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Protest Potential in the Middle East

Publication Abstract

Peterson L, and Price AM. 2009. ““Protest Potential in the Middle East.” Presented at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco, November.

Researchers recognize that in some environments political protest has relatively little risk for individuals, while in other cases even marginal involvement in collective action can have serious repercussions (Almeida 2003; McAdam 1986). However, in order for social change to occur, there must be individuals who are willing to take advantage of favorable opportunity structures by engaging in forms of political activism. In this paper, we use the 2000 World Values Survey to examine the effect of individual characteristics on the potential for political protest in six diverse nations in the Middle East. In doing so, we contribute to the literature on protest potential as well as high-risk activism. Findings show that the Middle East should not be considered uniform in terms of the potential for protest. While biographical availability and political engagement operate much as the literature would predict in influencing individual willingness to engage in political action in Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Algeria, and Israel, these factors are not significant in Egypt or for Arabs in Israel. Instead, findings suggest that if change is going to come from below in the most autocratic situations such as Egypt, or Arabs living in Israel, or the Occupied Territories, it will have to be from those people who are somewhere in the middle and lower-classes, who care more about politics, and are willing and able to form social networks where politics are discussed

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