Libya since Independence: Oil and State-Building

Libya since Independence: Oil and State-Building

Libya since Independence: Oil and State-Building

Libya since Independence: Oil and State-Building

Synopsis

Although Libya and its current leader have been the subject of numerous accounts, few have considered how the country's tumultuous history, its institutional development, and its emergence as an oil economy combined to create a state whose rulers ignored the notion of modern statehood. International isolation and a legacy of internal turmoil have destroyed or left undocumented much of what researchers might seek to examine. Dirk Vandewalle supplies a detailed analysis of Libya's political and economic development since the country's independence in 1951, basing his account on fieldwork in Libya, archival research in Tripoli, and personal interviews with some of the country's top policymakers.

Vandewalle argues that Libya represents an extreme example of what he calls a "distributive state," an oil-exporting country where an attempt at state-building coincided with large inflows of capital while political and economic institutions were in their infancy. Libya's rulers eventually pursued policies that were politically expedient but proved economically ruinous, and disenfranchised local citizens. Distributive states, according to Vandewalle, may appear capable of resisting economic and political challenges, but they are ill prepared to implement policies that make the state and its institutions relevant to their citizens. Similar developments can be expected whenever local rulers do not have to extract resources from their citizens to fund the building of a modern state.

Excerpt

Libya since Independence is about the impact of massive and sudden capital inflows on state-building in the Libyan Jamahiriyya— a country that, since its creation in 1951, has relied almost exclusively on capital inflows for its existence. It analyzes how the simultaneous inflows of external capital and initial attempts at state-building affected that state's economic and political institutions and how those institutions in turn influenced the state's ability to promote or halt political and economic development. Libya since Independence is a historically and theoretically informed study that investigates state-building under conditions where local rulers do not have to extract state revenues from their own citizens. Although its evidence is drawn from a single case, its arguments are more broadly comparative. Indeed, one of its conclusions is that, although idiosyncratic factors are important, late developers in the region, with open economies and an extreme reliance on capital inflows, demonstrate similar patterns of state-building.

I therefore make occasional comparisons to other oil exporters in the Middle East. I owe a great intellectual debt to those who made such comparisons possible, a debt I detail in the bibliographical note at the end of this book. The small but important political science literature by Jill Crystal, Kiren Chaudhry, Gregory Gause, and a few others on rentier‐ type development and state formation in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the remainder of the Gulf states has been a treasure trove and a constant touchstone for my own writing. Earlier work on Libya by Lisa Anderson, John Anthony Allan, John Davis, and Jacques Roumani inspired . . .

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