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What causes Ice Ages? How did we learn about them? What were their affects on the social history of humanity? Allan Mazur's book tells the appealing history of the scientific 'discovery' of Ice Ages. How we learned that much of the Earth was repeatedly covered by huge ice sheets, why that occurred, and how the waning of the last Ice Age paved the way for agrarian civilization and, ultimately, our present social structures. The book discusses implications for the current 'controversies' over anthropogenic climate change, public understanding of science, and (lack of) 'trust in experts'. In parallel to the history and science of Ice Ages, sociologist Mazur highlights why this is especially relevant right now for humanity. Ice Ages: Their Social and Natural History is an engrossing combination of natural science and social history: glaciology and sociology writ large.
This chapter sets out the book’s main theoretical claims. It argues that understanding the emergence of revolutionary challenge along ethnic lines requires a focus on local-level interactions between social actors and state agents and how they vary over time. This approach directs attention to variation within ethnic groups and, specifically, to linkages between sub-ethnic units and the state. The chapter then presents the book’s main theoretical intervention: state linkages often condition the participation of “ethnically excluded” populations, and incumbent response to challenge is often not focused singly on dividing the population on ethnic lines but includes important forms of conciliation aimed at preserving cross-ethnic clients. This conciliation often fails, however, because informal, ethnically dominated autocratic regimes resort to violence to deal with immediate threats posed by prolonged urban demonstrations and challenger violence, shattering many of the linkages forged across ethnic lines. This view of challenger–incumbent interaction under ethnically dominated rule challenges the dominant view that regimes intentionally polarize their polities on ethnic lines to cling to power; the patchwork of bargains such regimes strike with various elements of the populations they rule can channel contention toward ethnic violence, even when ethnicization is not in the incumbent’s interest.
The concluding chapter puts the book’s findings about the first year of the Syrian uprising in a broader context and restates the book’s contributions to the study of ethnic politics and violent intrastate conflict. It draws out the implications of the study for thinking about Syria in a state of civil war (2012–18) and its future governance and reconstruction (post-2018). It highlights the role of local network ties and connections to outside authorities in rebel governance, then discusses the ways in which state–society linkages might be reconstructed or made anew and their role in governing Syria in the future.
This chapter sets the political and social context for the events of the 2011 Syrian uprising. It describes the topography of ethnic boundaries and, using original quantitative data, shows that ʿAlawis were disproportionate beneficiaries of state largesse, accessed through informal ties and formal positions in the civil service and military. Nonetheless, substantial segments of the Sunni Arab population were also tied to the state through personalistic ties and public institutions. Then it describes the relationship between ethnicity and state access in historical and theoretical terms, arguing that the Baʿth regime instrumentalized existing social structures in some cases, building ties to local leaders with customary status, and worked to break down these ties in other cases, building new ties with individual citizens through corporatist development and state employment. Finally, the chapter examines the effects of neoliberal policies, enacted after 2000, on these linkages. It argues that these policies exacerbated the suffering of many Syrians already lacking state access but left the cross-ethnic structure of state–society ties intact.
This chapter examines the causes of initial mobilization against the Syrian regime. Contention in the first weeks of the Syrian uprising followed multiple logics. Urban activists organized demonstrations in central public squares, making demands focused overwhelmingly on how power is exercised in the center and on establishing a new citizenship contract. At the same time, challenge broke out in smaller localities, independent of that occurring in other sites, and focused primarily on the grievances of local populations. The emergence of citizenship-focused challenge was the result of activists’ utilization of public spaces, with initial demonstrations encouraging the formation of new networks in the early weeks of contention. Parochial challenge, by contrast, developed on the basis of preexisting dense networks within local communities. Demands were articulated largely in a local idiom and went primarily through preexisting channels of state–society communication; when state agents violated shared understandings of the terms of these interactions by using violence against community members, challengers often responded with violence of their own.
This chapter examines the trajectory of challenge in Syria’s Kurdish regions, which stands in marked contrast to trajectories of contention seen in other areas of the country, which generally tended toward ethnic violence. The regime’s relatively conciliatory response to protest in Kurdish areas and toleration of ethnic group–level institutions, namely its courting of Kurdish political parties and the reciprocation of one party, combined to direct challenge away from violence and toward Kurdish-specific issues.
This chapter presents the book’s research question, central argument, and structure. It begins with an empirical puzzle that challenges the conventional wisdom of how violent conflict on ethnic lines breaks out. Residents of the Syrian city of Dayr al-Zur fit the profile of an “ethnically excluded” population – Sunni Arabs who get few public goods from the state – but they did not rise up uniformly against the regime. Rather, a patchwork of linkages between the state and local leaders made mobilization uneven and generated state–society negotiation across the Sunni–ʿAlawi ethnic boundary. This puzzle motivates the book’s broader question: what “ethnicizes” revolutionary situations faced by ethnically dominated regimes? The chapter then characterizes the diverse forms of contention found in the Syrian uprising and demonstrates that initial contestation was primarily focused at the sub- and supra-ethnic levels, only later coming to revolve around ethnic claims. It then previews the mechanisms pushing challenger–incumbent interaction toward ethnic violence and discusses the research design and methods employed in the book.
This chapter examines the mechanisms through which revolutionary contention turned increasingly ethnic and violent during the second half of 2011 and early 2012. It argues that ethnicization of challenge was the indirect result of regime violence, used primarily to confront exigencies it could not address through its informal social linkages rather than as a tool to rend the social fabric. The chapter begins with a quantitative analysis of Syrian regime violence, demonstrating that the regime attempted to avoid harming many of its clients. Then it takes a deeper look into how and why the regime used violence when it did, inductively theorizing the exigencies the regime faced and how it dealt with them. The remainder of the chapter examines the second-order effects of this repression, using in-depth studies of localities that exemplify each of the types identified earlier in the chapter. State violence changed the composition of the challenger group and the content of its claims, making the challenger group more ethnically homogeneous, pushing claims to focus on ethnic demands and employ ethnic symbols.
This chapter narrates the events of the first year of the Syrian uprising, drawing on an original newspaper event catalog, activist-generated databases of non-state actor fatalities, and numerous town-specific reports composed by Syrian and other Arab research organizations. In doing so, it describes the outcome to be explained in subsequent chapters: variation in forms of challenge to the Syrian regime over time and space. The picture of contention in Syria presented in this chapter suggests that there was no lockstep progression from nonviolent, urban civic protests to ethnic insurgency in the countryside during the first year of the Syrian uprising. Rather, violence erupted almost immediately following the onset of challenge at some sites, while remaining absent at others throughout the entire first year of the uprising. Claims advanced by challengers varied similarly; they remained focused on civic demands throughout the first year in some areas, while quickly jumping from local to ethnic grievances in others.
This chapter focuses on populations that did not participate in the uprising. It uses quantitative event data to identify sites and local communities that stayed out of contention or entered it significantly later than others with similar characteristics. One of the clearest trends in the data is that non-Sunni communities participated little in the uprising. The chapter highlights the role of mechanisms of “in-group policing” enabled by group-level institutions and networks in generating this quiescence. It then examines mechanisms impelling nonparticipation among segments of the ethnic majority population; the event data indicate that many Sunni Arab localities saw strikingly little contentious activity in the early weeks and months of the uprising. These populations include local communities structured around extended family and tribal networks and individuals linked to the state through its corporatist economic development strategies. Finally, the chapter examines countermobilization, including counterdemonstrations, “popular committees” formed to defend neighborhoods from shadowy enemies, and pro-regime paramilitaries known colloquially as shabbiha.