This study uses Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) inside a broader framework of Comparative Historical Research (CHR) in order to asses and categorise the role of trade unions during the „Arab Spring“ 2011 – 2013.
QCA is a method initially developed by Charles Ragin based on Boolean logic that allows for the identification of multiple conjunctural causations. It s a comparative method that initially derived from electrical engineering and used the Quine-McCluskey Algorithm in order to find patterns of similarity and difference between cases. Those cases are classified into the presence (1) or absence (0) of a particular outcome, and turned into combinations of variables which are also coded according to the absence (0) or presence (1) of variables. The configurations can be minimised in order to eliminate variables that were not affecting the particular outcome. As argued in the thesis, the approach bears several advantages with regard to quantitative methods, especially in small-n samples. Furthermore, the methodological and theoretical part of this thesis argues that to hold the case studies as thick as possible and as parsimonious as necessary, and the minimisation and interpretations as thick as necessary and as parsimonious as possible.
As regards content, the thesis identifies the institutional equilibria of twelve Arab countries as starting point for the research. The sample includes Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen, and Oman. The institutional equilibrium is a concept borrowed from Rational Choice Theory which makes it possible to include particularistic approaches to explain the power structures of single MENA countries into a meta-framework, without the study becoming dependent on their individual parameters. These particularistic approaches include cultural, legal, historical, religious, and sociological aspects from the broad field of Middle Eastern Studies and beyond. The so called “Bargain Rule” is here taken as a common denominator, in which the common citizens surrender their political and social rights to participatory government and are rewarded with a variety of goods and services in return. This bargain has gotten under pressure from the early 1970s on. MENA states developed different strategies in order to secure power while introducing mostly rigged democratic institutions. The study identifies Violence, the legal frameworks, and questions of identity and legitimacy as main pillars of these new institutional arrangements.
With the upheavals that started most visibly in 2011, MENA countries entered a critical juncture in which these equilibria got heavily under pressure. Different players entered the public sphere in order to demand economic enhancements and / or political change. These players, as long as they attempted to change the equilibria of power, are labelled critical interference factors. In a further step, and by the help of rich case descriptions, the thesis tackles the question whether the trade union movement it the respective countries can be defined as critical interference factors. Against that background, and using a constructivist stance, the term “trade union” is put first into the Middle Eastern context and made operational as a well-defined research subject. The study focusses on those organisations that are labelled by the national legal framework Naqaba, or those who label themselves Naqaba. This approach includes professional associations (Naqabat Mihniya) as well as workers unions (Naqabat ’Umaliya). Moreover, it is argued that a crucial historical role of many trade unions in MENA has been to protect the authoritarian bargain and taking the role as the demander for socio-economic enhancements within its very logic.
The variables that are set up for the QCA analysis include the non-compliance of the State concerning the Authoritarian Bargain (SOEC), intertwinedness of trade unions with opposition forces (INOPP), the degree of centralisation of trade union structures (CEN), importance of tribalism for upward mobility within the state (TRI), and eventually the trade unions‘ bargaining power im key sectors of the economy (KEYS). These variables are minimised with the help of the Quine McCluskey Algorithim and the results are srutinised qualitatively. Major findings of the study indicate that CEN is a necessary condition for transformative trade union activity, in combination either with INOPP (Gulf Countries) or SOEC (North Africa). Furthermore, this study suggests that the lack of centralisation and / or a high degree of tribalism weaken independent trade unionism in MENA.