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The Rentier State/Resource Curse narrative and the state of the Arabian Gulf

Rutledge, Emilie (2014): The Rentier State/Resource Curse narrative and the state of the Arabian Gulf.


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This paper proposes that the Rentier State and Resource Curse theories be considered as two elements of the same paradigm which, despite a growing body of contrary empirical evidence, retains a hegemonic influence in political economy discourse. It will be suggested that a number of reasons account for this, not least, the nature and subject of the “rent” itself. Contemporary notions of rent as essentially constituting unearned and thus unwarranted income, are divorced from a more contextually accurate ‘ground rent’ charge levied for extracting depletable sovereign resources is one. Another is the extent to which the political demonisation of OPEC, combined with the West’s concerted policy response of seeking to liberalise the world oil market in the 1980s and 1990s, is abstracted from the discourse. Moreover, by demonstrating that there is little evidence of the deterministic poverty inducing and deleterious socioeconomic outcomes in the ‘archetypal candidate’ countries of the Arabian Gulf, the utility per se of the RS/RC narrative as a conceptual and/or analytical framework is questioned.

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