist politics, women’s activism, and Middle East ‘exceptionalism.

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He is the author of Making Islam Democratic: Poor People’s Movements in Iran Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?

But this assumption fails to recognize that social and political change comes in many guises. In this eye-opening book, Asef Bayat reveals how under the shadow of the authoritarian rule, religious moral authorities, and economic elites, ordinary people can make meaningful change through the practices of everyday life.

Though not as visible on the bxyat as a mass protest or a full-scale revolution, millions of people across the Middle East are discovering or creating new social spaces within which to make their claims heard. Though not coordinated in their activities, these “non-movements” offer aasef political response, not of protest but of practice and direct daily action.

Offering a window into the complex social processes in a too-often misunderstood part of the world, this unique book provides a much-needed Middle Eastern perspective on global debates over the meaning of social movements and the dynamics of social change. Read more Read less.

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Review “Additional scrutinies of poltics politics and the potential for revolution, and in particular a caution politjcs radical Islam movements do not necessarily move in lockstep with impoverished populations, fill this thought-provoking, carefully researched and meticulously presented study.

Stanford University Press; 1 edition October 21, Language: I’d like to read this book on Kindle Don’t have a Kindle? Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Showing of 5 reviews. Top Reviews Most recent Top Reviews. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Recently there was a conference in Bayqt on political philosophy and, when the time came to raise questions, I asked the French lecturer what he thought about the current events unfolding in Tunisia and in Egypt, where two authoritarian leaders have been ousted by popular protest.

I gave a hint of how I would frame lifd issue in bayar terms: Kant’s cosmopolitanism and republican freedom, Hegel’s struggle for recognition and the end of oplitics, Marx’s Thermidor, etc.


But the French lecturer was unhelpful: I was left mulling over the indifference of contemporary philosophers to world events that may prove as important as the fall of the Berlin wall in But the French philosopher had a point: This bayatt much more than just watching the news and listening to the punditry of the so-called experts. Qsef understanding requires time and effort, and in the absence of direct observation or testimony a detour through the printed word seems to me a mandatory passage.

Minerva’s owl rises late, and takes flight after having spent some time in the library. Hence my decision to read books about politics in the Middle East, some of which I have accumulated on my bookshelf over the years without the time to bring attention to them.

Life as Politics is one such book: Its author, Asef Bayat, is a sociology professor in Leiden University and a long-time observer of Islamist movements. The book opens with a premonitory paragraph: It involves “nonmovements” or the collective actions of noncollective actors–the unemployed, street vendors, migrants, young university graduates, internet users, and housewives–and builds upon the “quiet encroachment of the ordinary”–the illegal occupation of public space by squatters, casual workers, business entrepreneurs, or kids playing street soccer as on the book cover.

These actors carry out their activities not as deliberate political acts, rather they are driven by the force of necessity–the bayqt to survive and improve life.

When denied these rights, they can resort to desperate action, leading to consequences well beyond anybody’s imagination or control.

One such “ordinary encroacher” was named Mohamed Bouazizi. He was poor but hard-working, peddling fruits and vegetables on a cart he pushed around the streets of Sidi Bouzid, a small Tunisian town. His dream was to buy or rent a pickup truck for his work, send his younger pife to college, and support his widowed mother in her old age.

But when the local police and town officials confiscated ilfe wheelbarrow and his scale, he found lfe brimming with humiliation and anger. Out of desperation, he doused himself with a can of gasoline in front of the municipality building and set himself alight. His protest sparked a fire. Demonstrations and riots erupted throughout Tunisia, forcing President Ben Ali to step down and opening the way to democracy.

The success of the Tunisian Revolution energized protesters in other Arab wsef, including several men who emulated Bouazizi’s act of self-immolation in an attempt to bring an end to their autocratic governments. The ripple effects went as far as China, where bayaf ruling party grew terrified at the thought of the many Bouazizi who were accumulating resentment and frustration in its fold. What are scholars to make of such dramatic events?

I don’t know whether Asef Bayat has commented on the recent developments in the Middle East, but bxyat book–a compilation of essays written over the years–helps put events in their proper perspective. First, there is the idea that history is made not only by the grand designs and speeches of great political leaders, but by the mundane actions of ordinary people.

Describing the complex dynamics by which common people–such as Mohamed Bouazizi–make history requires a novel vocabulary and new analytical tools.

Asef Bayat is cautious in his use of sociological jargon–terms like “the subaltern” or “agency”, which obfuscate more than they clarify debates. He also distinguishes his approach from former theoretical perspectives.

Social movement theory, drawing on European or Latin American experience, cannot account for the disjointed yet parallel practices of noncollective actors, which he sums up as “nonmovements”. The “quiet encroachment” of public space is distinct from survival strategies of “everyday resistance”, as described by James Scott in the context of South-East Asia.

Foucault’s concept of governmentality, in which “power is everywhere” and circulates within a fluid network of connected agents, politiics state power and the role abyat institutional actors such as organized labor or religious groups.

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By comparison, Bayat’s approach is more modest, and more grounded in empirical observation. Second, renewed attention is given to the “Arab street”. Political scientists and anthropologists have vilified the concept as a reified category, which reduces the culture and collective conduct of an entire people into a violent abstraction.

In the Western media, the “Arab street” is a strange place filled with angry people, a collective entity with a will of its own “What does the Arab street think? Asef Bayat has a different Arab street in mind. He is interested in what he calls “street politics and the political street”: As he notes, “streets, as spaces of flow and movement, are not only where people express grievances, but also where they forge identities, enlarge solidarities, and extend their protest beyond their immediate circles to include the unknown, the strangers.


Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Tehran’s Enghelab Avenue, Istanbul’s Taqsim Square have become trademarks and rallying banners as the focal points of mass protests and revolutions. Interestingly, they are all encircled by a maze of side streets and alleyways where political escapees can disappear in the event of a police chase.

Revolutions in the sense of insurrections possess an inescapable spatial dimension. Bayat also notes the mixed nature of informal settlements in the Middle East, home to many middle-class urbanites and presenting a diverse mix of cultural and religious identities. The informal nature of these neighborhoods without street names, household numbers, official registration, or maps also makes them a safe haven for Islamist militants, although the mass of the poor is rather indifferent to political Islam.

As a last point, it should be noted that Asef Bayat bzyat leaves his politics at the door, and refrains from ideological categorizations. To me, this is a welcome development.

Too many sociological tracts put the blame of everything wrong in the Arab world to “neoliberalism”, “Western imperialism”, or the dictates of the Bretton Woods institutions. Although Bayat is not immune to such biases–I never met a sociologist with a positive appreciation of the IMF– he is more nuanced and balanced in his judgments than many of his peers.

Commenting on geopolitics, he notes, quite provocatively, that “Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, with material and diplomatic U. To put it bluntly, Mohamed Bouazizi was not a victim of neo-liberalism: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. Most political science hayat, as most political scientist, ignore the importance of culture within societies.

That’s mostly because the majority of political scientist are overly concerned with wearing white lab coats and playing with number. Culture is hard to quantify so there for it must not lief according to those political scientist who are dead inside.

Bayat gives a good accounting of the cultural aspects of the ME, especially in understand the power of Street Politics. It’s not a good book for quant studies, but it’s a good book for trying to understand the ME from a MEern perspective.

I have not read the new edition, but as another reviewer said lie first edition reads very differently if you realize that he is writing this prior to the Arab Spring. The writing is engaging, and Bayat himself offers a unique perspective, spending much of his life bzyat both Egypt and Iran and witnessing firsthand much of the nuance in the larger social-institutional forces and events that have changed these places in the last few decades.

However, he manages to keep his analysis highly academic, while paying careful attention to larger aseef data. The book is primary about putting forth bsyat concept that Bayat calls “social non-movements,” people who might not organize, wave flags and attend rallies, but through sheer number the actions of people in aggregate force the social institutions around them to respond.

Bayat is interested in the tenuous nature of the relationship between non-movements and social change, as well as how the government tries to deal with these things. He also argues convincingly that the Western fetishization with organized political movements means they are missing the much greater tumult underneath the NGO’s and facebook groups. It’s worth a read particularly in the first aef just to see that one person was making some prescient observations about how social and political change might occur in the region.

Although this book is written in a somewhat academic language, it has proven to be poliitcs in its treatment of Middle Eastern political sociology, given the recent revolutions raging throughout the Arab world since it was written.