On Friday, January 14th 2011, protests of varying sizes were held across Jordan as part of a call for a “Jordanian Day of Anger.” While undoubtedly a response to the failed promise of economic reforms enacted in Jordan over the past twenty years, the call specified the series of government increases in the price of gasoline, diesel, and gas. Government control of these commodity prices are some of the last vestiges of the social safety guarantees offered by the Jordanian state in the face of economic reforms underpinned by neoliberal prescriptions that “privilege markets over communities.” Thus, while the social unrest in other Arab states - most notably Tunisia - was an important factor in bringing Jordanians out into the streets this time around, such mobilizations would not have translated locally absent the structural characteristics of Jordan’s post-1989 transition from a state-led economy to one dominated by the private sector.
To be clear, the problem is not simply rising prices. It is fundamentally about the inability of the general public to meet their basic needs at these or even lower prices. In other words, and contrary to those that describe the protesters as state-dependent burdens on the economy, such criticisms are primarily about (and symptomatic of) the failure of the existing economic development model to provide adequate employment, income, and purchasing power to the average citizen. Such a failure is not, as some would claim, a result of bad implementation. Rather, it is a result of a problematic vision upon which policy implementation is based on.
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.