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The political economy of Israel's 'social justice' protests: a class and generational analysis


  • Zeev Rosenhek
  • Michael Shalev


In the summer of 2011, similar to and partly inspired by Spain's 15M (indignados) movement, Israel experienced an unprecedented wave of socio-economic protest featuring tent encampments and mass rallies. Headlined 'the people demand social justice', the protest was surprising since distributive conflicts and social policy issues are peripheral to Israeli politics, and Israel was not in the throes of an economic crisis. These were not anti-austerity protests, but reflected the eroding life chances of young adults. Specifically, liberalisation of Israel's political economy - which contributed to a substantial rise in the living standards of the parental generation of the middle class and improved their life chances in the 1990s - is now impeding inter-generational class reproduction for their children. We document significant changes in home ownership, relative incomes, and the value of higher education and other assets that were previously the key to middle class incomes and lifestyles. The impact of neo-liberal policies is evident, for instance, in the declining scope and generosity of the public sector's role in employment and housing. At the subjective level, on the eve of the protests young adults with higher education were less optimistic about their economic prospects than other groups. Finally, even though the protests appeared to be broadly consensual and inclusive, a closer look reveals that its core supporters and activists were drawn from social and political sectors closely associated with the middle class.

Suggested Citation

  • Zeev Rosenhek & Michael Shalev, 2014. "The political economy of Israel's 'social justice' protests: a class and generational analysis," Contemporary Social Science, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(1), pages 31-48, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:rsocxx:v:9:y:2014:i:1:p:31-48
    DOI: 10.1080/21582041.2013.851405

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