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Striking from the Schoolyard: State Worker Networks, Organization, and Contentious Action in Jordan
When and why do workers who draw paychecks from the government protest that same government, especially when they face repression and violence for doing so? Even as state work can materially tie individuals to autocrats, working for the state can also shape individual’s attitudes about government performance and provide them with powerful occupational social networks useful in the organization of contentious action. These factors underpin social movements like one from public school teachers in Jordan, who over the past decade have organized sustained contentious action despite nationally salient ethnic and ideological divides. I build on evidence from ninety interviews to show that activist teachers’ ability to mobilize their immediate colleagues differentiates their movement from otherwise similarly-positioned public sector workers. I then match signatures on a teachers’ movement petition with the co-location of government-sanctioned activists in the nation’s 3,600 public schools to show that workplace social ties are strong predictors of expressed movement support, even when accounting for alternative explanations like the local strength of Islamist parties and observable ethnicity. The findings underscore the limits of coercive distribution and highlight how the relationships we develop at work can serve as a crucial political resource.
Political Science
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