The appalling political breakdown which has occurred in Algeria is almost universally identified with the descent into violence since 1992, itself widely attributed, directly or indirectly, to the rise of the Islamist movement since 1989. In explicit opposition to this view, this paper argues that the breakdown of the Algerian polity occurred well before 1989 and consisted essentially in the rupture between the state and the people which took place in the 1980s and was first made manifest in the dramatic riots of October 1988. The central feature of this rupture as popularly experiences has been the problem of what Algerians call 'la hogra' (al-hagra), the systematic and contemptuous violation of their rights through constant abuse of power and arbitrary rule. Popular support for the Islamist movement after 1989 was a conjunctural mode of expression of a pre-existing social demand for good government which was not itself premised on adherence to contemporary Islamist doctrines, but on values rooted in Algeria's long-standing political traditions. The persistent refusal of the Algerian authorities since the 1980s to respect these traditions or to recognise and accommodate this demand has ensured that the strategy which the regime has followed in resisting the Islamist movement since 1992 has precluded a proper reconstruction of the Algerian polity.
Roberts, H. Working Paper No.17. Moral economy or moral polity? The political anthropology of Algerian riots. (2002) 27 pp.