Kuwait: Social Change in Historical Perspective

By Jacqueline S. Ismael | Go to book overview

7
Conclusion

DEPENDENCY, AS OUTLINED IN THE INTRODUCTION, has been identified above all as a historical process of the development of underdevelopment. This process, fostered by the imperialist penetration of pre-capitalist societies, induced the integration of these societies into an emerging world division of labor. This integration took the specific form of external domination and narrow specialization of productive forces, resulting, in effect, in expropriation of surplus product. It is this historical process that must be addressed first in the characterization of Kuwait as a dependent mode.

The underdevelopment of Kuwait through its integration into an emerging British colonial system was initiated in the nineteenth century in the context of British imperial policy in the Arab Gulf. By a coup d'etat in 1896, encouraged (if not engineered) by Britain, the dominance of a regionally oriented merchant class was broken. This class had been dynamically linked through their interests in regional commerce to emerging productive centers in the Gulf and along the coast of the Arabian Sea. Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, this growing mercantilism was gradually assuming the political form of integration with Ottoman Iraq. By the middle of the century, it was ideologically responding to the decay of the Ottoman empire on the one hand and imperialist penetration of the Gulf on the other in the form of an emerging Arab nationalism.

The interests of the petty commercial class who achieved dominance in their place through the coup d'etat were not dynamically linked to the development of productive forces in the region that was emerging in the nineteenth century. This class was composed of middlemen merchants between exchange and local subsistence consumption. With increasing British domination throughout the nineteenth century of the productive centers of India and the Gulf region, these merchants achieved dominance in Kuwait by severing the dynamic link between Kuwaiti development and regional development, and fostering in its place a link with the British system of production.

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