Prior to 2011, popular imagination perceived the Muslim Middle East as unchanging and unchangeable, frozen in its own traditions and history. In Life as Politics, Asef Bayat argues that such presumptions fail to recognize the routine, yet important, ways in which ordinary people make meaningful change through everyday actions. First published just months before the Arab Spring swept across the region, this timely and prophetic book sheds light on the ongoing acts of protest, practice, and direct daily action.
The second edition includes three new chapters on the Arab Spring and Iran's Green Movement and is fully updated to reflect recent events. At heart, the book remains a study of agency in times of constraint. In addition to ongoing protests, millions of people across the Middle East are effecting transformation through the discovery and creation of new social spaces within which to make their claims heard. This eye-opening book makes an important contribution to global debates over the meaning of social movements and the dynamics of social change.
About the author
Asef Bayat is the Catherine and Bruce Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies and Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn (Stanford, 2007).
"In Life as Politics Asef Bayat offers up a historically rich, analytically rigorous and conceptually innovative account of Middle East oppositional movements . . . [A] tour de force that will inspire as well as inform scholarship on Middle East social movements—most importantly by moving beyond a preoccupation with 'exceptionalist' tendencies. Above all, this work establishes Asef Bayat as a virtuoso of the sociological imaginary. Specialist and non-specialist readers alike will find themselves transported to the streets of the Middle East and afforded a first-hand view of social and political activism in the making."
—Navid Pourmokhtari, Against the Current
"Asef Bayat has penned a remarkable study. Life as Politics should be a mandatory read for any journalist, scholar or politician who has never been to the Middle East."
"When Life as Politics was published..., Asef Bayat's arguments on grassroots dynamism as the harbinger of democratic transformations in the Arab world seemed a utopian hope. Barely a year later, as events of the 2011 Arab Spring continue to unfold, his critical insights on everyday forms and spaces of political activity in the region have become prescient."
"Life as Politics offers a brilliant alternative perspective on public life by taking seriously the daily lives and the social agency of ordinary people."
—Middle East Book Reads