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[liberationtech] Peter Theil On Arab spring

Erik Sundelof erik at sundelof.com
Mon Jul 23 18:04:05 PDT 2012


This is a general comment about the topic.

I think my main comment is that I believe the time spent to discuss a comment by Peter Thiel on a panel about what sparked the Arab spring is interesting. Yes it sparked a debate about the background of the Arab spring which is interesting per se, but I mostly see a danger/challenge addressing comments from complete outsiders to the movement,

I do really like Jillian comment about the years of work and factors behind what happened. Oversimplifying the struggle and process that led to the Arab spring will only lead to one thing: popularism about THE reason

The cynical side of me believes that comments such as Thiels mostly result in a skewed discussion about the validity or invalidity of what he said and not said, or what he understood or not understood etc etc. Unfortunately it does not end up in a discussion about the complexity of the movement that lead to the Arab spring and what the power of that movement really was.

I truly believe us as humans tend to migrate towards the simple, singular answers when in fact the reality is not. Hiding from the fact that it was a large number of underlying factors for the Arab spring is lying to ourselves and I do not see it leading anywhere really.

Sorry for being a bit cynical.

Erik

http://sundelof.com

Sent from my iPad

On Jul 23, 2012, at 4:30 PM, Yosem Companys <companys at stanford.edu> wrote:

> One could just look at the social movement and revolutions empirical literature:  
> 
> In that literature, scholars early on it was posited that grievances (or relative deprivation) caused movements/revolutions (e.g., Davies' J-curve).  Comparative empirical research, however, showed that grievance levels would change over time, and yet there was no systematic correlation with revolutionary or movement activity.
> 
> A new theory replaced that one that posited that resources (including tools/technologies) caused movements/revolutions.   Once again, comparative empirical research showed that resource levels would change over time, and yet there was no systematic correlation with revolutionary or movement activity. 
> 
> In the revolutions literature, it was found that the strongest predictor of revolutions was rising expectations.  In other words, when economic conditions improved and a socioeconomic group saw its  status enhanced, revolutions were much more likely to happen.  In fact, the same literature shows that worsening economic conditions may trigger riot and unrest but rarely trigger revolutions.
> 
> In the political process theory of the social movement literature, it was found that the strongest predictor of movements was emerging opportunities in the social structure.  In other words, when changes to the social structure occurred such that the elites in power saw their power weaken vis-a-vis out-of-power challengers, challengers were most likely to demand political change.  This can happen due to a variety of factors such as migratory patters, economic changes, and geopolitical changes, among others.  Researchers have further found that these factors develop over long periods of time, such that most revolutions have 10+ years in the making.
> 
> Moreover, political process theorists note that a successful challenge requires the following factors:
> Political opportunities that weaken the regime vis-a-vis challengers
> Resource availability that enables the challengers to carry out a successful challenge, usually in the form of existing organizations, groups and/or networks
> A space (usually in the form of existing organizations, groups and/or networks) from which the challengers can talk & develop solidarity to mount a massive campaign against the regime
> An initial weak response to the challenge by the regime that enhances the challengers' self-efficacy and collective belief that these challengers will prevail.  However, a regime can also overplay its hand and react with such violent force that it undermines its legitimacy in the eyes of the population. 
> Thus, a revolutions/movements scholar seeking to explain the Arab Spring would most likely try to find evidence that rising expectations and opportunities were present.  Then s/he would try to rule out that grievances or resources alone could have caused it.  S/he would also expect to find that the movement had ready access to resources and collective solidarity, and that the regime either under- or over-played its hand.
> 
> Best,
> 
> Yosem
> 
> 
> 
> On Mon, Jul 23, 2012 at 4:06 PM, Jillian C. York <jilliancyork at gmail.com> wrote:
> My two cents:
> 
> I think it's most certainly too simplistic.  Not only does it ignore the 5-10 year buildup of various online communities (as opposed to this idea that one Facebook page suddenly created activists), but of course also ignores the various offline factors which include food prices but also plenty more (labor protests dating back to 2008, the increasing awareness of police brutality, etc).
> 
> I'd point to a source, but I honestly haven't yet seen a single source that covers everything.  Some folks have done great work analyzing the online climate, others the offline, but—at least of what I've read thus far, which isn't everything—I haven't seen anyone pull it all together.
> 
> -Jillian
> 
> On Sun, Jul 22, 2012 at 10:02 PM, Prashant Singh <pacificleo at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> Hi Guys 
> 
> Recently  at  Fortune Brainstorm Tech in Aspen, CO,  there was a debate between Eric Schmidt and Peter Thiel  about Contribution of Technology in Our Society . They touched upon many topic but  at one point of time during the debate  while discussing role of technology in enabling Arab Spiring and other revolution  Thiel said 
> 
> "When you talk about the Arab spring, you can say that it's evidence of Google and Twitter ‑‑ ‑‑ liberating the world through information.  But, the actual facts on the ground are that food prices rose by 30 to 50 percent in the previous year and you basically had people who had become ‑‑ you had desperate people who had become more hungry than scared, who revolted."
> 
> is he being too simplistic ? was there more to the revolution than just Food Price ? Would like to know your thoughts . you can see the whole debat online at http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2012/07/17/transcript-schmidt-thiel/
> 
> thanks
> 
> -- 
> Prashant 
> 
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> +1-857-891-4244 | jilliancyork.com | @jilliancyork 
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> "We must not be afraid of dreaming the seemingly impossible if we want the seemingly impossible to become a reality" - Vaclav Havel
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