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Protest Planet: How a Neoliberal Shell Game Created an Age of Activism
Posted on Nov 12, 2011
By Juan Cole
Facebook Flash Mobs
If we focus on economic trends, then the neoliberal state looks eerily similar, whether it is a democracy or a dictatorship, whether the government is nominally right of center or left of center. As a package, deregulation, the privatization of public resources and firms, corruption and forms of insider trading, and interference in the ability of workers to organize or engage in collective bargaining have allowed the top 1% in Israel, just as in Tunisia or the United States, to capture the lion’s share of profits from the growth of the last decades.
Observers were puzzled by the huge crowds that turned out in both Tunis and Tel Aviv in 2011, especially given that economic growth in those countries had been running at a seemingly healthy 5% per annum. “Growth,” defined generally and without regard to its distribution, is the answer to a neoliberal question. The question of the 99% percent, however, is: Who is getting the increased wealth? In both of those countries, as in the United States and other neoliberal lands, the answer is: disproportionately the 1%.
If you were wondering why outraged young people around the globe are chanting such similar slogans and using such similar tactics (including Facebook “flash mobs”), it is because they have seen more clearly than their elders through the neoliberal shell game.
Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History and the director of the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan. His latest book, “Engaging the Muslim World,” is just out in a revised paperback edition from Palgrave Macmillan. He runs the Informed Comment website.
© 2011 Juan Cole
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