Theses Doctoral

Citizen-Subjectivity, Experiential Evaluation, and Activist Strategies: Explaining Algerian Violence and Polish Peace under Authoritarian Rule

Rudy, Sayres Steven

This project explains Polish non-violence and Algerian violence under martial law following peaceful protests against comparable material deprivation and authoritarian political exclusion. From narratives of state formation, institutional performance, and social movement evolution in postwar Poland and postcolonial Algeria a conditional model derives violent and non-violent opposition strategies from divergent practical citizenship regimes in formally similar autocratic systems. It argues that distinct regimes of citizen-subjectivity under authoritarian governance foster divergent practices of resistance and evaluations of states before and during emergency conditions that reduce activists to biological life, tempting violence. Where citizenship regimes differentiate social resources (means of protest) from state resources (means or sovereignty), affording regime opponents actual or immanent systemic subjectivity, social agitation remains non-violent despite objectively comprehensive political and social dispossession; in contrast, by subordinating social to state resources, undifferentiated citizenship regimes under martial law wholly eliminate systemic subjectivity, provoking violence. Neither the formal political regime-type nor the immediate experience of social suffering or political abjection distinguishes violent from non-violent responses to despotism; rather, violent versus non-violent protest strategies express discrepant evaluations of regime coercion, reflecting the elimination versus endurance of the citizenship regime that formed the iterated systemic subjectivity of regime opponents. Poland's worker-based citizenship regime endured fiscal crisis and martial law because it provided differentiated social resources: regime opponents had means independent of state solvency to compel policy concessions by withdrawing labor power from industries pivotal to ruling-elite incumbency. But Algeria's client-based citizenship - based on undifferentiated resources - tied activists' systemic means of compulsion to state largesse. Differentiated citizenship regimes endure state crises because citizens retain the social resources, however suspended, of systemic-subjectivity that ground their evaluations of state actions, minimizing incentives to violent pressure on ruling classes. Undifferentiated citizenship regimes perish under state bankruptcy or force, eradicating social resources and channeling the recuperation of subjectivity to anti-systemic acts. In short, Polish workers could strike and threaten the state under martial law; Algerian clients were effectively expelled from political status. In forming opposition strategies, citizens judge state policies or legitimacy, but also their status as systemic subjects. Evaluations of systemic subjectivity reflect experiences in using social resources, not merely immediate material or political conditions. The research design does not test a general theoretical model linking citizenship-subjectivity regimes to experiential evaluations of objective dehumanization, but its conceptual and causal variable analyses may complement other studies of state institutions and social agitations by promoting subject formation over abstract human universals as the key mechanism in reliable social explanation.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Kesselman, Mark J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 16, 2013