The socioeconomic roots of the Syrian uprising of 2011
In retrospect, all the social conditions prevailing in Syria would have contributed to the uprising. Social unrest erupted in Syria partly because of years of poor developmental outcomes and the loosening grip of the ruling class on the state. The wide-ranging neoliberal reforms led to the slowing of economic development and exacerbated social problems of unemployment, poverty, and the worsening of living conditions. When the state bourgeoisie relinquished its part of the social contract by depleting the resources hitherto destined for the working class and, in particular, the peasantry, it also set in motion a poverty dynamic that would act as a catalyst to the revolutionary process. Grievances had built up against the regime and its vassals across the broad spectrum of wage workers as well as in the countryside. However, the insurrection began in rural areas. The first inflamed state, Dera'a, had suffered from severe droughts, low investments in agricultural infrastructure, and rising input prices that strangled the farming community. By favouring the new commercial bourgeoisie, the state bourgeoisie had not only neglected the peasantry during the Hafiz and later the Bashar regimes, but had also pauperised them in order to cheapen resources it drew from the rural areas. The exodus from the villages to the city encountered unemployment and further downward pressure on wages. Rural unemployment may have risen only slightly in the official records as result of poorer investment and output, but the real unemployment rate soared, as a result of rising poverty-level employment in the informal sector. Working peasants cannot resort to state unemployment benefits and will engage in poverty-level employment to make ends meet (Kadri, 2012b). Falls in crop production and the rise in the cost of production associated with the rise in the price of fuel due to the lifting of subsidies had ravaged the wealth of the farmers. The resultant falling behind in living conditions also put cruel pressures on the community and on family members, generating further disciplining and discrimination against the vulnerable, especially women. In what follows, I summarise the social, economic and agrarian underpinnings of the Syrian uprising.