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Actually existing neoliberalism: the reconstruction of downtown Beirut in post-civil war Lebanon

Makarem, Hadi (2014) Actually existing neoliberalism: the reconstruction of downtown Beirut in post-civil war Lebanon. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis assesses neoliberal urban developments in post-civil war Lebanon. It does so by focusing on the reconstruction of Downtown Beirut, which contributed towards: firstly, increasing a public debt that was burdening the country at the time; and secondly, reproducing sectarian divisions in Lebanese politics and society. To explain this outcome, this thesis analyses the policies of specific agents who were involved in, and in control of, the reconstruction process. The agents being referred to were led by the former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri until his death in 2005. When analysed, these policies are found to follow the neoliberal logic of the late prime minister, but also to have been designed and implemented in a way to create and extract as much rent as possible for the benefit of those with invested interests in the reconstruction process. In this regard, it is argued that rent-seeking activities and behaviours heavily influenced the decision-making processes in key institutions concerned with reconstruction matters. Rent-seeking is used to refer to a wide range of social activities. In the case of Lebanon, we find a clear overlap between rent-seeking and two other processes that are endemic to the country: corruption and clientelism. The overlap between rent-seeking and these two other processes is a significant demonstration of how the nation-state and local politics shape the development and implementation of neoliberal economic policies, so that ‘actually existing neoliberalism’ is highly uneven from one region to another, and even from one country to the next. Because agency is placed at the centre of the analysis, this thesis adopts an approach that is more sociological in nature. It also makes use of two sets of literatures: those of liberal peacebuilding and new urban governance. This allows concepts and explanations to be used from both, in turn, complementing the analysis when delineating the patterns of neoliberalism that are specific to post-civil war Lebanon.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Hadi Makarem
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Gerges, Fawaz and Meierhenrich, Jens

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