Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Popular Uprising in the Southwest Pacific? A Demographic Study

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Popular Uprising in the Southwest Pacific? A Demographic Study

Article excerpt

This paper examines whether the underlying demographic factors that precipitated the wave of popular uprisings across the Middle East, popularized as the "Arab Spring," can be used to predict the likelihood of similar grassroots uprisings occurring through the chain of islands to Australia's north, sometimes called the "Arc of Instability". The paper examines demographic factors such as population age structure and growth rates, youth literacy rates and fertility rates to determine whether demographic modernization is underway in the region. Emmanuel Todd and Youssef Courbage have argued that, when coupled with the presence of a youth bulge, the process of demographic modernization signaled by a rapid increase in literacy, falling birth rates and a decrease in the widespread custom of endogamy can lead to a transformation of the political system, a spreading wave of democratization, and the change of subjects into active citizens potentially leading to popular uprising. Overall, the present paper finds that although countries in the Arc are in broad conformity with the youth bulge and demographic modernization models, there are a series of extenuating factors specific to the region, such as access to emigration, communication infrastructure, geography and population size that make it unlikely that a mass regional mobilization will occur.

Key Words: Demographic modernization; Causes of popular uprising; Security; Stability of Southwest Pacific; Arab Spring.

Introduction

This paper explores whether an examination of the underlying demographic factors that precipitated the wave of popular uprisings that spread across the Middle East from early 2011, popularized as the 'Arab Spring'1, can be used to predict the likelihood of similar grassroots uprisings occurring throughout the island chain, sometimes termed the 'Arc of Instability'2, to Australia's north.

The arc of islands to Australia's north includes the nations of Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, the provinces of Indonesian Papua, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. With the addition of Fiji to the east, these nations currently face a series of non-traditional security challenges that include rapid population growth, youth unemployment, the breakdown of traditional family structures, rising educational standards not being met by sufficient lifestyle options, pervasive corruption, a deficit in state authority, dysfunctional parliamentary systems or (in the case of Fiji) the existence of an authoritarian regime. It is suggested that popular instability in these nations could be encouraged by the intensification of the same demographic shifts that have occurred in the Arab world, regardless of specific religious, political or ideological orientation; as well as by the examples of the Arab Spring movements distributed through traditional and new media platforms. Australia has a history of providing policing and military intervention in this region, and issues of illegal immigration and border security have been important in defining Australia's political landscape over the past decade. Hence, any increase in the occurrence of popular uprisings across this region would have significant ramifications for Australia's security.

Demographic trends including the emergence of youth bulges, the rising frustration of socially marginalized and discontented 15-29 year old males, increases in literacy, female emancipation and the breakdown of traditional family and religious structures, have been theorized as the 'root' sociological causes for the process of modernization and subsequent political upheaval3 4. When these gradual processes of 'demographic modernization' meet political resistance, either in the form of inflexible authoritarian regimes or dysfunctional political bureaucracies mired by corruption and a governmental deficit, the resulting demographic pressures have been shown to result in frequent violent outbreaks of popular frustration and political revolution, as has been witnessed in such Arab states as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen through 2011 and 2012. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.