Rentierism and Political Culture in the United Arab Emirates
Saldaña Martín, Marta
Date: 15 June 2014
University of Exeter
PhD in Middle East Politics
This dissertation discusses United Arab Emirates (UAE) state-society relations in historical perspective; analyses qualitatively the Emirati political culture; examines how the latter affects governmental policies in the UAE; and evaluates both qualitatively and quantitatively the political orientations and values of the Emirati educated ...
This dissertation discusses United Arab Emirates (UAE) state-society relations in historical perspective; analyses qualitatively the Emirati political culture; examines how the latter affects governmental policies in the UAE; and evaluates both qualitatively and quantitatively the political orientations and values of the Emirati educated youth. Through a discussion of existing theoretical and conceptual approaches, and the observation of the UAE case study, it argues that an important and overlooked dimension among students of state-society relations in authoritarian rentier states is citizens’ political culture, which should nonetheless be examined within a more integrative framework of analysis. Accordingly, this study employs a refined version of the holistic ‘state-in-society’ approach (Kamrava, 2008), in combination with rentier state theory (RST) and the political culture perspective (Almond & Verba, 1963), to qualitatively discuss the general Emirati political culture (agency/input), and assess how the latter affects governmental performance/policies (output); and to evaluate, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the political culture of the educated Emirati youth as the main potential supporters or opponents (agency/input) of the ruling elite. Adding to the debate around the continued significance and scope of RST, the dissertation concludes that the rentier nature of a state does not necessarily determine its people´s lack of interest in politics, but can actually empower them to challenge authoritarianism through political socialization. The historical approach to UAE political movements and discussion about contemporary political standpoints demonstrate that governmental policies (redistributive, co-optative, repressive, or reformist) are mainly driven by domestic pressure and run parallel to historical development of domestic political activism. Hence, rentierism by itself does is not sufficient to explain state-society relations in the Gulf region. Finally, the analysis and measurement of cognitive, affective and evaluative political orientations of Emirati UAEU students reflects that there is adherence to ‘post-materialistic’ and ‘self-expression’ values among important sectors of the Emirati educated youth, which are associated with the emergence of a participative political culture (Inglehart & Welzel, 2005): an ‘aspiring participant’ political culture.
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