Ideology And Discourse in the Era of Ba’thist Reforms: Towards an Analysis of Authoritarian Governmentality

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Aurora Sottomano


Sottomano charts how the original Ba’thist discourse identified the obstacles to Syria’s development as backward traditional mentalities imperialism and feudal classes, and with the Ba’thist leaders seeing themselves as a vanguard mobilize workers and peasants to push development ahead. Hafiz al-Asad, although a pragmatist, could not abandon this discourse but used it as a disciplinary mechanism to create corporatist control of workers and peasants. Later, regime discourse stressed the need for production, austerity, and sacrifice to reach parity with Israel, and social peace within which de-mobilized workers ability to demands higher wages. Asad’s discourse simultaneously talked of private-public partnership and distinguished a category of acceptable good capitalists as a way of co-opting the bourgeoisie; yet because of ideological constraint, the bourgeoisie could not be fully or formally incorporated into the regime and had to be co-opted thru clientalist networks which encouraged rent-seeking rather than productive investment. The failures of Ba’thist statism had been evident since the late eighties, but it was only in the nineties that debate within the Syrian Economic Association started promoting a new discourse that legitimized a return to the market.

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