Syria's Peasantry, the Descendants of Its Lesser Rural Notables, and Their Politics

Syria's Peasantry, the Descendants of Its Lesser Rural Notables, and Their Politics

By: Hanna Batatu (author)Hardback

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In this book, the distinguished scholar Hanna Batatu presents a comprehensive analysis of the recent social, economic, and political evolution of Syria's peasantry, the segment of society from which the current holders of political power stem. Batatu focuses mainly on the twentieth century and, in particular, on the Ba'th movement, the structures of power after the military coup d'etat of 1963, and the era of ivfiz al-Asad, Syria's first ruler of peasant extraction. Without seeking to prove any single theory about Syrian life, he offers a uniquely rich and detailed account of how power was transferred from one demographic group to another and how that power is maintained today. Batatu begins by examining social differences among Syria's peasants and the evolution of their mode of life and economic circumstances. He then scrutinizes the peasants' forms of consciousness, organization, and behavior in Ottoman and Mandate times and prior to the Ba'thists' rise to power. He explores the rural aspects of Ba'thism and shows that it was not a single force but a plurality of interrelated groups--prominent among them the descendants of the lesser rural notables--with different social goals and mental horizons. The book also provides a perceptive account of President Asad, his personality and conduct, and the characteristics and power structures of his regime. Batatu draws throughout on a wide range of socioeconomic and biographical information and on personal interviews with Syrian peasants and political leaders, offering invaluable insights into the complexities of a country and a regime that have long been poorly understood by outsiders.

About Author

Hanna Batatu is Professor of Contemporary Arab Studies Emeritus at Georgetown University. In addition to his contributions to many books and scholarly journals, he is the author of the landmark work The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq (Princeton).


LIST OF TABLES xiii PREFACE xvii PART I THE PEASANTS' SOCIOECONOMIC CONDITIONS 3 CHAPTER 1 The Role of Demographics 5 CHAPTER 2 Differentiations 10 The "Peasant-gardeners" and the "Agricultural Peasants" 10 The Pacific Peasants and the Peasants of Warrior Origin 12 The "Orthodox" and the "Heterodox" Peasants 13 The Clanless and Clan-linked Peasants 22 The Landed and Landless Peasants, the Traditional Urban Landowners, and the Modem Mustathmirs 29 CHAPTER 3 Living Conditions 38 The Distribution of Agricultural Income prior to and since the Restructuring of Agrarian Relations 38 The Lessening Cost of Agricultural Credit 53 The Reduced Tax Burden 59 The Rapid Electrification of the Countryside 63 The Spread of Safe Water Networks 66 The Expansion of Rural Health Care 66 The Development of the Means of Communication and Conveyance 69 The Intensification of the State's Educational Efforts 71 CHAPTER 4 Economic Efficiency 75 Land Use 75 The Agricultural Growth Trends and Related Causal Factors 81 Possible Lines of Future Progress 91 PART II THE PRE-BATH PATTERNS OF PEASANT CONSCIOUSNESS, ORGANIZATION, AND POLITICAL BEHAVIOR 93 CHAPTER 5 Introduction: Portraits of Peasants by Ibn Khaldun, Balzac, Trotsky, Father Ayrout, and J. C. Scott, and Their Relevance 95 CHAPTER 6 The First Peasant Organizations or the Corporations of Peasant-gardeners from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century 98 CHAPTER 7 Sufism among the Peasants: A Source of Political Quietism? 103 CHAPTER 8 The Proneness in Ottoman and Mandate Times of the Peasant Mountaineers to Rebellion and of the Peasants of the Open Plains to Indirect Methods of Defense 109 CHAPTER 9 The Communists and the Peasants 118 CHAPTER 10 The Arab Socialists, or the First Agrarian Party in Syria's History 124 PART III THE RURAL AND PEASANT ASPECTS OF BA'THISM 131 CHAPTER 11 The Old Ba'th and the Political Rearing of a Rural Intelligentsia 133 CHAPTER 12 The "Transitional" Ba'th or the Ba'th of the 1960s, the Rise of the Lesser Rural or Village Notability, and the Ruralization of the Army, the Party, and, to Some Degree, the State Bureaucracy 144 The Social Origins of the Members of the Military Committee 145 The Causal Factors behind the Ascent of the Lesser Rural or Village Notability 155 The Stepped-up Ruralization of the Anned Forces 156 Reasons for the Paramount Influence of the 'Alawi Officers 157 The Rural Penetration of the State Bureaucracy 160 The Enhanced Rural Coloring of the Ba'th Party 161 The Agrarian Policies of the 1960s and Their Social Meaning 162 The Downfall of the Mainstream Ba'thists of the 1960s and Its Causes 170 CHAPTER 13 The Post-1970 Asad-molded, Career-oriented Ba'th 176 Qa'id-ul-Masirah 176 The General Characteristics and Social Composition of the New Ba'th 177 The Reasons Why the Proportion of Peasants in the Party Declined in the 1980s and Rose Subsequently 188 PART IV HAFIZ AL-ASAD, OR SYRIA'S FIRST RULER OF PEASANT EXTRACTION 191 CHAPTER 14 Asad's Background, Early Education, Party Apprenticeship, and First Political Battle 193 CHAPTER 15 Asad's Military Career and Military Qualifications, or the Inferences as to His Generalship Deducible from His Performance in the 1967 and 1973 Wars and during Israel's Invasion of Lebanon 198 CHAPTER 16 The Varied Aspects of Power in Asad's State 204 A Few Preliminary General Observations on "Democratic" Rhetoric and the Realities of Life 204 Asad's Public and Private Views of the Power of Men in the Mass and Their Aptitude for Politics 205 The Four Levels of Asad's Power Structure and Their Basic Characteristics 206 CHAPTER 17 Focusing for a While on the More Subtle Forms of Power 208 CHAPTER 18 The Organization of Power at the Second Tier of Asad's Polity and Its Partaking, among Other Features, of a Basic Trait of Peasant Life 217 The Elemental Instinct for Family and Clan and Its Impact 217 The Lesser Rural Notability and the Inner Core of the Regime's Leadership 225 Is Asad's Regime Sectarian? 226 The Abuse of Authority in High Places and Its Prime Symbol 230 The "Succession Crisis" 232 New Tensions 237 A Word on the Security and Intelligence Networks and Their Key Figures 238 CHAPTER 19 A Glance at the Third Level of Power or at the Composition of the Upper Elite of the Ba'th Party (1970-1997) 244 CHAPTER 20 Shifting the Focus to the Fourth Level of Power, or an Analysis, by Way of Illustration, of the Role of the Peasants' General Union, the Party's Principal Ancillary Mass Organization 251 CHAPTER 21 A Closer View of the Summit of Power, or Asad's Personality as a Factor in the Maintenance of His Rule and the Thwarting of His Opponents 256 CHAPTER 22 Of the Manner in Which Asad Dealt with the Muslim Brethren and their Militants, and the Light It Throws on the Methods by Which He Holds Sway 260 Coping with the Muslim Brethren by Propitiating the 'Ulama' and How the 'Ulama' Responded 260 Benefiting from the Divisions within the Brotherhood 262 Encouraging the Quietism of the Brotherhood's "Damascus Faction"? 265 Facing the Militants' Violent Blows and Their Large-scale Armed Rebellions, or the Gravest Internal Challenge to His Regime 266 Using Force at First Guardedly and Differentiating between the Militants, Leaving Open a Line of Retreat for "the Misled" among Them 270 Feeling out the Country's Temper 271 Altering the Sectarian Composition of the Ba'th Command and Placing in High-Profile Posts More Sunnis from Families of High Religious Status 271 Linking the Irreconcilable Militants to the CIA. and Taking the Problem by the Horns and Going the Limit 272 Frustrating the Muslim Brethren in Exile 275 More Firmly in the Saddle than Ever 277 CHAPTER 23 Asad's Main Concepts at the Level of Regional Politics: Ends or Instruments? 279 Asad and Pan-Arabism 279 Asad and the Iraq-Iran War 283 The Conflict with Israel and the Concept of Strategic Parity 285 CHAPTER 24 An In-depth Study of Asad's Relations with Fath and the P.L.O. from 1966 to 1997 and the Light It Sheds on His Aims and Techniques 287 The First Spell of Fath-Ba'th Cooperation 287 "The Affair of Yasuf 'Urabi" 288 From the 1967 Arab Defeat to the Jordanian Crisis of 1970-1971 289 The Twists and Turns prior to and during the 1975-1976 Lebanese Civil Conflict and the Slide from Latent Enmity into Open War 292 An Interlude of Apparent Harmony 300 The 1982 Israeli Invasion of Lebanon and the Virtual Abandonment of the Palestinian Resistance to Its Fate 302 The Rupture of Relations and the Battle of Tripoli 303 Arafat Springs Surprises 307 The Arafat-King Husayn 1985 Initiative 308 The Reemergence of Fath in Lebanon's Military Equation, the Alleged "Assurances" to Israel, and the "War of the Camps" of 1985-1988 309 The Intifadah, the Tenuous 1988 Agreement, and the Continued Divergence of Policies 312 Turning a New Page? 315 Arafat Goes His Own Way 315 Pulling Together Again 318 Some Conclusions 320 CHAPTER 25 Epilogue 323 APPENDIX Members of the Syrian Ba'th Party (Regional) Commands, 1963-1997 331 NOTES 355 SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY 391 INDEX I: SUBJECTS 405 INDEX II: PERSONAL NAMES 409 INDEX III: NAMES OF FAMILIES AND TRIBES 414

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9780691002545
  • Format: Hardback
  • Number Of Pages: 432
  • ID: 9780691002545
  • weight: 482
  • ISBN10: 0691002541
  • translations: English
  • language of text: English

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