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University of Puget Sound

Publication Date

Spring 2011

Program Name

Morocco: Multiculturalism and Human Rights

Abstract

The Moroccan state takes a nuanced place among autocracies and democracies—the regime features fundamental democratic institutions and while the central power of the monarchy is maintained through a constellation of political, economic, social, and cultural institutions. In this case, David Brumberg’s classification of “liberalized autocracies” is useful, which defines these states as using a mixture of “guided pluralism, controlled elections and selective repression” to maintain and centralize power[1] This political structure of liberalized autocracy creates sufficient political opportunity for various protest movements to emerge but until recently few have successfully enacted change. The February 20th protest movement, inspired by the Egyptian and Tunisian example and organized on Facebook, is organizing in ways to directly confront the paradigm of liberalized autocracy. Their demands, which are a mixture of a call for universal human rights such as democracy along with answers to longstanding economic issues, do not adhere to any ideology and as such it has been successful in garnering support from all corners of Moroccan contentious politics. The movement has evolved fluidly through the Internet, with a loose, nonhierarchical organizational structure and a globally informed rhetoric that is a hallmark of Langman’s “Internetworked Social Movements.”[2] Through its methods, organizational structure, rhetoric and actions, February 20th is attempting to change the political structure of Morocco and create an active political society. At this juncture, a few months after the beginning of the movement with no end in sight, a conclusion about its attainment of this goal is impossible. Still, two questions remain, why now and what next? The second half of this

paper consists of interviews of an array of people close to the movement—an organizer, a government official, an activist and an academic—attempting to answer these questions. By analyzing the rhetoric of each of these actors and applying these existing theories, we can begin to see overlaps in the theory of social movements and autocratic states and their application. This study attempts to capture singular opinions about the February 20th movement and put them in dialogue with greater theories of social and political change.

Disciplines

Civic and Community Engagement | Civil Rights and Discrimination | Inequality and Stratification | Peace and Conflict Studies | Political Science | Politics and Social Change