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A quip Saturday by a cable newsman sent me to google looking for
the phrase, '95 percent of the people never participate in protest.'
The commentator's wisdom is apparently attached to something called
the Rebel's Dilemma which accounts for the rule that 95 percent
of the people are not protesting 95 percent of the time. Political
scientist Federico Ferrara has posted a helpful sketch of the dilemma
and its solutions, in support of his syllabus for Intro to Comparative
Politics at Kansas University.
Some Web Lit
by Greg Moses
March 23, 2003
Furthermore, in a forthcoming paper for the Journal of Conflict
Resolution, Ferrara says regimes who want to aggravate the Rebels
Dilemma, and keep 95 percent in their places, can invoke Hobbes
dilemma, a well-known state of nature where people are forced to
choose between universal war or sovereign order. His case study
is Burma 1988, when the regime quelled a democratic movement by
withdrawing police order altogether, even to the point of emptying prisons!
The general theory is interesting enough, when we think about a
regime that achieves 95 percent allegiance through continual reminders
of threats that democratically-motivated failures to obey the regime
would surely result in elevated degrees of terror.
Meanwhile, another political scientist, Young-Choul Kim at Texas
Tech University, has posted some interesting studies of protest
behavior around the globe. Kim asserts that protest activity is
essential to genuine democracy, and like many other features of
what we call democracy today, protest activity works best among
middle classes. Protest takes time, and time is most spendable
by middle classes who are not quite so tied down by prospects of
survival. This is why we see students rather than workers more
often engaged in protest activity.
It is also important for protest activity to be nourished by political
discourse and education, preferably left-leaning. But Kim is more
interested in what he calls the post-materialist bias of protest
groups. Today's signs that cry 'no blood for oil' would seem to
epitomize post-materialist values.
Anti-globalization protests might also be seen as vanguard post-materialism.
Which makes interesting what Ann Florini of the Brookings Institute
has to say about attitudes expressed by a US administration official
who searched for intellectual connections between terrorists and
anti-globalization protesters. Globalization as we know it, argued
the official, is the best method for achieving social progress,
and it would appear that all opponents must be connected in their irrational responses.
But Florini patiently argues that critics of globalization--we'll
call them post-globalization protesters--represent important concerns
in an emerging globalized civil society. The question, for Florini,
'is how to open the policy making process to a wide range of voices
and interests.' Responding to protests as focus groups, will certainly
decrease regime ability to advance unilaterally across the globe.
But Florini finds the moment important: 'The risk of ignoring pressures
for a more open and transparent policy-making process far outweighs the risk of engagement.'
Indeed, as Perry Anderson argued earlier this month, the issue of
Iraq can be poorly framed as a narrow issue of war vs. inspections
if we do not also raise the embedded issues of how global sovereignty
is structured in the first place such that the people of the world
have to choose between two such grim regimes.
Much has been said about the internet facilitating a surprisingly
robust anti-war movement. But the sophistication of internet protest
organization has surely been facilitated by the anti-globalization,
too. And in the USA, our most recent polls indicate that the numbers
of anti-war citizens have been whittled down to numbers that we
may guess are very closely related to politically alert, left educated,
post-materialist, post-globalization democrats who now pause to
reflect what this movement is about. Our focus on crisis cannot
distract us from opportunities to secure a new world order that
transcends Hobbesian dilemmas of war and regime.
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