Kuwait: Social Change in Historical Perspective

By Jacqueline S. Ismael | Go to book overview

5
The Transformation of Kuwait

THE EMERGENCE OF KUWAIT AS A MAJOR OIL SUPPLIER to the industrial nations radically transformed the economic infrastructure of Kuwait. The traditional seafaring industries, already depressed in the interwar period, were essentially obliterated by the early fifties by the dynamic expansion of the oil sector. In 1948, for example, only 82 ships went pearling; and by 1955 only eleven. Similarly, the last Kuwaiti deepsea dhow was purchased by the Office of Education in 1954 for preservation as an historical memorial. Dhow construction, maritime commerce, and pearling, then, already marginalized in the interwar period by the forces of production of the industrial world, were essentially extinguished as productive sectors by the new integration.


THE ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION

In the post-oil era, the character of Kuwait's economic infrastructure was transformed from production of surplus value to consumption of surplus products. Government expenditure on development was the principal mechanism facilitating this transformation. At its core was the transfer of public revenue to the private sector. Within the structure of peripheral capitalism, development took the form of the expansion of the consumer market for the commodities of the industrial world. In the fifties and early sixties, both the physical infrastructure of the affluent society and the bureaucratic infrastructure of the welfare state were created from the huge oil revenues flowing into the nation. Both facilitated private accumulation from public revenue and expropriation to the world centers of capitalism.

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