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Gulf monarchies - oil wealth and ‘traditional’ social structures

Uploaded by summersso on May 04, 2002

Identify elements of continuity and change in the interaction between oil wealth and ‘traditional’ social structures in the Gulf monarchies



Development of the Gulf monarchies, and the rapid rise in standard of living the world had witnessed in the past fifty odd years can be attributed to the possession by many these states of one of the most important commodities, oil, and their ability to control world oil prices. Naturally, the enormous wealth that has been accumulated in the region has affected the both the economic and social structures of the Gulf monarchies, and in this essay I intend to identify these elements of change and continuity and their origins. I will first examine the development of the modern nation-state, during the early part of the twentieth century, discussing the taming of Tribalism and Islam, and the development of an ideology to justify the political system. The arrival of oil wealth furthered the development of bureaucratic, centralised structures, and the enabled the consolidation of the new political systems. As well as having direct effects of social structures, I will discuss what could be considered indirect effects, such as the proposition that a ‘rentier society’ has developed, and conclude by summarising the current relationship between citizens and the state with reference to the social elements of permanence and variation.

When discussing the ‘Gulf monarchies’ I am referring to the countries of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. The economies of the region are, to a very large extent, dependent on income derived from the exploitation of oil and natural gas, and subsidiary industries. Historically, this has been a recent development spanning the last fifty to sixty years. The region was originally very poor, residually colonised by Ottoman Turks, and in the late nineteenth century became politically dependent on the United Kingdom. During the first quarter of the twentienth century, vast reserves of petroleum were discovered in the region. This natural resource has become very important to the modern world, and consequently, the exploitation of petroleum has been a source of extraordinary wealth for these desert economies.

Gregory Gause suggests that portrayals of the ruling elites of Gulf monarchies are based on two general assumptions, which together create a picture of the regional politics being that of ‘traditional’ regimes which are culturally distinct from the West yet need the West to survive. The first of the assumptions is that societies...

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Uploaded by:   summersso

Date:   05/04/2002

Category:   Politics

Length:   8 pages (1,887 words)

Views:   1613

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