Not-So-Secret Weapons: Lebanese Women’s Rights Activists and Extended Family Networks

Stephan, Rita. 2019.  “Not-So-Secret Weapons: Lebanese Women’s Rights Activists and Extended Family Networks.” Social Problems, Volume 66, Issue 4: 609–625 This study asks one crucial question: How do Lebanese women apply available social capital and informal social networks to engage in political activism for women’s rights? Building on social- and women’s-movement theories, I argue that Lebanese feminists do not exclusively operate in the public sphere in their fight for political goals, nor do they privilege only the extra-family space. On the contrary, they engage in political activities by using extended family networks as a form of weak social ties. I construct this argument on the basis of interviews, observations, and analysis of Lebanese feminists’ writings. This paper introduces the concept of mahsoubieh as a form of weak social ties generated within connective family networks. Specifically, I examine how elite, intellectual, and middle-class Lebanese women activists use the positive social capital generated by mahsoubieh to gain credibility, diffuse their political stances, and develop countervailing power. Aspects such as the size, reputation, and respectability of their kinship networks aided the Lebanese women in their fight to change the legal structure concerning women’s rights and political representation.

Women Rising: In and Beyond the Arab Spring

Stephan, Rita and Mounira M. Charrad, eds., 2020. Women Rising: In and Beyond the Arab Spring, New York: New York University Press.
Women Rising
Women Rising brings together groundbreaking essays by female activists and scholars documenting women’s resistance before, during, and after the Arab Spring. In this timely volume, Stephan and Charrad paint a picture of women’s first-hand experiences in sixteen countries. Contributors provide insight into a diverse range of perspectives across the entire movement, focusing on often marginalized voices, including rural women, housewives, students, and artists. Women Rising offers an in-depth understanding of an important twenty-first century movement, telling the story of Arab women’s activism.  See also: Charrad, Mounira M.& Amina Zarrugh. 2020. “Women are Complete, not Complements: Terminology in a New Constitution in Tunisia.” in Women Rising: In and Beyond the Arab Spring,  R. Stephan & M. M. Charrad, eds., New York: New York University Press.

The Power of Presence: Professional Women Leaders and Family Law Reform in Morocco

Charrad, Mounira M. &  Rita Stephan. 2020.  “The Power of Presence: Professional Women Leaders and Family Law Reform in Morocco.” Social Politics, Volume 27, Issue 2: 337–360, doi.org/10.1093/sp/jxz013. The 2004 reforms of Islamic family law in Morocco brought about a long-awaited expansion of women’s rights. The Moroccan women’s movement was a key player in the promulgation of the reforms. We highlight the role of professional women leaders in the movement and show how they developed political capital and the “power of presence” by combining (i) professional attainment, (ii) leadership in women’s organizations, and (iii) active participation or positions in politics and civil society. We suggest that more needs to be understood about the implications of women’s education and professional attainment for legal change, especially in the Middle East.

Local Solidarities: How the Arab Spring Protests Started

Charrad, Mounira M. & Nicholas Reith. 2019. “Local Solidarities: How the Arab Spring Protests Started.” Mounira M. Charrad & Nicholas Reith. Sociological Forum.34: 1174-1196.  doi:10.1111/socf.12543 Coming as a surprise to most observers and following the self‐immolation of a street vendor in a remote town of central Tunisia, the Jasmine Revolution of 2010–2011, the first uprising of the Arab Spring, has often been seen as a success story for digital communication through widespread use of social media. We suggest that this applied to the later phase of the protests in Tunisia but not to the initial phase, which occurred in local areas in impoverished and marginalized regions with highly limited access to the Internet. The initial phase lasted a full 10 days before the protests reached major cities where social media operated. Building on Tilly’s concept of trust network, we offer the concept of local solidarities as key to the beginning of the Arab Spring uprisings and as encompassing spatial proximity, shared marginalized status, and kinship, all of which combined to serve as a basis for trust and collective action.

Book Forum: Leftism Reinvented by Stephanie Mudge

In the spotlight is Leftism Reinvented Western Parties from Socialism to Neoliberalism by Stephanie Mudge. Keep reading for three insightful reviews on her 2018 book by Thomas Janoski, Gabriel Chouhy Algorta, and Jeff Stilley. Leftism Reinvented

Is it the Left or the Right that We Should be Focused On or Both? Review of Stephanie Mudge’s Leftism Reinvented

by Thomas Janoski, University of Kentucky

 

Two major books and a third have come out in the area of comparative political sociology in the last two years. Stephanie Mudge’s Leftism Reinvented: Western Political Parties from Socialism to Neoliberalism (2018, Harvard University Press) and Daniel Ziblatt’s Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy (2017, Cambridge University Press) followed by Sten Levity and Daniel Ziblatt’s How Democracies Die (2018, Crown Publishing of Penguin).[1] Mudge follows social democratic, labor and democratic (US) parties in three periods: socialism (1900 to 1929 but centered on 1920), Keynesian revolution (1930 to 1974 but centered on 1960), and ‘left’ neoliberalism (1975 to 2005 centered around 1995).

She examines these three periods, focusing on economic policy shifts in four countries: the US, the UK, Germany, and Sweden. She focuses on party experts and how they have become economized in the middle period, and then share power with professional campaign experts in the third period. Her main conclusion is that we should pay attention to party experts because they articulate policy downward upon the rest of the party and the public in general. But the sub-text to the book is that left parties are the key to greater democracy and reducing endemic inequality in a capitalist economy. And a sub-sub-text is that Bill and Hillary Clinton sold out the left to neoliberalism.

Daniel Ziblatt examines the role of conservative parties in two of the same countries: the UK and Germany. Conservative parties have a major problem in that they represent rich people who are few, and in a mass party system how in the world are they going to keep their massive amounts of money when the non-rich and poor seemingly have little or no reason to vote for their candidates? Using the method of difference, he shows that conservative parties in the UK were able to extend their reach into the middle and working classes by building institutions that interested these two classes, and then pushed their message on non-income related issues like the empire and the Irish question. One of the main vehicles for doing this was the Primrose Society that operated a combination of fairs and political indoctrination in the Victorian period. German conservative parties mainly represented by the Deutschenationale Volkspartie (DNVP) stayed focused on elites and carried a very small constituency. Ziblatt’s major point is that moderate conservative parties are entirely necessary to protect democracy from the far right like the Nazi Party in Germany. Levity and Ziblatt follow this with How Democracies Die, which is a more popular book implementing their principles and also applying them to Donald Trump. One criticism of Ziblatt’s thesis would be why he did not focus on the Center Party during Weimar which was a larger conservative (or maybe center) party during the Weimar Republic.