As heterogeneous forms of commodification threaten the survival of the urban commons worldwide, in Beirut a group of residents and professionals has resorted to civic advocacy to keep the beach of Dalieh of Raouche accessible, including calling on public authority to intervene. Combining Polanyian analysis and recent developments in the anthropology of politics and the state, civic advocacy is recast here as a case of ‘grassroots’ statecraft, adapted to, as well as shaped by, the logics and discourses of late capitalism that it seeks to undo. As such, countermovements are reconceptualised here as not only defensive, but also offensive and explicitly generative of new political projects and modes of governance. At the same time, the article pushes the argument further to suggest that ‘grassroots’ statecraft in the context of the protection of the commons is inherently multivocal, and that calls for, and rejection of, state intervention may be contained at once within this countermovement, forced to coexist by the constraints posed by the neoliberal political-economic system it confronts.
Stefanelli, A. (2023). Contesting property: urban commons, statecraft and the ‘tyranny’ of liberalism in Lebanon. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 29(2), 421-438. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9655.13921