Arab Forum For alternatives think tank seeks to perpetuate the values ​​of scientific thinking in Arab societies, and is working to address issues of political, social and economic development in the framework of the traditions and rules of scientific, away from the language of incitement and propaganda, in the framework of respect for political contexts and social systems, as well as universal human values. It is working to provide space for the interaction of experts, activists and researchers interested in issues of reform in the Arab region, governed by scientific principles and respect for diversity, is also keen Forum to offer policy alternatives and the potential social, not just hoped for the decision maker and the elites of different political and civil society organizations, in the framework of respect for the values ​​of justice and democracy .
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Capitalism has since the Industrial Revolution presented itself as the only way towards human progress and the ideal social system. According to capitalist ideologies, society is basically run by the elite in the form of those specialized in political and management sciences, finance, accountancy, and economics, which means a separation between the production process and the management process. In other words, society will be separated from the centers of wealth and profit accumulation or will be deprived of its collective production. This system is not new, for it is only a modern version of societies that were divided according to class and social status. The main difference now is that the gap between classes is widening in an unprecedented manner, which divided societies into a minority that controls wealth and authority and is surrounded by a group of technocrats and politicians who defend its ideologies on one hand and a majority that works nonstop and is constantly marginalized and deprived of its rights on the other hand. This is done in most of the North under democratic systems and in most of the South under totalitarian regimes.

Globalization, neoliberal policies, market economy, and austerity measures played a major role in deepening the rift between different classes in society and so did the marginalization of workers and the deterioration of public services. As a result of the alarming level of social disparities, goal number 10 of the Sustainable Development Goals for year 2030 is reducing inequalities among and within countries.

Any analysis of class struggle leads to the political and economic theory of dialectical materialism, also known as Marxism. According to this theory, history can be understood through class struggle in which one class exploits another, which becomes obvious in master-slave, noble-commoner, employer-worker relations or simply persecutor- persecuted relations. These classes have always been at war together and this war ends either with a revolution that transforms the entire society or with the collapse of both classes[1].

Despite technological, scientific, and industrial advances, gaps between the rich and the poor still persist and the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few is seen in stark contrast to abject poverty suffered by the majority who do not have access to basic needs such as food, water, clothing, and shelter[2].

This book is comprised of articles and papers that tackle the issue of social disparities in terms of concepts, definitions, manifestations as well as the role of protests, the intervention of international financial institutions, environmental problematics, and the empowerment of women. Emphasis is laid on social disparities in a number of Arab countries: Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen, Oman, and Jordan.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part tackles the concepts and its different perspectives. Through three papers in which the Moroccan thinker Dr. Mohamed Said Saadi presents a paper on the concept in different schools of thought and the main problematics that it is facing in the Arab reality. In addition, the Egyptian human rights activist Mr. Khalid Ali presents visions on the role protests in affecting social disparities in the Arab region, and about the responsibility of international financial institutions in aggravating social disparities in our region writes the Tunisian parliamentarian and economic researcher Fathi Chamkhi. While in the second part, a group of researchers from different countries in the region presents case studies for their countries that they are Egypt, Tunisia, Oman, and Yemen. As for the Third part, it raises the effects of these disparities on social categories and issues, and through two chapters, the book tackles women as an example for the affected categories and Environment as an example of the issues affected by disparities. AFA through its Research team presents an analysis conclusion for the book building upon what was tackled in the book to crystalize the most important causes and manifestations of social disparities. Moreover, as a trial for widening margins for participation with different opinions and ideas on that issue, the book adds as an appendix a group of articles that was presented during the conference that was held on the same issue in Tunisia in September 2016.


[1] Shaimaa al-Louiz. “Social Disparities as the Basis of Class Struggle [Arabic].” Huffington Post Arabic, January 26, 2016: https://goo.gl/cE0GSr

[2] Ibid.

Published in موضوع # 1

 

The concept of social justice was reflected in the discourse of several Arab political platforms whether partisan, parliamentary, or presidential, yet this discourse remains detached from actual policies on the ground and some of them were even at times not in line with social justice to start with. Some of the approaches only focused on one dimension of social justice such as, for example, fair wages which being a main component of the comprehensive concept of social justice cannot be presented as the only demand. The result is that other social justice indicators, which are linked to an entire set of social and economic rights, are overlooked like the right to public services such as education and healthcare. At other times, social justice is dealt with in a broad or abstract manner that is not linked to realistic policies and indicators that ensure its achievement. This becomes obvious in the way citizens’ social and economic demands are seen as group-specific and unrelated to the political scene, hence can be postponed until an actual political change takes place. 

 

This Issue:

Follow-ups

French from Arabic origins: crisis of integration. A Follow –up paper

Future of Egyptian-Saudi relations in he light of regional and international changes. A Follow –up paper

Issues

Al-Azhar and Democratic transformation in Egypt. Dr. Georges Sarwat Fahmi

Syria: Military interactions momentum on a moving map. Rabha Seif Allam

Women and Citizenship: Reading the religious capital. Dr. Sameh Fawzy

Book of the issue

Book Review: Reinventing Democracy (From Greece to Occupy) Shimaa Elsharkawy

Article

Policy recommendation for the European Union towards a positive role to

achieve social justice in the Arab world . Heba Khalil

Arab revolutions have shown in the past years that the followed economic models that was backed by the European Union has failed to achieve the promised development goals, and resulted in a clear reduction in citizens' access to economic and social rights. In spite of the endorsement of the European Union on that, it still adopts policies in the course of the Deauville partnership, which goes in line with international financial institutions, which are still promoting more liberalization of trade and finance, privatization and attracting foreign direct investment, as well as austerity in spending to meet the State budget deficit .

When the Arab revolutions erupted in early 2011, social justice was one of the core direct demands, as well as an indirect demand through the use of slogans such as “dignity” and “freedom”. These two demands are basically associated with social justice in one way or the other. Thus, we cannot underestimate the role of the economic conditions that lack social justice in the outbreak of these revolutions. If we look at Tunisia and Egypt, we find that there are many similarities on this level. The two countries have adopted open market policies and integration into the global economy. The economic policies of the two countries were always praised by international institutions, but growth in Tunisia and Egypt was coupled with complex and unbalanced development. This means that the dividends were not distributed equitably among the different groups of the society, especially among the masses of producers and among the different regions.

 We cannot overlook that the first spark of these revolutions was the incident of Mohammed Bouazizi, an incident in which the economic conditions of poverty and unemployment became associated with the concept of rights: dignity and freedom, and an incident which shows how the concept of social justice is not an issue merely linked to quantitative economics - which is based on numbers and equations - but rather a concept, essentially linked with the conditions of people and communities. As said by Thomas Piketty in his book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century “democracy will never be supplanted by a republic of experts.”

This book tries to tackle the concept of social justice from this logic using background papers on the complexities of this concept, the relationship between this concept and the changes that took, and are still taking, place in our Arab region and the role of foreign factors, as represented by EU policies. It then presents three case studies, which tackle previous studies in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. It also contains a number of parallel articles to these studies in an attempt to provide different perspectives on issues and countries covered by these studies.