This morning, Al Jazeera reports there were again overnight protests throughout the country. The front page of El Watan shows a street clash in Algiers. The caption insists that similar scenes took place across the country: protesters and police injuried in Mascara, Ain Defla, Tipasa, Mila, and Sétif, public buildings attacked in Boumerdes. As of yet, nothing has happened in Hydra. No doubt, the preponderance of embassies in this district means that local security patrols have been increased. Since returning to Algiers, I have not yet left my neighborhood, but I imagine that it might be somewhat more difficult than usual.
The city is quiet, and there is little sign, from up at Place al-Quds, of what is happening in the streets. One of the boulangeries is shuttered. The Viennoiserie is not. The grocery store is open again. The mushrubet kahoolia remains closed. Instead of one cop at the bus station, there are two.
Al Jazeera continues to insist that these recent protests are a consequence of “decades of economic mismanagement” by the Algerian government. Something in this rings false, if only because Algeria’s single biggest problem, economically, is having hitched its wagon to the shooting star of energy production. And this says less about the Algerian government and the last forty years of economic policy than it does about the global north, African underdevelopment, and the legacies of colonialism. Algeria’s economic resources are many and varied, but the hyperdevelopment of the energy sector means that most of those resources remain under-utilized or untapped.
If economic conditions are similar throughout Africa and the Arab world, how can Algerian mismanagement be the cause?
What also falls out of the statistics on Algerian population and unemployment is the impact of the present crisis on the future of the Algerian family. If seventy-five percent of the population is under the age of thirty, and nearly a third of those are unemployed, it means that more and more men will defer, of necessity, getting married and starting a family. To the extent that marriage and family confers social and civic legitimacy, this means that more and more young men will be, as a consequence of economic dispossession, consigned to a marginal position within Algerian society.
Again, this says less about Algeria or the Arab world than it does about the global crisis of expectations, and the collapse of capitalism as a means of social reproduction. Following the logic of a tired, Cold War-era regionalism, the media connects recent protest movements in Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria, while waiting for something to jump off in Morocco. Little is said about how these street demonstrations might align with tuition protests in London, San Juan, or the general protest of austerity measures throughout the greater EU.
Earlier this week, Immanuel Wallerstein announced that the global economy will not recover. Capitalism can no longer expand. It has reached its point of saturation, its structural limit. The only question, he argues, is what comes next. If capitalism is dead, the struggle is over how we will live, now that it is gone.
Somehow, when birds are falling from the sky, it seems fair to wonder if we have arrived at the zero hour.