[P4869] Loyalists in the Gulf: Reliable Partners or Independent Actors

Created by Jessie Moritz
Tuesday, 11/21/17 10:30am


The oil and gas-rich rentier states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have long been viewed as exceptional, where the state will remain politically autonomous from society so long as phenomenal hydrocarbon wealth continues to flow. Loyalists, the primary clients of the capital-rich regime, assumedly bolster rulers' authority, due to their overwhelming dependence on the state both for economic wellbeing and political access. These loyalists, rentier state theory predicts, thus remain too dependent on the state to pose any meaningful political challenge to it, allowing the government to neglect social responsibilities towards its citizens.

This panel will bring together four scholars of GCC politics to challenge the traditional understanding that loyalist groups free the state from societal constraints and allow for continued authoritarian rule. Building upon the work of Jill Crystal, Michael Herb, Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, and Steffen Hertog in particular, we will dispute the implicit assumption of 'static' loyalist groups within rentier state theory. Instead, we view these actors as interest groups that, as such, have dynamic relations with the state, dependent on their temporal economic, political, and social circumstances. This panel draws from four in-depth empirical examinations of the activities and agendas of groups most commonly described as loyalists - business elites or merchants, state-sponsored clerics, youth activists who joined pro-government 'counter protests' in 2011, and tribal leaders - with particular attention to how their positions vis-à-vis their governments have changed since uprisings emerged across the Middle East in 2011. While these loyalist groups do often act as critical allies for the regime in times of political stress, we argue, they simultaneously hold independent interests that have repeatedly placed them in opposition to, rather than in support of, state authority. Papers will analyse these groups in five states of the GCC (excluding Oman), thus helping to formulate a more nuanced understanding of the role played by traditionally loyalist groups, from a sub-national, trans-national, and cross-national comparative perspective. Together, researchers on this panel will examine the ways in which so-called loyalist groups navigate competing pressures to maintain ties with state authorities and to represent constituents at the grassroots level, thereby enhancing understandings about political structures and popular participation in the Gulf states.


Pol Science



Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Michael Herb

(Georgia State University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Farah Al-Nakib

(American University of Kuwait)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Jessie Moritz

(Princeton University)
Jessie Moritz received her PhD in 2017 from the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (the Middle East and Central Asia) at the Australian National University, where she specialised on Gulf development. She is an advanced Arabic speaker and has travelled...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Courtney Freer

(Kuwait Programme, London School of Economics)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Andrew Leber

(Harvard University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;