It’s the Mentality, Stupid: Syria’s Turn to the Private Sector

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Kjetil Selvik


Kjetil Selvik analyses the subsequent change in discourse accompanying Bashar alAsad’s economic liberalization after 2000. The old populist social contract is to be replaced with a new one that allows the bourgeoisie access and activism while the workers and peasants are being de-mobilized; the state no longer claims to represent them but they are not to be allowed greater freedom to strike, lobby etc. The discourse of the new liberalizing Five Year Plan talks about changes in mentality needed for development, targeting the regimes old constituencies of civil servants and workers as the problem. On the other hand entrepreneurship is to be fostered. These changes opened the door for the emerging bourgeoisie to promote a similar discourse: the main obstacle to development is bureaucrats who, being poor students, were trained in the East bloc and just want an easy job. Or it is laziness of workers. Some businessmen advocate a social Darwinism in which the entrepreneurs benefit from the transition to the new market economy while the rest have to pay its price. The new disciplining is aimed mostly at labour and on behalf of capital.

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