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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name



Political Science

First Advisor

Sharon F. Lean


Between 2011 and 2013, thousands of protests, marches, and strikes swept across the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in a mass rebuke of decades of economic deprivation and stalled democratic reforms. In addition to their scale, what made these mobilizations unprecedented was the participation of two new social movements: a new independent labor movement and the “Hirak.” The Hirak (or “movement”) was comprised of dozens of Jordanian tribal youth groups drawn from rural communities which had, until recently, been among the most steadfast supporters of the monarchy. Both labor—organizing outside the state-controlled unions—and Hirak activists shared a similar discourse of economic rights and social justice. Nevertheless, activists failed to form a broadly-based national movement and were divided and demobilized by 2013. Consequently, the monarchy survived the tumult of the “Arab Uprising,” which toppled regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere. This dramatic turn of events informs the central empirical puzzle of this dissertation: Why were activists in Jordan, despite sharing many of the same motivations and demands, unable to coalesce around a single, national movement capable of challenging the monarchy's grip on power?Drawing on in-depth interviews with key activists, this dissertation offers an answer to this question by tracing how neoliberal reforms eroded the Jordanian regime’s hegemony, creating the opportunity for new cross-movement solidarities to emerge. Hegemony in this sense refers to the economic, institutional, and ideological mechanisms and processes by which ruling coalitions (re)produce popular consent to the prevailing order. In tracing the erosion of hegemony, this study emphasizes the importance of structural factors over primarily institutional and cultural explanations of why the Arab Uprisings “missed” Jordan, while also explicating precisely how and why structural factors were relevant. Through a “representative” case study applying comparative historical analysis, discourse analysis, and cross-case comparative methods, I arrive at three main findings: (1) that the timing and composition of transgressive social mobilization in Jordan, beginning in the mid-2000s, can be traced back to the uneven contraction of hegemony across material, institutional, and ideological dimensions; (2) these early labor movements created the conditions for cross-movement solidarities to develop between workers’ struggles and broader popular protests leading up to and during the 2011 uprisings in Jordan; and (3) that the state perceived such coalitions as constituting a meaningful threat to authoritarian control, responding with targeted concessions and divisive rhetoric to exploit differences across “economic” and “political” struggles. By establishing both the overlooked importance and vulnerabilities of labor-nonlabor movement solidarities in challenging authoritarianism, and their relationship to dynamics of hegemony, this study contributes to academic debates about the role of structural factors in social mobilization and challenges to authoritarianism from below.

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