Relative Deprivation and Politics in the Arab Uprisings | Ifi Research Report
Research Report | May 2014
Relative Deprivation and Politics in the Arab Uprisings by Asya el-Meehy
This study seeks to assess the relative weights of economic and political grievances across the uprisings in Bahrain, Egypt, and Tunisia. Highlighting the unique shared role of middle class youth, it contends that these constituencies have suffered from relative deprivation, despite deliberate efforts by authoritarian regimes to shield them through new targeted social protection initiatives. Nonetheless, economic grievances were not always the primary driving dynamic of protests and the importance of the middle classes has varied compared to the roles of the poor, labor, and pro-democracy movements. Unlike Tunisia, the cases of Bahrain and Egypt exhibit higher influence of political grievances in triggering collective action at the initial stages. The hypothesis derived from the analysis is that splits among core elite groups are instrumental in politicizing middle class youth as well as creating space for their mobilization around demands for democratic change.