Follow Us

Follow on Twitter    Follow on Facebook    YouTube Channel    Vimeo Channel    Tumblr    SoundCloud Channel    iPhone App    iPhone App

Protests and Economic Development in Jordan

[Image from] [Image from]

For the second week in a row, a diverse array of Jordanians mobilized in the streets of Amman and other cities to protest economic conditions in Jordan. Similar to last week’s Jordanian Day of Anger, the recent protests were organized and followed through with despite government attempts to appease popular discontent in the days preceding the planned protests. Contrary to last week’s mobilizations which focused on rising prices, protesters this week were much more direct in decrying “policies that impoverish and starve” the citizens of Jordan. Furthermore, unlike last week, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) participated in the protests.

As mentioned in a previous post, the problem was never simply one of rising prices. The fundamental problem lies in the inability of the general public to meet their basic needs within the given economic configurations of Jordan. The existing economic development model in Jordan has failed to provide adequate employment, income, and purchasing power to the average citizen. While both the regime and the government have taken steps to alleviate some of the most immediate symptoms of the problem, there has been little indication that the principles underlying these symptoms are being subject to serious reconsideration. However, the failure to engage in such reconsideration should not point to an inevitable challenge to the existing political economy. While protesters have sharpened their criticisms of the economic conditions in Jordan, the discursive  separation between government and regime - as well as between economic conditions and the development model - persist.

This article is now featured in Jadaliyya's edited volume entitled Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of An Old Order? (Pluto Press, 2012). The volume documents the first six months of the Arab uprisings, explaining the backgrounds and trajectories of these popular movements. It also archives the range of responses that emanated from activists, scholars, and analysts as they sought to make sense of the rapidly unfolding events. Click here to access the full article by ordering your copy of Dawn of the Arab Uprisings from Amazon, or use the link below to purchase from the publisher.

Latest posts in Economics:

3 comments for "Protests and Economic Development in Jordan"


I look forward to reading about the systemic and structural issues confronting the development process in Jordan.

Perhaps the author can consider addressing the excessively bloated public sector: an issue that is emblematic of a regime constantly fed and sustained by economic and political rents. Any discussion of moving forward economically and politically must include an evaluation of current vs capital spending and the underlying reasons for the former being undertaken more frequently than the latter.

As long as aid money continues to be spent on sustaining regime loyalists rather than promoting an open and participatory political process and generating internally-based growth, the deficit will continue to rise and the existing rift between people and government will continue to widen.

BintWarraq wrote on January 24, 2011 at 11:45 AM

Thanks for your comment BintWarraq. I hope to address many of these issues in future articles. For now, I would simply say that we need to be cautious about the assumption that privatization measures as well as shifts between current vs. capital spending are less politicalized than state-led economic development and the social safety-net it provided. The nature of privatization as well as the type of capital investments underway in Jordan, while initially triggered by an economic crisis of capital accumulation, point to an overall shift in the regime's social base from the popular and middle classes to the business community. In other words, rents are still flowing and sustaining the system, it just happens to be from a different constituency. Closing the budget deficit, while important for macro-economic stability, has little to do with closing the gap between the government and the people. As I mention in the article, I think it makes little sense to focus on closing the deficit by cutting subsidies absent an overall strategy that will make up for the disappearing social safety net; and increased capital spending per se is not necessarily the solution given the political logic that has undergirded it thus far in Jordan. Foreign aid is a key strategic rent for many regimes in the region and has primarily been geared towards upgrading authoritarianism rather than challenging it. But this is part of a broader problem with international financial institutions and their political counterparts who have prioritized open markets and political stability rather than empowering the popular classes both economically and politically. While I believe the focus of analysis need to be on domestic actors, international institutions are complicit in the production and maintenance of the status-quo.

Ziad wrote on January 26, 2011 at 06:59 AM

Excellent article outlining underlying discontent in Jordon. But why not accompany such analyses with charts showing population growth, especially growth in the numbers of young people?

And to what extent is the discontent Middle East countries being fueled by images, widely disseminated on the internet, showing higher standards of living in most other areas of the world?

And cer

edsparks wrote on March 28, 2011 at 09:19 AM

If you prefer, email your comments to




Apply for an ASI Internship now!


Political Economy Project

Issues a

Call for Letters of Interest


Jadaliyya Launches its

Political Economy




F O R    T H E    C L A S S R O O M 

Critical Readings in Political Economy: 1967


The 1967 Defeat and the Conditions of the Now: A Roundtable


E N G A G E M E N T