The Role of Youth in Yemen’s Political Revolutionary Movement

A Sociological Study, 2011-2016
14 November, 2022

As part of the Doctoral Dissertations series, the ACRPS has published The Role of Youth in Yemen’s Political Revolutionary Movement: A Sociological Study, 2011-2016 by Abdul Karim Ghanem (271 pp.). It includes a bibliography and a general introduction. The book is a field study that conducts an in-depth analysis to address the political revolutionary movement that Yemen experienced in the context of the Arab Spring revolutions. It concentrates on analysing the social determinants of the movement’s emergence and the political role of the social movement, which took on both a youth and partisan character, as well as that movement’s inclinations and position on reform. Further, it analyses the costs and benefits of the movement’s political participation and the associated opportunities and obstacles, in view of the impact of traditional social structures and external variables as opposed to the Tunisian and Egyptian experiences; traces the particularities, strengths, and weaknesses of the Yemeni experience; and evaluates the nature of the current “public sphere” and the political participation it has come to allow, as a basis to achieve political change. Thus, the dissertation serves as a resource to intellectuals, academics, activists, and decision makers. The conceptual framework of the study draws on political process theory (PPT) to analyse the social conditions for the emergence of the revolutionary movement, against the backdrop of conflict between social actors, such as the youth and the various opposition groups, and a despotic, ineffectual political regime riddled with corruption and networks of patronage. The author also deploys new social movements (NSM) theory in understanding the participation of the middle and lower-middle classes and an array of ideological orientations in the Yemeni case, investigating to what extent the social movement was impacted by social divisions and a plurality of identities as relates to the capability of collective action to mobilise demands, gauge successes and failures, and construct a broad-based, collective discourse. The book’s assessment of the historical background for the Yemeni revolutionary movement notes that social integration was never fully achieved throughout modernisation and development processes, preserving the status of tribal and sub-national identities. An opposition bloc began to emerge out of society’s experience of the state’s ineffectuality, loss of confidence, and awareness of the wide range of communities excluded from participation in political authority. These socio-political collectives—religious, local, and tribal movements—derived influence from a strong capacity for social organisation and benefitted from opportunities presented by tribal and sectarian structures as well as political variables that served to intensify resentment toward the state and decrease confidence in its legitimacy. The author contrasts these experiences with those of Tunisia and Egypt, where conventional social structures were lacking in organisation; instead, new social movements, related to the middle and lower-middle classes, were the most effective forces for putting pressure on the state, whose stronger long-term presence left no significant vacuum for the continuation of tribal or sectarian identities. Similarly, a stabler national identity in the Tunisian and Egyptian cases minimised the likelihood of the emergence of social movements that rely on violence in their struggle. Reviewing the findings of the author’s field research, the book concludes by noting several particularities that distinguished the Yemeni case. The political process’s continued limitation of political participation and obstruction of the peaceful transfer of power provided the opportunity for the formation of coalitions among political actors who had become aware of their marginalisation. Further, the qualitative development of media outlets, especially satellite channels that evaded government censorship, served to highlight the corruption and ineffectuality of the regime for large segments of the population and provided a platform to oppose the dictatorial inclinations of the political establishment. By temporarily setting aside ideological differences and past hostilities, opposition groups gained experience building alliances and improving their image among certain social classes based on a short-term collective identity rooted in opposing the political leadership. Ultimately, however, the inherent dysfunction of political structures coupled with the incomplete development of institutions limit the horizons of a smooth political transition and create more barriers than opportunities

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