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The merchant elite and parliamentary politics in Kuwait: The dynamics of business political participation in a rentier state

Nosova, Anastasia (2016) The merchant elite and parliamentary politics in Kuwait: The dynamics of business political participation in a rentier state. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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When applied to the Gulf region in general and Kuwait more specifically, the rentier state theory stipulates that the political relations between state and business are determined by the rent. Thus, business essentially ceases to represent a strong political force and withdraws from the formal political field in exchange for wealth provided by the state. However, the evidence from Kuwait’s recent history suggests that there is great variation between the patterns of political engagement in Kuwait’s merchant families. Some families have been continuously active in the country’s parliamentary politics and political field more broadly; their political action has not always been pro-government and, in general, the merchant community in Kuwait still possesses powerful means to negotiate government distribution patterns and to influence political decisionmaking. Thus, the main research question posed in the Thesis is the following: why do we observe merchants’ active political engagement in Kuwait counter to the prediction of the rentier state theory, and what can explain the variation of merchants’ political activity? The Thesis will analyse and compare Kuwait business politics along the dichotomies of passive versus active engagement and voice versus loyalty towards the government. Through this analysis I will define the factors which explain why some merchant families engage in parliamentary politics, while others do not, and why at times the merchant community allies with the opposition, and at others with the government. I will further examine what impact this political engagement by business has on the country’s economic reform policies. The analysis will establish that, although rent matters, the political action of business in Kuwait and its variation is defined by the country’s semi-parliamentary political system, while factors such as rent-seeking, ascriptive features, relations with the ruling powers and the changing nature of the country’s political field are essential intervening variables.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Anastasia Nosova
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Hertog, Steffen and Chalcraft, John

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