Advertisement

Oil, Coalitions, and Regime Durability: the Origins and Persistence of Popular Rentierism in Kuwait

  • Sean L. YomEmail author
Article

Abstract

While the canonical literature on oil wealth suggests that hydrocarbon windfalls encourage repressive despotism, Kuwait provides a case of an oil-rich autocracy governing instead through popular rentierism—that is, through a broad coalition of social forces, one that furnishes enduring loyalty from below while constraining abuses of state power from above. This paper provides a theoretically guided explanation for this exceptional outcome. I argue that the Kuwaiti regime’s coalitional bargains originated in the pre-oil era, when domestic opposition and geopolitical constrictions compelled it to forge new social alliances at the dawn of modern statehood. This inclusionary strategy mediated the subsequent effect of oil rents, which the regime used to institutionalize its mass base with costly material and symbolic side payments. Such popular incorporation bound large constituent classes to the regime’s survival, precluding the need for widespread repression. After 50 years, these coalitional bargains have also proven remarkably resilient, as social actors have continued to endorse the autocratic leadership despite economic crisis and wartime defeat.

Keywords

Kuwait Authoritarianism Oil Rents Regime durability Geopolitics 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The author thanks Aqil Shah, Dong-Wook Kim, two anonymous reviewers, and the editors of SCID for their gracious comments.

References

  1. Abu-Hakima AM. The modern history of Kuwait: 1970–1965. London: Luzac & Company, Ltd.; 1983.Google Scholar
  2. Al-Άjami DMN. Jaysh al-kuwayt fii ‘asr Mubarak al-Sabah (The Kuwaiti army during the age of Mubarak al-Sabah). Kuwait: N.P.; 2000.Google Scholar
  3. Al-Άnazi MN. Dirasaat fii ta’rikh al-kuwayt al-hadith wa al-mu’asir (Studies in the history of modern and contemporary Kuwait). Kuwait: Matba‘ Al-Fajr Al-Kuwaytiyyah; 2004.Google Scholar
  4. Al-Dekhayel AK. Kuwait: oil, state, and political legitimation. Reading: Ithaca Press; 2000.Google Scholar
  5. Al-Hatim MG. Tarikh al-shurta fii al-Kuwayt (History of the police in Kuwait). Kuwait: Dar al-Qurtas Lil-Nashr; 1999.Google Scholar
  6. Al-Ibrahim YH. ‘Ajz al-mizaaniyah: awdhaa‘ al-maaliyah al-‘aamah fii al-Kuwayt (The budget deficit: the general financial situation in Kuwait). Kuwait: Dar al-Qurtas Lil-Nashr; 1995.Google Scholar
  7. Al-Jasim NAQ. Al-tatawwur al-siyasi wa al-iqtisaadi lil-Kuwayt baina al harbayni (Political and economic development in Kuwait between the two world wars). Kuwait: N.P.; 1997.Google Scholar
  8. Al-Jasim NAQ. Qadhaya fii al-tariikh al-siyasii wa al-ijtima‘i lil-dawlat al-Kuwayt (Issues in the political and social history of the state of Kuwait). Kuwait: N.P.; 2000.Google Scholar
  9. Al-Mudayris FA. Al-harakah al-dusturiyah fii al-kuwayt (The constitutional movement in Kuwait). Kuwait: Dar al-Qurtas Lil-Nashr; 2002.Google Scholar
  10. Al-Najjar G. The challenges facing Kuwaiti democracy. Middle East J. 2000;54:242–58.Google Scholar
  11. Al-Naqib KH. Al-mujtama’ wa al-dawlah fi al-khalij wa al-jazeerah al-arabiyah (Society and the state in the gulf and the Arabian peninsula). Beirut: Markaz Dirasat al-Wahdah al-Arabiyah; 1987.Google Scholar
  12. Al-Naqib KH. Sira‘ al-qabaliyah wa al-dimuqratiyah: halat al-Kuwayt (The conflict between tribalism and democracy: the case of Kuwait). Beirut: Dar al-Saqi; 1996.Google Scholar
  13. Al-Rushaid AA. Tarikh al-Kuwayt (History of Kuwait). Beirut: Dar Maktabat al-Hayat; 1978.Google Scholar
  14. Al-Sultan FH. Averting financial crisis: Kuwait. Washington: The World Bank; 1989.Google Scholar
  15. Al-Taher I. Kuwait: the reality. Pittsburgh: Dorrance Publishing; 1995.Google Scholar
  16. Alessa SY. The manpower problem in Kuwait. London: Kegan Paul; 1981.Google Scholar
  17. Alghanim S. The reign of Mubarak al-Sabah: shaikh of Kuwait, 1896–1915. London: I.B. Tauris; 1998.Google Scholar
  18. Anderson L. Prospects for liberalism in North Africa: identities and interests in preindustrial welfare states. In: Entelis JP, editor. Islam, democracy, and the state in North Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press; 1997. p. 127–40.Google Scholar
  19. Arjomand SA. The turban for the crown: the islamic revolution in iran. New York: Oxford University Press; 1988.Google Scholar
  20. Assiri AR. Kuwait’s foreign policy: city-state in world politics. Boulder: Westview Press; 1990.Google Scholar
  21. Beblawi H, Luciani G, editors. The rentier state: nation, state, and integration in the Arab World. London: Croom Helm; 1987.Google Scholar
  22. Boghardt LP. Kuwait amid war, peace, and revolution: 1979–1991 and new challenges. New York: Palgrave Macmillan; 2006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Brownlee J. And yet they persist: explaining survival and transition in neopatrimonial regimes. Stud Comp Int Dev. 2002;37:35–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Brownlee J. Authoritarianism in an age of democratization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2007.Google Scholar
  25. Crystal J. Oil and politics in the gulf: rulers and merchants in Kuwait and Qatar. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1995.Google Scholar
  26. Crystal J. Public order and authority: policing Kuwait. In: Piscatori J, Dresch P, editors. Monarchies and nations: globalisation and identity in the Arab states of the gulf. London: I.B. Tauris; 2005. p. 158–81.Google Scholar
  27. Crystal J, al-Shayeji A. The pro-democratic agenda in Kuwait: structures and context. In: Brynen R, Korany B, Noble P, editors. Political liberalization and democratization in the Arab world. Boulder: Lynne Rienner; 1998. p. 101–25.Google Scholar
  28. Gasiorowski MJ. US foreign policy and the shah: building a client state in Iran. Ithaca: Cornell University Press; 1991.Google Scholar
  29. Geddes B. What do we know about democratization after twenty years? Ann Rev Pol Sci. 1999;2:115–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gandhi J. Political institutions under dictatorship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gavrielides N. Tribal democracy: the anatomy of parliamentary elections in Kuwait. In: Layne LL, editor. Elections in the Middle East: implications of recent trends. Boulder: Westview Press; 1987. p. 153–91.Google Scholar
  32. George AL, Bennett A. Case studies and theory development in the social sciences. Cambridge: The MIT Press; 2005.Google Scholar
  33. Ghabra S. Voluntary associations in Kuwait: the foundations of a new system? Middle East J. 1991;45:199–215.Google Scholar
  34. Ghabra S. Kuwait and the dynamics of socio-economic change. Middle East J. 1997;51:358–72.Google Scholar
  35. Herb M. All in the family: absolutism, revolution, and democracy in the Middle Eastern monarchies. Albany: State University of New York Press; 1999.Google Scholar
  36. Herb M. A nation of bureaucrats: political participation and economic diversification in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Int J of Middle Eastern Studies. 2009;41:375–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Huntington SP. Political order in changing societies. New Haven: Yale University Press; 1968.Google Scholar
  38. Ismael JS. Kuwait: dependency and class in a rentier state. Gainesville: University Press of Florida; 1993.Google Scholar
  39. Jarmon RL. Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah, amir of Kuwait, 1965–1977: a political biography. London: London Center for Arab Studies; 2002.Google Scholar
  40. Joyce M. Kuwait 1945–1996: an Anglo-American perspective. London: Frank Cass; 1998.Google Scholar
  41. Khaz’al HK. Tarikh al-Kuwayt al-siyasi (The political history of Kuwait). Beirut: Dar al-Kitab; 1962.Google Scholar
  42. Khouja MW, Sadler PG. The economy of Kuwait: development and role in international finance. London: Macmillan Press; 1979.Google Scholar
  43. Kurzman C. The unthinkable revolution in Iran. Cambridge: Harvard University Press; 2004.Google Scholar
  44. Kuwait Central Statistical Office. Statistical abstract in 25 years. Kuwait: Ministry of Planning; 1990.Google Scholar
  45. Kuwait Economic Society. Kuwaiti public opinion survey report. Kuwait: KES; 2005.Google Scholar
  46. Lawson F. ‘Class and State in Kuwait.’ MERIP Reports. 1985;15:16–21.Google Scholar
  47. Loewenstein AB. ‘The Veiled Protectorate of Koweit’: liberalized imperialism and British efforts to influence Kuwaiti domestic policy during the reign of Sheikh Ahmad al-Jaber, 1938–50. Middle East Stud. 2000;36:103–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Longva AN. Nationalism in pre-modern guise: the discourse on hadhar and badu in Kuwait. Int J of Middle Eastern Studies. 2006;38:171–187.Google Scholar
  49. Lowi MR. Oil wealth and the poverty of politics: Algeria compared. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Lustick I. The absence of Middle Eastern great powers: political ‘backwardsness’ in historical perspective. Int Organ. 1997;51:653–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mahdavy H. The patterns and problems of economic development in rentier states: the case of Iran. In: Cook MA, editor. Studies in economic history of the Middle East. London: Oxford University Press; 1970. p. 428–267.Google Scholar
  52. Moore B. Social origins of dictatorship and democracy: lord and peasant in the making of the modern world. Boston: Beacon Press; 1966.Google Scholar
  53. Moore PW. Doing business in the Middle East: politics and economic crisis in Jordan and Kuwait. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Onley J. The Arabian frontier of the British raj: merchants, rulers, and the British in the nineteenth-century gulf. New York: Oxford University Press; 2007.Google Scholar
  55. Richards A, Waterbury J. A political economy of the Middle East. 3rd ed. Boulder: Westview Press; 2008.Google Scholar
  56. Riker WH. The theory of political coalitions. New Haven: Yale University Press; 1962.Google Scholar
  57. Rush A. Al-sabah: history and genealogy of Kuwait’s ruling family. London: Ithaca Press; 1987.Google Scholar
  58. Salem P. Kuwait: politics in a participatory emirate. In: Ottaway M, Choucair-Vizoso J, editors. Beyond the façade: political reform in the Arab World. Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; 2008. p. 211–30.Google Scholar
  59. Salih K. The 1938 Kuwait legislative council. Middle East Stud. 1992;28:66–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Salih K. Parliamentary control of the executive: evaluation of the interpellation mechanism, case study Kuwait national assembly, 1992–2004. J South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. 2006;39:36–69.Google Scholar
  61. Schedler A. Electoral authoritarianism: the dynamics of unfree competition. Boulder: Lynne Rienner; 2006.Google Scholar
  62. Shehab F. Kuwait: a super-affluent society. Foreign affairs. 1964;42:461–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Shuhaiber S. Social and political developments in Kuwait prior to 1961. In: Slot BJ, editor. Kuwait: the growth of a historic identity. London: Gulf Museum Consultancy Company; 2003.Google Scholar
  64. Slot BJ. Mubarak al-Sabah: founder of modern Kuwait, 1896–1915. London: Arabian Publishing; 2005.Google Scholar
  65. Smith B. Hard times in the lands of plenty: oil politics in Iran and Indonesia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press; 2007.Google Scholar
  66. Smith SC. Kuwait 1950–1965: Britain, the al-Sabah, and oil. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1999.Google Scholar
  67. Terrill WA. Kuwaiti national security and the U.S.–Kuwaiti strategic relationship after Saddam. Carlisle: Strategic Studies Institute; 2007.Google Scholar
  68. Tétreault MA. Autonomy, necessity, and the small state: Kuwait in the twentieth century. Int Organ. 1991;45:565–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Tétreault MA. Stories of democracy: politics and society in contemporary Kuwait. New York: Columbia University Press; 2000.Google Scholar
  70. Tétreault MA, Al-Ghanim M. The day after ‘victory’: Kuwait’s 2009 election and the contentious present. Middle East Report Online 2009. Available from: http://www.merip.org/mero/mero070809.html.
  71. Waldner D. State building and late development. Ithaca: Cornell University Press; 1999.Google Scholar
  72. Winston HVF, Freeth Z. Kuwait: prospect and reality. New York: Crane, Russak, & Company; 1972.Google Scholar
  73. Zahlan RS. The making of the modern gulf states: Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. London: Ithaca Press; 1998.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations