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Power on the Margins: Lumpenproletarian Resistance in China and Egypt

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Although once the subject of intense theoretical debate, the lumpenproletariat is largely missing from class-based analyses of popular resistance under authoritarianism. This article introduces a new definition of lumpenproletarians in the developing world, focusing on the nature of their work. It then argues that, given their socioeconomic position, these people should eschew participation in conventional social movements but ought to back protests over state abuse. We evaluate this theory using quantitative and qualitative data from two authoritarian developing countries with large grey economies but different histories of unrest: China and Egypt. In both places, we find lumpenproletarians indeed tend to join demonstrations over government and police mistreatment. Moreover, the Egyptian experience shows that the group is susceptible to mobilization for both revolutionary and counterrevolutionary ends.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2022

This article was made available online on June 21, 2022 as a Fast Track article with title: "Power on the Margins: Lumpenproletarian Resistance in China and Egypt".

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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