Previous session: Friday 20 October – Loyalists in the Gulf: Reliable partners or independent actors?

Loyalists in the Gulf: Reliable partners or independent actors? 

The oil and gas-rich states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have long been viewed as exceptional, where the state will remain politically autonomous from society so long as phenomenal hydrocarbon wealth continues to flow. It is assumed that loyalists, the primary clients of the capital-rich regime, will continue to bolster rulers’ authority due to their overwhelming dependence on the state both for economic wellbeing and political access. These loyalists, rentier state theory predicts, thus remain too dependent on the state to pose any meaningful political challenge to it, allowing the government to neglect social responsibilities towards its citizens.

Yet how reliable are these groups in terms of political support for the state? Are they likely to remain pro-government actors, or have they demonstrated a tendency to shift between loyalty and opposition over time – and if the latter, why has the ‘rentier bargain’ failed to cement their political support?

This presentation presents a detailed study of several ‘loyalist’ groups active in Gulf politics, including pro-government youth groups, business elites, and Islamist societies. Drawing from in-depth interviews with members of these groups conducted from 2013-2017, the paper questions assumptions of state autonomy prevalent in RST, highlighting the importance of sub-national inequalities in rent distributions, sectarianism, and ideology in shaping political attitudes. Even the state’s most dedicated allies, the paper argues, maintain independent interests and place political constraints on the state, revealing the complex interaction between rents, loyalty, and autonomy that typifies the modern rent-rich states of the Gulf.

Suggested reading:

For this session we are delighted to be joined by Majlis royalty, Jessie Moritz, who was appointed to CAIS as a Lecturer in August 2017. She will take up the position in July 2018, after completing a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Transregional Institute, Princeton University. She previously received a Bachelor of Arts with first class honours in International Relations from the Australian National University, and was awarded her PhD from CAIS in March 2017 for her dissertation on the impact of oil wealth on state-society relations and economic development in the Gulf since 2011. In 2013 she was a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter and from 2013-2014 she joined the Gulf Studies Program at Qatar University as a Graduate Fellow. She has conducted interviews with over 140 citizens of Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, including members of royal families, ministers, elected and appointed representatives, development experts, entrepreneurs, and prominent leaders in civil society. At the ANU, Jessie will lecture on Middle East political economy, development, business, and Islamic Finance.

Where and when?

1100-1230pm, Friday 20 October.

Unless otherwise advertised, Majlis sessions in 2017 generally take place on the first Friday of each month at 11am, and are held at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (CAIS) at the ANU.

We welcome suggestions for topics that are of interest to participants. If you would like to suggest a topic, speaker, or make a presentation yourself, please contact us.



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